Grading During Trimester Three

Statement Regarding Grading During Trimester Three
Posted on 05/28/2020
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South Washington County Schools appreciates the feedback from families following the announcement that trimester three grades will not be included in the cumulative grade point average (GPA) calculations. We understand the concern for your child’s future and the support and pride you have for the hard work they have put in to succeed during this trimester.

As you may know, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) first provided grading guidance on May 1 that asked school districts to create a new, equitable grading system for students during distance learning. The guidance did not include a uniform practice for all districts to follow. South Washington County Schools, like districts across the state and country, modified the traditional grading system.

The decision to alter grading was is based on the following:

  • To ensure that any negative impact on students is minimized while keeping in mind the multiple and varied challenges and support systems our students experience
  • To maintain an equitable system of identifying and recognizing senior achievement and honors designations
  • To allow for flexibility in meeting the unique needs and challenges of our student populations and their post-secondary plans
  • To clearly demonstrate that student performance during this trimester was different and could not be compared to other grading periods
  • To prevent two grading systems in which some students are disproportionately disadvantaged

Distance learning cannot be compared to other grading periods due to:

  • This trimester is 15 days shorter than usual (out of 56 days) due to planning time for teachers for distance learning. At the beginning of the distance learning period, high school teachers were instructed to reduce the content by 40 to 50 percent of what was normally taught in-person.
  • Most classes did not give unit tests that are typically conducted in other trimesters, though some teachers gave assessments.
  • Educators are not giving final exams.
  • Students could not complete chemistry and science lab experiments without being at school. Many other classes with simulations and in-class projects could also not complete those lessons.
  • The Advanced Placement (AP) classes ceased new content around the country in March, (the beginning of our trimester). The AP tests will only cover content from the first two trimesters.
  • The rigor of classwork was reduced.
  • We have significantly less ability to ensure the integrity of the work completed.

Adjustments and Decision

As the decision regarding final grades was being formulated, we heard from families that a Pass/No Grade system was concerning and that letter grades should be given to reward students for their hard work. South Washington County Schools will move forward with the A, A-, B+, B, B-, P (Pass), N (No Grade) grading system for trimester three. Based on feedback from families, transcripts will now show the GPA for trimester three in its own section, but will not be calculated into the overall cumulative GPA. Grades of P and N are GPA neutral and are not calculated. Students applying to colleges and other organizations will be able to show their documented success in trimester three.

The Minnesota Department of Education recommended the following statement to appear in the comment section of the transcript. We have also noted that trimester three grades are not included in the cumulative GPA calculations:
Grades that are documented during the time period of March 16 through June 30 of 2020 are not included in the cumulative grade point averages and reflect the distance learning period resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Future use of these grades for academic placement, admission, acceleration, or remediation is discouraged and should only be used with caution after balancing the information against student performance in other grading periods.

This grading approach is equitable for all students and supports students who have worked hard to gain an A or B grade. The grading system also helps students who have historically achieved high grades in the regular classroom, but were unable to adjust and thrive during distance learning. It also allows our students who struggled during distance learning to continue to work with teachers to move their N grade to a P.

The decision not to include the trimester three grades in the cumulative GPA was based on our goal to ensure no students were disadvantaged by the decision. Although we know colleges, universities and other organizations will not view this spring grading period in the same way as they have in the past, a cumulative GPA must be accurate and calculated fairly. Including the third trimester GPA and comparing it to other trimesters is not an accurate or fair representation of the academic work completed.

Please note that the school board supports this decision and no further adjustments will be made to the grading system for trimester three.