By Ben Rodgers
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school district is looking outside the box when it comes to grading students via online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school board approved the changes to grading during a special board meeting Monday, April 13, where it met remotely.
Calling it a “do-no-harm context,” John Magas, associate superintendent of continuous improvement, said students will not be graded lower than grades earned on March 13.
“It maximizes positives and minimizes potential negative consequences on students and families,” Magas said. “I think those are the main points on it.”
He said the grading approach is a hybrid between a pass/fail model, which many districts across the state are adopting, and an available traditional letter option.
“A parent can make a choice as to whether or not they want the courses counted for a grade or they want the course to be pass/no grade-COVID-19,” Magas said.
He said the recommendation came after consideration of what students and families could be going through during the pandemic.
For example, a student may be taking care of their siblings, or their house may not have internet to connect to coursework.
“The vast amount of recommendations from national organizations, from larger school districts, from looking at neighbors around here, from looking at what the big five in Wisconsin are doing, almost everybody is going down this track,” Magas said. “I think we have to really take stock in this and know it’s not easy for everybody, but it really is the best decision we can make given the hard situation.”
Board members Kristina Shelton and Andrew Becker said they have received questions from parents.
Among those concerns is what higher education will be doing in regards to transcripts and grades for admission.
“Every indication so far is the institutions of higher education are going to be flexible on this,” Magas said.
In terms of what the district is doing in this area, he said all courses that result in a grade of pass/no grade-COVID-19 will appear on a permanent transcript.
However, he said it will not be computed as part of a student’s high school grade-point average.
He said all courses that result in a grade of pass will result in the awarding of high school credit as progress made towards graduation.
Magas said only letter grades will be counted toward honor roll status and for tie-breaking determination for scholarships.
He said students taking International Baccalaureate (IB) courses will not take the traditional exams this semester.
To receive the IB diploma, Magas said students will have to submit their work to IB for approval.
For the 2019–20 Advanced Placement (AP) exams only, he said students can take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home.
Because some students have lost more instructional time than others, Magas said the exam will include only topics and skills most AP teachers and students covered in class by early March.
“My original intent coming into here was to certainly share my strong positive feelings about this,” Becker said. “But nonetheless, I make a motion to postpone because it’s a big enough deal that it seems to me like it should come with the public comment opportunity. However, I also recognize the urgency. I don’t want to leave people waiting for two weeks.”
The new policy eventually passed unanimously, but the board may bring it back to the table for discussion or changes after hearing community input.
“We haven’t seen any objections and it’s been a very deep, rich, inclusive process under the circumstances,” said Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld.