Finishing strong: making this school year count

Posted: Friday, April 17th 2020

San Diego Unified students are exceptional. That’s not just a matter of opinion, it’s clear based on how our students stack up nationally against their peers. 

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the schools to close, students were working together collaboratively on computers and educators were honing their skills in teaching a diverse student population with a wide array of learning styles. This experience makes San Diego Unified well positioned to launch distance learning and the formal return to graded instruction on April 27. (May 11 for year-round students).

The determination of teachers and students to make this interrupted year count academically are critical. One day soon, we will emerge from the current COVID-19 health crisis. We will be back in classrooms. We will have a future. And for students, what that future looks like may depend on how they embrace the months ahead, starting with Distance Learning. 

All students who are able to access Distance Learning are expected to participate regardless of the grade they earned prior to schools closing. Teachers will continue to assess student learning, and those assessments will help guide decisions when it comes to additional support and resources a student may need.

During the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 health crisis, San Diego Unified wants families to know the focus for the rest of the academic year is on continued learning for students, not solely grades. Of course, grades do matter. Students have put in countless hours toward maximizing their potential this school year and it should count for something. It should count for a lot. Grades provide a barometer of that progress.  

Providing feedback through grades offers a useful benchmark for students and helps parents measure progress. Although work will be graded, San Diego Unified has instituted a “grade protection policy” during Distance Learning that will not lower a grade that’s been achieved up to this point. 

Graded learning vs. credit/no credit

As one of the top school districts in the country, San Diego Unified has thousands of extremely talented and motivated students. To some degree, their work is reflected in their grades and course test scores. San Diego Unified students deserve recognition for their considerable investment and achievement and should know their continued hard work matters. 

While San Diego Unified respects the decision of other districts to institute a temporary credit/no credit (pass/fail) system, San Diego Unified believes the best policy for its students is to continue with its customary graded scale. It’s a known quantity in a time when there are plenty of unknowns.    

Why grades will not be lowered during Distance Learning

While Distance Learning offers the best possible option for continuity during the current COVID-19 disruption, it’s also uncharted territory for everyone involved. Teachers have been going “back to school” for the past month to develop learning models and strategies that may work best for their respective subject matter and grade level. 

Like any new skill being acquired, there’s an associated learning curve. Unfortunately, school districts, including San Diego Unified, don’t have the luxury of time to prepare teachers as thoroughly as necessary in this new, temporary environment as they move from the classroom to the computer. 

Similarly, students bring a wide variety of experience and aptitude to the digital learning space. San Diego Unified believes it would be unfair to negatively affect grades already earned in coursework due to family stress brought on by COVID-19 or possible technological limitations in a learning space that’s brand new to everyone. However, if a student is able to make progress in subject matter during Distance Learning, that achievement should be reflected in their academic record. 

The next chapter

Whether students are moving on to the next grade, moving on to college or moving on with their life, they will continue to grow over the weeks and months to come, both personally and academically. The instruction they’ll be getting from now through the rest of the school year will be so important in helping them get there, as it has been up to this point. 

It’s much easier to keep something moving than to start it moving. Education is no different. Don’t let it stop. And remember, even though it may seem like it sometimes, students not alone. Their teachers are still here. Their school support staff is still here. San Diego Unified is still here and we promise to stay with you the entire way.    

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