WCPSS incapable of complying with State Board’s guidance for grading (UPDATED)

North Carolina’s largest school district can’t comply with the State Board of Education’s guidance on grading and will issue pass/fail grades for all students, and not just high schoolers, per a report by the News and Observer.

According to the News & Observer:

Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore said the focus for teachers now should be on seeing to the well-being of students as they’re asked “to do the impossible” during the pandemic. Moore said that based on state guidance, she said the district will primarily issue pass/fail grades to students — and not just to seniors as determined by the state.

Moore said that additional grading guidance will be provided to families later Friday.

Apparently, this was news to some teachers.

“We were not told about this. We literally just read about it in the N&O,” said a Wake County middle school teacher who wished to remain anonymous.

Last week, the State Board of Education approved a policy for high school seniors to get a pass/fail grade instead of a letter grade based on their scores up to and including March 13.

Wake County’s decision will not only impact the transcripts of all seniors across the district, but it will also kill letter/number grades for the rest of the district’s K-11 students.

The State Board of Education’s guidance says traditional grades can only be used for K-11 if schools could meet “critical factors.”  Those factors are:

  • Maintains consistent communication between instructional staff and students
  • Addresses the curricular and instructional needs associated with appropriate standards
  • Includes evidence of student learning
  • Considers the whole child as well as the home learning environment.
  • Materials and lessons need to be accessible by all students for which the learning is intended and is responsive to diverse learning groups.

According to the News and Observer,  “Supt. Moore said they won’t be able to meet all those requirements in all classes. Instead of traditional grades, she said that teachers would provide feedback to students in those cases.”

There were no more specifics from Moore on why the district can’t meet it, but it’s likely the connectivity and access issues.  Wake County and the state were both ill-prepared for the event of an emergency such as the COVID-19 outbreak and it has become apparent neither had a continuity of education plan in place.

Wake County said more information on the pass/fail will come out today and will hopefully give some clue about what this means for advanced placement, the advanced course selection and other things that hinge on grades and testing.

“What starts here changes everything.” That’s WCPSS’s tagline.
What that has really ended up meaning is ‘we’re so big we force changes. Everywhere.’

Case in point:

The above tweet was deleted, apparently, it was not accurate. Since that tweet, WCPSS has issued yet another update. The pass/fail format is still happening, but there’s more detail now and it’s more like pass/incomplete.

The update includes grades 12 and 13, which have a focus on graduation and spring semester requirements and are substantially different than the guidance for other grades. The current guidance makes no mention of honors or Advanced Placement courses, which are more heavily weighted in a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) than other coursework.

2020-04-03 12-13 Grading WCPSS

12-13 Spring Semester Guidance

2020-04-03 12-13 Graduation WCPSS

WCPSS Graduation Requirements Guidance

K-5:  Student performance at Level 2, 3 or 4 will be marked as “P” (Pass) for the 3rd quarter. If performance is at Level 1, the student will be marked as “I” (Incomplete) and the teacher “will work with the student to determine an appropriate plan of action to support growth in key learning areas.”

6-8 and 9-11: Similar to K-5, only a student who was running a grade of 60 or above is considered a “Pass.” If the student has below a 60, it’s an “I” (Incomplete). Teachers are supposed to work with students who get an “I”.

For 6-8 and 9-11, “Student numerical averages will be kept on file in the teacher’s gradebook but not reported on the report card for quarter 3.” The guidance for these grade levels also says that all teachers will “provide an opportunity for students to ask questions about and, where appropriate as defined by the school, improve grades for quarter 3.”

Additionally for 6-8, “All teachers will maintain grades and performance data from the 3rd quarter to continue monitoring progress.”

It’s also worth noting that WCPSS has announced the year-round calendar students will follow the traditional calendar for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

IEP guidance looks identical in all areas and will require progress reports.

Special Education teachers will indicate progress for those students in the following ways:

  • Sufficient progress based on data obtained before 3/16
  • Insufficient progress based on data obtained before 3/16
  • Progress could not be determined based on insufficient data obtained before 3/16

At the top of each set of WCPSS’ grading guidance links below is a disclaimer that says, “Please note that this guidance will evolve and change as circumstances and/or guidance from the state changes.” I recommend printing, screen-capturing or downloading them for safekeeping.

For K-11 specifics, please refer to the grading guidance links above. Here are basics (for now) of what parents can expect for grading for K-11 grades.

“For students who concluded the third quarter prior to the closure of school, students will receive the grades they earned on the standard grading scale.

For all other calendars, we are considering the third quarter grading period to be over. Teachers will consider data points and student work samples collected as of March 13 to determine student progress and mastery for the 3rd quarter. PowerSchool will be updated by the end of the school year, based on any additional guidance received from the North Carolina State Board of Education.”

What does this mean?

Very basically, for traditional calendar schools, the end of quarter three is April 3. Your child’s grades for quarter three will be based only on what they earned through March 13.

For year-round (multi-track), it’s basically the same. Quarter three for tracks 1-3 is April 9 and Track 4 is hit the worst; according to the report card calendar, their quarter three is not until May 1.

I highly recommend parents log into Powerschool and take a screenshot of their child’s current grades for quarter three.

What’s adequate?

Related to Wake County’s inability to meet remote learning criteria for grading is the district’s claim that 28,000 students do not have access to an “adequate computer.”

Due to Wake County and the rest of the state being under a stay at home order, most adults are teleworking – some of them for weeks. That takes a laptop, computer or at bare minimum a tablet or even a cell phone.

It’s not hard to believe that a decent portion of students might not have a computer of their own, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. According to the above tweet, 28,000 of the 161,000 students in the district do not have access to an “adequate computer.”

I’ve asked for the data behind that 28,000 number as well as what the definition of an “adequate computer” is.

As of the last Friday in March, Wake County Public Schools had handed out close to 1,900 laptops – to teachers. High School seniors are apparently going to be next on the list.

Given the decision to go to pass/fail means Wake County no longer is pressed for time to get these devices to students but teachers have already been contacting students and lessons online will be starting April 13 anyway.

Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order that gave school districts access to state surplus property. Wake County Schools has not said whether or not they are considering that as a source for possible devices.

On a personal note

My middle schooler is visibly upset and a bit angry that all of his hard work this half of the year has basically been wiped out.  He had already turned in extra credit assignment hoping to boost the grades he had earned prior to school closing.

“What was the point of all that work I did – all of the extra credit assignments?” he asked me. “It’s not like it’s going to count now. I feel cheated.”

I can’t argue –  he has been cheated. His grades prior to closure this year and the extra assignments he was working on to boost those grades should count.  And thus more teachable moments in surviving WCPSS has come:

Don’t give up just because someone else has.

The work one does to better oneself is never wasted.

Government entities will never do anything as well as the individual or private entities. They are a broadsword. Be the scalpel.

Caveat emptor.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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1 Response to WCPSS incapable of complying with State Board’s guidance for grading (UPDATED)

  1. Cat Schmidt Lewis says:

    No words. This is crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

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