Grading FAQs for FCUSD Families
Updated: May 12, 2020
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Q: Why did FCUSD transition to credit/no mark grades for the final reporting period of the 2019-2020 school year?
A: Despite our best efforts to provide equitable experiences for our more than 20,000 students, we know that some students may struggle to process new material or demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of course content under these extraordinary circumstances. Our lower-income students and students with special needs may experience even greater challenges. In recognition of the anxiety, stress, and inherent educational inequities that exist across our nation, institutions of higher education are promoting a credit/no mark model as the most equitable approach to codifying student learning.
Given these considerations, FCUSD has committed to follow the guidance set by higher education and implement a credit/no mark model for the final reporting period of the 2019-2020 school year. Assigning letter grades in an environment where we cannot ensure there are sufficient supports in place to mitigate challenging home circumstances is not prudent or defensible.
FCUSD’s decision included input from teachers, staff, and District leadership, with unanimous support from principals and administrators. It was also made in consultation with higher education admissions officials, the County Department of Education, and school districts across the state. The FCUSD Board of Education approved the decision at the May 1 Board Meeting with the expectation that students will work toward mastery of essential standards and to demonstrate sufficient understanding of core content to earn credit for courses and that teachers will prepare students for a successful transition to the next level.
Q: Why did FCUSD not implement a choice option?
A: In recognition of the anxiety, stress, and inherent educational inequities that exist across our nation, institutions of higher education are promoting a credit/no mark model as the most equitable approach to codifying student learning. FCUSD principals unanimously agreed that allowing a choice between letter grades or credit/no mark would simply highlight and exacerbate these inequities for students. Our lower-income students and students with special needs may experience even greater challenges with access, and many of our students are already experiencing disruption and stress by the impact of COVID-19 on their families. To be clear, even some of our students currently performing at high levels may struggle, if their home circumstances change or more of their teachers get sick.
In making this decision, we also considered the difficulty of calculating grades in an environment where teachers have vastly different capacities to provide and monitor online learning. This is simply one more inequity that our students are facing. Add to this challenge the reality that some of our teachers are sick or are dealing with sick family members and struggling to maintain the continuity of instruction, and we have an environment, where any student could be harmed by letter grades.
Also, to assign a grade in a course this semester that in no way resembles what a grade in that same course would have been in prior years lacks integrity. The high performing nature of our schools is widely recognized and, in large part, because of the quality of our instruction and the rigor and excellence reflected in our grades. Folsom Cordova’s reputation has always served our students well in college admissions and will continue to be an important consideration that separates Folsom Cordova students from others, as admissions officers consider the integrity and rigor of our programs.
Moving to a credit/no mark grading model enables our teachers to focus on providing critical feedback and ensuring that students have the understanding of essential concepts necessary for success at the next level rather than counting points and trying to calculate grades. We have an opportunity to focus entirely on learning. And, as we have shared, we would never have made this decision without the commitment from higher education to hold students harmless. They simply cannot hold students harmless and consider grades from any school district.
To that end, the Chief Deputy Superintendent of Education for the California Department of Education, Dr. Stephanie Gregson, recently responded directly to the question of whether students who turn in transcripts with grades vs. credit would be looked upon more favorably for admission, and she reiterated that the institutions of higher education in California will not be weighing one over the other. CDE also reiterated, Do No Harm and Equity need to be at the forefront of grading during the time of school closures. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/gradegraduationfaq.asp
We have received these same assurances from the most highly selective schools in the country. Please read the remainder of the FAQ to see these assurances.
Harvard’s Dean Claudine Gay captures the inherent inequities and challenges with offering student choice during this extraordinary time. “Instructors have come to feel that they cannot assign grades equitably, given the radically different circumstances students find themselves in. We cannot make the usual comparisons in the midst of a global pandemic, and the shift to an alternative grading scheme reflects the enormity of our current situation.” Gay continued, “Were we to permit students to opt-in or opt-out of P/F grading, students who find themselves in very challenging situations would have no choice but to shift to P/F--and they would suffer in comparison to their peers as a result. A mandatory Emergency Satisfactory/Emergency Unsatisfactory system is the only way to treat all students equitably.” Click here to read Dean Gay’s message in full.
