It was revealed Sunday that an Oregon public school district has temporarily changed its grading system to accommodate "unfinished learning" brought about by online coursework during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
In a Nov. 15 letter from the Hillsboro School District in Oregon posted to Twitter, administrators told district parents, "due to the unique learning circumstances of the past 18 months, this school year if students have not demonstrated proficiency in their course work or have unfinished learning, they will receive an 'I' or Incomplete on their report card instead of an 'F.'"
The Hillsboro School District is the fourth-largest public school district in the state of Oregon with 35 schools serving more than 20,000 pre-K - grade 12 students.
"This change in grading provides flexibility for students to demonstrate their learning in alternative ways and timeframes," the letter continued.
The district stated that the grading practice change comes from guidance from the Oregon Department of Education. "Incomplete provides students additional time during and after learning to complete the course and demonstrate proficiency. Alternative grading marks are not alone a solution, but they can provide increased flexibility and an extended time-frame for demonstrated learning," the ODE guidance states, according to the letter.
Students in this district will have until Aug. 31, 2022, to earn a passing grade for the course in which they received an "I," or the grade will revert to an "F."
High school students will be able to work in collaboration with their teachers to come up with a "pass plan," while middle school students be able to pass in work past the quarter grading at a teacher's discretion.
The "I" grade will not impact a student's GPA, but if not corrected, the "F" grade will result in a 0, which affects GPA, per the letter.
"They didn't do their jobs; they kept schools closed and now they are trying to cover up the impact. I am a licensed Oregon teacher, and what they are doing is wrong," a Pacific Northwest mother commented on Twitter.
The pandemic-era learning model of remote classes has taken a toll on students across the country, with many children falling behind in their studies.
According to McKinsey & Company, students on average were around five months behind in mathematics, and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year. "The pandemic widened preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students hardest," wrote McKinsey.
Black students ended the school year with six months of unfinished learning, while students in low income districts finished with seven. High schoolers have become more likely to drop out of school, and high school seniors, especially those from low-income families, are more likely to forego postsecondary education.
"And the crisis had an impact on not just academics but also the broader health and well-being of students, with more than 35 percent of parents very or extremely concerned about their children's mental health," wrote McKinsey.
According to McKinsey's analysis, students in school today could earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime due to the impact of the pandemic on their schooling. "The impact on the US economy could amount to $128 billion to $188 billion every year as this cohort enters the workforce," wrote McKinsey.
Some students have become disengaged from their learning and have lost knowledge and skills they once possessed, and a majority of students have learned less during the pandemic than they would have in a typical school year.
"Students who move on to the next grade unprepared are missing key building blocks of knowledge that are necessary for success, while students who repeat a year are much less likely to complete high school and move on to college. And it's not just academic knowledge these students may miss out on. They are at risk of finishing school without the skills, behaviors, and mindsets to succeed in college or in the workforce," wrote McKinsey in the analysis.