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Washington gives new guidelines for K-12 grading during distance learning

High school students can no longer take classes on a pass-no credit basis of grading. Spokane Public Schools said most of its guidelines still align with the state's

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released new grading guidelines for students in Washington while distance learning takes place during the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.

The guidelines state that students in kindergarten through eighth grade will be graded based on effort and success during virtual learning activities, and will move on to the next grade unless a student's parents and teacher agree the child needs to repeat a grade or specific subject.

For high school students, the OSPI outlined a more structured system. Students can't receive a "pass," "fail," or "no credit" grade in a course. Students can receive an "incomplete," meaning they need to eventually repeat the course, or a letter grade. Its up to each school to decide if it uses an A-D or A-B system.

Spokane Public Schools spokesperson Ally Barrera said that the district's guidelines generally already match those put forward by the state, and that district leaders are discussing possible changes.

One thing the district offered that is no longer part of state guidelines was a "pass/no credit" option for high school students.

Previous changes made by SPS

Due to school closures caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic, Spokane Public Schools had to adapt to teaching from a distance.

Under Spokane Public Schools' virtual learning guidelines, the district is asking students to do the following:

  • Check their email for weekly plans,
  • Complete daily assignments
  • Attend live sessions hosted by teachers.

District leaders said learning expectations vary by grade levels and course.

This first applies to the amount of time students spend working.

The district recommends elementary students spend anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes a day on academic work, depending on their grade level.

Teachers will determine time spent on daily enrichment activities. There is also time allotted for weekly virtual sessions.

As for secondary students, middle schoolers are asked to spend 20 minutes working on each class per day. High school students are asked to spend 30 minutes on each class each day.

Secondary teachers will also schedule a minimum of one live virtual session for each course every week.

All students are advised to tune into supplemental teaching sessions. This includes televised lessons through the district's partnership with KSPS.

"We know that some of them will struggle with technology, or that might not be the best fit, or that might not be available in their home for whatever reason. And so having a variety of different methods for them to connect with their learning we know is really important," said Dr. Adam Swinyard, Associate Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools.

Parents and students will also have access to digital learning tools through the SPS website.

As for grading, the SPS leaders said elementary teachers will grade assigned work. They can also modify grades based on extenuating circumstances students may be dealing with due to the school closure. The same goes for secondary students.

But there are also three options for how a grade will appear on a high school senior's transcript:

  • Receive a Pass or No Credit
  • Traditional letter grade
  • Request a credit waiver from the school principal.

"Students will still be graded on assignments. They will still get a report card at the end of the year, and it's going to look different. With the compression of learning time teachers are going to do their best to focus on those most important concepts," Swinyard said. 

Teachers will give input and work with counselors and administrators on the best option for each student.

SPS leaders encourage parents who are struggling to reach out to the district or teachers.

"Parents and guardians shouldn't be embarrassed at all about reaching out  —   even on our Facebook page, to me directly, to the teacher or principal  —   just so we can support families," said  Dr. Shelley Redinger, Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools "The hard thing throughout this is to just stay patient. Just know this is new for everybody."

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