Q: Why didn’t FCUSD “freeze” grades or simply hold students “harmless”?
A: We have fielded questions asking why we can’t simply let students maintain the grades they had in early March and hold them “harmless.” The reason we aren’t freezing grades is that we are committed to students continuing their learning. If we stopped evaluating student progress in March, we would be granting permission for students to disengage from the critically important knowledge and skills needed for success at the next level. If this were to occur, we would actually be inflicting harm. In FCUSD, holding students harmless means ensuring that their learning continues.
Another concern shared with the district is that if teachers do not assign letter grades, students are dis-incentivized to learn. That’s not true. The surest way to end learning would be to “freeze grades.” A shift to credit/no mark means that students are now working toward earning course credit so that they will be successful at the next level. Our students should be engaged, participating in class, grappling with new concepts, completing assignments, and communicating with their teachers. Letter grades are one means by which to communicate student progress and achievement. Credit/No mark is another and in this environment, where instruction may not look the same and the home environment for each child is very different, assigning letter grades with any degree of certainty isn’t possible or defensible. However, what is defensible is ensuring that students learn the concepts critical to success at the next level. Those students who demonstrate that knowledge will earn credit. Those who don’t will earn no mark as appropriate.
Q: What does a credit/no mark grade mean and how will it impact my student’s GPA?
A: Students will be expected to work toward mastery of essential standards and to demonstrate sufficient understanding of core content to earn a grade of "CR" (credit) for courses. Students who receive a grade of CR will earn full credit for the course. The CR will not be calculated into the GPA.
Students will receive a mark of “NM” (no mark) if they have not met the minimum proficiency levels for standards within a course. Counseling staff will work with students who receive a final reporting period mark of NM to determine if the course needs to be repeated or if students have demonstrated sufficient proficiency to go on to the next course. NM grades may be resolved through a variety of credit recovery options during the summer and subsequent school year. No Mark grades will not be calculated into the GPA.
Students who took AP courses will have their GPA weighted for the first semester of the year. A grade of “CR” in the second semester will not raise or lower their GPA. We realize we have students who were working very hard to improve their GPAs with weighted course work this semester. They will have another opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the course through the new at-home AP tests being offered by the College Board. Complete details are available here.
Q: Will credit/no mark impact graduation eligibility for seniors?
A: No. Students on track to graduate will, and those with extreme hardships related to COVID-19, may be granted waivers. A waiver would reduce the FCUSD graduation requirements, for eligible students, to the minimum standard established by the California Department of Education. Student waivers must be approved by the Board of Education and decisions regarding waivers will be made in consultation with school staff.
Q: How will credit/no mark impact admissions or eligibility for college?
A: COVID-19 is an international public health crisis. There is not a state or a nation that has not been impacted. The fact is that many students in the United States are no longer attending school. Some districts have made the shift to distance learning and others are still struggling. To that end, we have been assured by the institutions of higher education in California and across the nation that moving to credit/no mark this semester will not impact college eligibility, which is one reason why FCUSD principals unanimously supported this transition.
In an emergency distance learning environment, a credit/no mark grade is the most equitable approach to quantifying student learning and enables educators to focus less on tracking “points” and more on preparing students for the next level. As the COVID-19 crisis escalates, we need to ensure that we honor learning without putting undue pressure on our students and families.
The State Board of Education (SBE), California Department of Education (CDE), California State University (CSU), University of California (UC), California Community Colleges, and independent nonprofit colleges and universities have stated that they will accept credit/no mark grades in lieu of letter grades for A-G high school courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020.
Letter of explanation: While we have not heard of colleges or universities requiring explanations, students are welcome to use this letter, signed by our Superintendent and Board of Education President, when applying to college, for scholarships, military, or other post-secondary advancements, which explains why we are not providing letter grades for the spring of 2020. We hope this will serve as an additional resource for your student.
Q: Has there been any change to the University of California admissions policies since the March 31 statement was issued which announced they would be accepting P/F or Credit/no mark grading?
A: No, on March 31, the UC System approved a series of critical, short-term measures to ensure that no student’s admission would be adversely impacted by the disruption of COVID-19. There have been no changes to their position since that time. Click here to see the statement from the UC System.
Q: Are highly selective schools also providing assurances that credit/no mark grades won’t impact eligibility?
