Yes/ No: Is SUHSD’s new grading policy an appropriate response to increased failing rates?

As+of+Dec.+14%2C+the+%E2%80%9CNo+Credit+Due+to+the+Pandemic%E2%80%9D+%28NCP%29+grade+policy+was+put+into+effect+by+Sweetwater+Union+High+School+District+officials.+The+purpose+of+the+grading+policy+is+to+allow+teachers+to+issue+an+NCP+grade%2C+instead+of+an+F.%0A

Kara Barragan

As of Dec. 14, the “No Credit Due to the Pandemic” (NCP) grade policy was put into effect by Sweetwater Union High School District officials. The purpose of the grading policy is to allow teachers to issue an NCP grade, instead of an F.

Yes.
Carina Muniz

The column of Fs on the student’s screen reflects off the student’s eyes, but what is not seen in the reflection is the struggles of that student. What is not seen in that reflection is the students’ hard work summarized in a single letter. That student is you, or your friend, or even the quiet kid in your History class.

Because of distance learning, students’ grades have taken a turn for the worse across the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). On Dec. 14, the Board of Trustees approved an additional grading option for teachers to utilize; the purpose of the new option is to address the needs of students during the pandemic. In response to the rise in students failing academically, SUHSD has done its job in supporting students by implementing the “No Credit due to Pandemic (NCP)” grade.

On Dec. 16, SUHSD Assistant Superintendent Ana Maria Alvarez, Ed.D., sent a letter updating the SUHSD community about several important instructional issues, including the revised grading policy. In the letter Alvarez wrote, “The new grade, [NCP], provides an opportunity for teachers to use in specific cases instead of issuing an ‘F’ grade.”

The letter sent by Alvarez explains that in the instance when a student has no access to connectivity, a device or has significant pandemic-related learning challenges outside of the student’s control that results in disengagement, teachers are allowed to mark their grades as NCP. Circumstantially, if a student has not attended school for a large timeframe of distance learning, teachers are also obligated to give students the NCP grade.

The report released by the Sweetwater Union High School District shows the 2019 and 2020 progress report 1 grades. The information reveals that the percentage of Fs at BVH increased by five percent since the 2019-2020 school year. (Sourced from NBC 7)

A report released by the SUHSD showed that in the 2019-2020 school year, the amount of Fs out of the whole BVH student body was 17 percent. However, the 2020-2021 semester one progress report reveals that the percentage of Fs at BVH increased by five percent.

This data is not surprising, especially considering an anonymous poll conducted by the Crusader showed that out of 496 Bonita Vista High (BVH) students, 25.6 percent of students who admitted to cheating stated that they resorted to cheating because they were too unmotivated to study. This data suggests that students who are struggling academically due to pandemic related challenges, such as familial responsibilities, would benefit from the NCP grade.

On the SUHSD’s website, the mission and beliefs page states, “[SUHSD] ensures a safe, inclusive, collaborative culture that empowers each student to actively engage in a meaningful educational experience to pursue personal and academic success.”

However, as a district, SUHSD administrators failed to inform the SUHSD community as to what “pandemic-related learning challenges” means so that teachers can engage students in a meaningful educational experience. Is mental health included under the range of pandemic-related learning challenges? Additionally, the question remains whether NCP could affect or even delay graduation for seniors. 

Although SUHSD has failed to fulfill their mission statement to students in the past, implementing the NCP grade is a start to satisfying this promise. So far, SUHSD has made little effort to keep students engaged during distance learning, as evidenced by the increase in F grades.

By adding the new grading policy, the SUHSD is successfully taking into consideration other students’ struggles caused by the pandemic.

For students the pandemic has caused a lot of stress and anxiety. Additional poll results revealed that 58.9 percent of BVH students struggle more academically under distance learning than with traditional in-person learning. As a district, administrators should be doing everything in their power to ensure that students are able to learn through this pandemic without worries.

Although the NCP grade does not provide individual support for students, it enables teachers another grade to give students that can be correlated with issues due to the pandemic. Thus, this grade gives a better understanding for administration when considering grades.

