WCCUSD mulls grading policy amid COVID-19 lockdown

Bay Area school districts on high alert after widely distributed threat
The West Contra Costa Unified School District, 1108 Bissell Ave.

The following is a communication about proposed grading policy amid the COVID-19 school closures released collectively by Matthew Duffy, WCCUSD superintendent; Jose DeLeon, president of the West Contra Costa Administrators Association; and Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy, president of the United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA.

Dear WCCUSD Families,

On Wednesday night, District administrators presented a plan for a temporary grading policy during our transition to distance learning to the Board of Education. This policy was created in the best possible way, through strong collaboration with world-class educators and leaders at all levels and after hearing feedback and input from hundreds of students and parents.  

These temporary grading practices set reasonable expectations and hold students harmless as they do their best to adjust to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Board of Education will vote on the temporary policy at its next meeting. In the meantime, we are sharing this information with you so that students and parents are aware of what to expect going forward.

What this temporary grading policy means for our students and families

We believe that purposeful feedback from a student’s teacher(s), including grades, serves a valuable instructional purpose by helping students and parents/guardians understand performance expectations and identifying the student’s areas of strength as well as areas for improvement. As directed by the California Department of Education (CDE), we will hold students harmless to potential impacts of temporary distance learning due to COVID-19. We believe that the plan outlined below will help us hold true to that expectation. Please continue reading to gain a better understanding of what this new process will look like for your student.

WCCUSD’s elementary school students and families will receive clear and meaningful teacher feedback on report cards in place of marks for the third trimester, based on teacher evaluation of student work and evidence of learning that takes place from when distance learning began to the end of the school year. 

For middle and high school students, those who would have traditionally earned a grade: Students shall receive “Pass” if they have completed work at the level equivalent to C- or higher and shall receive A-G credit. Students shall receive “Credit” if they have completed work at the level equivalent to an F or higher, and would need to retake the class for it to be accepted for the University of California or California State University A-G requirements.  Students will be provided opportunities to make-up needed work and supported through appropriate interventions.

The semester grade will be a combination of Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 grades. 

If a student had an A, B, or C prior to school closures due to COVID-19, it’s reasonable to expect that the student would likely be able to receive a “Pass” and advance to the next course. The quality of that student’s work may diminish due to a variety of circumstances and teachers should use their best discretion to adjust their grading philosophies to accommodate as these situations come up. Per the guidance of the CDE, student’s grades should not be lowered or penalized after the mandated school closure March 13th. Therefore, students’ grades shouldn’t be lowered to “Credit” if they were receiving a grade that would make them eligible to receive a “Pass” and earn A-G credit for the course. 

Students who had a D or F prior to school closures due to COVID-19 have a variety of factors that could be the cause such as truancy, social-emotional well-being, comprehension of material, or other challenges. Traditional efforts to support these students are now diminished. Therefore, teachers should use their best judgment to adjust their grading philosophies to evaluate the effort all students are putting in to overcome the various barriers they are encountering.

No middle school or high school student will get anything less than a “Credit” for this semester.

Considerations and Next Steps 

For elementary students, we will maintain our focus on the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral well-being of our TK-5 students. We ask for your patience as we find solutions through working with our teachers and administrators to create parameters for effective feedback and find solutions to create space for more narrative comments to reflect student progress in learning. We will be preparing informational materials for our teachers and communication to our families. 

For middle and high school students, we will continue to communicate guidance from our higher education institutions, which has thus far reflected flexibility and not penalizing Seniors who are unable to retake the SAT/ACT. While GPA is only one measure of a student’s success, we are pleased that the option recommended and approved will allow this to be applied toward scholarships and college admissions, and for students taking our AP and Honors-level courses to have the ability to receive a weighted bump. Most importantly, we believe the approved grading plan will provide an additional incentive for our students to remain engaged.  

For all WCCUSD students and families, we will continue to work with those who need additional support with interventions and will specially take into consideration the needs, efforts, and dedication of our college-bound students that will be applying to institutions in years to come, as well as our vulnerable and at-promise student groups. Finally, and most importantly, we must continue to strengthen the Community of Character values that make WCCUSD an incredible place to live and grow, and to reinforce academic integrity and citizenship. We are in this together. Please help us uphold our WCCUSD educational standards, so that our students will continue to go out and make a better world.

Thank you for your ongoing support, patience and collaboration. 

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