In pursuit of equity, Sunrise Park Middle School in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, will eliminate the “F” grade. A Youtube video released by the school shares that starting in the 2021-2022 school year, the 0-49.9 percentile in the grading scale is not included for students. This means that the lowest score a student can receive, even for a missing assignment, is 50%
In the video, Principal Christine Pierre says, “Our whole intent is to ensure that grades focus on the process of learning. Therefore, grades will not include behaviors, attitude, tardiness to class, whether the assignment was turned in late or on time. There are other ways that we can communicate those things to parents.”
Assistant Principal Normal Bell added that students will be encouraged to retake tests, quizzes, papers, and projects. Students will also be given a 10-day window to re-submit from when the grade is posted.
Fox News mentions that an equity audit was conducted during the 2018-2019 school year, and the school found “grading disparities among students of color.”
According to the White Bear Lake Area Schools website, “Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated. Dr. Kazmierczak and WBLAS believe grades should be a measure of what a student knows and has mastered in a given course. Grading should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home.”
The district’s superintendent, Dr. Kazmierczak, was awarded the Minnesota Association of School Administrators 2021 Superintendent of the Year. He was selected by a panel of representatives from Minnesota educational organizations. “MASA Executive Director Dr. Deb Henton said, “Dr. Kazmierczak has quickly become a beacon of leadership and inspiration across the state during his time at White Bear Lake.” It is unclear if the other middle school in the district will implement the same grading scale.
White Bear Lake is not the first school to eliminate F’s to fight systemic racism. In Clark County, Nevada, schools eliminated the “F” grade and replaced it with a “W” to show students are “working on standards below grade level.” Students in 6th-12th grade may receive a “P” grade for passing specific courses. The Clark County policy mirrors Sunrise Parks, stating, “Grades shall not be influenced by behavior or other nonacademic measures (e.g., late or missing assignments, attendance, participation, responsibility).”
Critics of the decision say that it lowers standards for all students. The policy won’t immediately go into effect but will start in the near future. Tam Lester, a teacher at Del Sol Academy, told KLAS, “What they will need is those learner-ready behaviors…things like focus, things like participation, things like time management. Some of these policies are taking those away.”
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