A: Highly selective colleges in the United States utilize holistic review. Holistic means they take into account a broader framework than just grades and scores. They ask for essays, possibly letters of recommendation, and, most importantly, they take into account a student’s context: what was available to the student and what was not.
Right now, we have a global pandemic with local solutions. It will be the responsibility of colleges, as it always has been, to adapt to those local solutions. Whether it was the wildfires in California or hurricanes in the Southeast, colleges have long adapted to extreme situations by adjusting deadlines, resetting requirements, and taking into account the local circumstances of its applicants.
In an environment where students have differing levels of access and grades can’t be authenticated, credit/no mark is the only honest and equitable local solution. And, frankly, in this time of change and uncertainty, it frees up students to do the things that have long held more sway in the selective admissions process: being generous, creative, thoughtful, and curious contributors to their communities and families.
Whether it’s Harvard looking for applicants of character or MIT wanting students engaged with the common good, colleges have long sought students who can – above and beyond showing up in the classroom – show up in their communities. This is a moment when districts can empower students to actually do both.
We have received assurances from Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, USC, Northwestern, MIT, Tulane, and others, virtually all of the schools that FCUSD students attend, that in this unprecedented time, students won’t be harmed - read statements from these schools.
Q: How will credit/no mark affect eligibility for athletics and performance groups at the high school level?
A: The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) vested local school districts with responsibility for determining eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our high school principals, who serve as our liaisons to CIF, determined that the eligibility criteria for athletics and performance groups for next fall will be the completion of a minimum of four classes with a grade of credit. The use of GPA for eligibility purposes will be eliminated for the 2020 spring semester.
Q: How is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) evaluating Emergency Distance Learning?
A: In response to questions regarding schools that have moved to distance or e-learning environments, the NCAA Eligibility Center released a statement stipulating that the NCAA will not require a separate review of distance or e-learning programs utilized by schools with NCAA-approved core courses that have moved to distance or e-learning environments for Spring/Summer 2020 terms.
Students are encouraged to complete their NCAA-approved core courses through the channels of instruction provided or recommended by their school, district, or state department of education.
For information from the NCAA regarding COVID-19, please visit ncaa.org/COVID-19 and continue to monitor for more information from the Eligibility Center at on.ncaa.com/EC_COVID. For access to the NCAA FAQ please click HERE.
Q: How will credit/no mark impact placement for subsequent courses?
A: Many of the course and program placement decisions for our students were already underway, prior to the transition to emergency distance learning. However, teachers will continue to gather evidence of learning to inform placement, and students will be expected to work toward mastery of essential standards and to demonstrate sufficient understanding of core content. In this environment, communication between students and teachers will be critical. If it does not appear that a student is prepared for the next level, summer school options may be available to increase readiness. Pre-assessment in the fall of next year will also help to identify areas where students need additional support.
Q: Is there any consideration for waiving graduation requirements for students who are facing family challenges associated with COVID-19 or Emergency Distance Learning?
A: If there are seniors who cannot meet FCUSD diploma requirements due to extreme hardships related to COVID-19, these students may be eligible for a waiver. The waiver would reduce the graduation requirements, for eligible students, to the minimum standard established by the California Department of Education. Student waivers must be approved by the Board of Education and decisions regarding waivers will be made in consultation with school staff.
Q: Will elementary and middle school students also receive credit/no mark grades?
A: Elementary Grades: TK-5 students will not receive grades on report cards. All report cards will reflect a move to distance learning. Teachers will continue to provide feedback and progress towards meeting guaranteed and viable standards to students and families; however, teachers will not be responsible for preparing final report cards.
Middle School: Grades 6-8 students will receive Pass or No Mark for each course. All report cards will reflect a move to distance learning. Teachers will assign Pass or No Mark based on students’ grades on or before the schools’ shutdown, March 13, 2020, and provide opportunities to improve the final grade. The Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the Equity Task Force will provide teachers with guidelines related to Passing as of March 13, 2020. Teachers will continue to provide feedback and progress towards meeting guaranteed and viable standards to students and families.
Q: In an Emergency Distance Learning environment will teachers continue to provide direct instruction and feedback to students?
A: Transitioning away from letter grades for the remainder of this school year does not mean that students will not be learning or held accountable. FCUSD students will be expected to work toward mastery of essential standards and to demonstrate sufficient understanding of core content to earn credit for courses. Teachers, staff, and administrators will remain focused on keeping our students highly engaged, connected, and invested in their learning. Teachers will continue to have daily contact, to assign work, to provide feedback on the work, to host online discussion forums when age-appropriate, and provide resources to ensure that our students have a variety of opportunities to strengthen their understanding of essential learning targets.
Our focus will remain squarely on learning and preparing students to be successful at the next level. Should you have additional questions related to your child’s progress, we encourage you to contact his or her teacher. Our teachers will continue to be the best resource for understanding your child’s progress in class.
As acknowledged by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, emergency distance learning may not mirror classroom instruction. However, FCUSD remains committed to providing the highest quality educational experience we can envision. Our entire staff from leadership, to teachers, to classified employees, to school counselors, and more are here to serve students. Please do not hesitate to regularly connect with your teachers, principals, and other school staff. Also, continue to visit https://www.fcusd.org/coronavirus for resources and updates.
QUESTIONS ABOUT 3RD QUARTER GRADES-- For FHS and CHS ONLY. Vista students and families should refer to specific information provided by their administrative team and faculty.
Q: If I petition to place 3rd quarter progress grades on my transcripts, can the makeup work I turned in, as well as the enrichment work covered since March 13th, positively impact the 3rd quarter progress grade that would be captured on my transcript?
A: Teachers are still tracking work turned in by students. Makeup work from the third quarter and the enrichment work covered through distance learning could positively impact the 3rd quarter grades. What is absolute is that 3rd quarter progress grades can not go down from where they were when originally reported on March 13, 2020. Also, 3rd quarter progress grades do not contribute to the overall GPA.
Q: If I petition for my 3rd quarter progress grades be noted on my transcripts, where would those progress grades be captured?
A: In the notes section of the transcripts.
Q: May I request 3rd quarter progress grades for only specific classes be noted on my transcript?
A: No. If requested, all 3rd quarter progress grades would be recorded in the notes section of the transcript.
Q: What is the process for me to request my 3rd quarter progress grades be captured on my transcripts?
A: Your principal will be communicating the process for requesting 3rd quarter progress grades at your school site.
Q: Who can petition for the 3rd quarter progress grades from Spring 2020 be included in the notes section of the transcript?
A: Students 18 years or older, or students with the consent of a guardian.
Q: Will AP exams still be offered?
A: Yes. The College Board will offer at-home testing for AP exams this year. Complete details are available here. Highlights include:
- Students can take a 45-minute online exam at home using any device—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option.
- The AP exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March.
- The College Board is providing free remote learning resources.
Q: My student is signed up for AP testing, but we have not heard from the College Board. What should we do?
A: Your student should log into their College Board account and double-check that in their profile they are using their personal email, not their fcusd.org email. Click here for College Board contact information. To learn more about how the College Board is supporting students during the COVID-19 public health crisis, visit https://apcoronavirusupdates.collegeboard.org/students.
Q: When are AP Exams being offered, and if I am signed up for more than one test, will there be a time conflict?
A: Click here to access the AP Exam Schedule, the times provided are in Pacific time. Students are able to take up to three tests in one day without conflicts. To learn more about how the College Board is supporting students during the COVID-19 public health crisis, visit https://apcoronavirusupdates.collegeboard.org/students.
Q: How do I prepare for taking the AP test online?
A: The College Board will provide AP students and educators with information on how to access the testing system on test day and video demonstrations so that students can familiarize themselves with the system. Click here for additional information. To learn more about how the College Board is supporting students during the COVID-19 public health crisis, visit https://apcoronavirusupdates.collegeboard.org/students.
Q: Where can I get course specific exam information?
A: This information can be accessed here: Course Specific Exam information
Q: Will FCUSD AP students receive college credit?
A: Yes, the College Board shared that colleges are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn. For decades colleges have accepted a shortened AP Exam for college credit when groups of students have experienced emergencies.
Q: What test preparation resources are available?
A: College Board is providing a number of free test preparation resources, including free AP Review Classes. Please visit these links for more information:
A big THANK YOU to Irvine Unified School District for providing some of the information referenced in this document.