It is no secret that the pandemic has caused stress among students, teachers, and administrators, alike. However, the pandemic has also allowed for the SUHSD to partially resolve issues, such as financial instability, which may allow for resources like the NCP grade to be put in effect.

Going into the next semester of the 2020-2021 school yearstill in a pandemicis stressful enough for students, teachers, parents and administration alike. Through this new policy, teachers can do their best to educate their students while still considering students’ personal situations, and administration can prioritize staff and students’ needs. The SUHSD administration has ignored the needs of students for too long, so implementing this new policy is a step in the right direction.

No.

Grace Na

Students scribble on their notebooks making sure they get all the information they need to pass their upcoming test. It is their second time taking the course— an effect of the new grading policy approved by the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) on Dec. 14, 2020: “No Credit Due To Pandemic” (NCP). 

SUHSD decided to change their grading policy to include the NCP grade in an attempt to accommodate unprecedented struggles currently faced by students. However, the new grading system will not be able to help every student in the district and can have a negative impact on motivation, work management and future scheduling of courses. Additionally, according to Inside Higher Ed, having a no-fail system would do more harm to a student than good. Earning grades allows students to be more competitive individuals, motivating them to do better. 

Under this policy, teachers can issue NCP instead of giving an F grade. Although this may allow some students to face less stress during distance learning, the new grading policy will not actually help every student.

An email sent out by SUHSD to students and parents on Dec. 17 stated that “students who do not have connection to WiFi, access to a device or are facing other pandemic-related learning challenges qualify for the NCP policy. Meanwhile, students earning a D- or higher will not qualify.”

The new policy means that  students who are failing their classes would not receive credit for that course and therefore, would have to make up those credits by retaking the course next year or in summer school. If the course they are taking is not required for graduation, then the student does not have to retake the NCP course. Though NCP could help a student avoid a lower GPA, students might grow accustomed to it and once we get back on campus, they would have a hard time earning a better GPA score. It would be more beneficial for the student to try new or other subjects rather than having to retake courses. By taking new subjects, students could gain a new perspective.

On Dec. 14, 2020 SUHSD approved “No Credit Due To Pandemic” (NCP). Due to this students might have to stand 6 feet apart, with their masks on, waiting to get into their classroom for summer school because they have to make-up credit.
(Grace Na)

Even if the district did not offer NCP, students would not be able to receive credit for failed courses. The Elite Educational Institute explains that students would have to retake the failed course during summer break or find a different way to fix the problem.

An excuse some students use for receiving an F is that they lack access to a device or WiFi. While that might be reasonable, according to SUHSD, students had the chance to borrow a device on July 29 through July 31. Students who do not have access to devices should have already borrowed one from the school, so informing teachers about “not having access to a device” would be an excuse. Additionally, for students who have poor connectivity to the WiFi, the SUHSD partnered with COX, a company that provides digital cable televisions, telecommunications, and Home Automation services. Parents can fill out the application SUHSD has provided to give students connectivity to the WiFi.

Earning grades allows students to be more competitive individuals, motivating them to do better. ”

— Inside Higher Ed

To relieve student stress, several teachers seem to be giving out fewer tests and assignments than they would on campus. Instead of using the new grading policy approved by the district, students should contact their teachers and explain why they were not able to complete assignments or tests. Then, teachers can give extensions and extra assistance for them. This solution would allow students to earn a higher grade point in the class, giving them credit, so they would not have to retake their classes.

Providing an NCP grade to those who earn less than a D- is unfair to those who work and study hard during distance learning. If the SUHSD is going to offer NCP to those students, it is fair to give students with higher grades opportunities to equalize the benefits. Additionally, with advantages for students with high grades, others could be motivated to do better. For instance, one of these advantages is offering those with high grades extra credit or a day free of assignments would. Though most students who are doing well in class would not need an advantage, some of them might also be going through challenges and might be exhausted.

There are many factors that influence students’ stress levels during distance learning, and the SUHSD’s new NCP grading policy is definitely not the best response. The district should consider finding other ways to assist those struggling during distance learning by providing help on an individual level.