The State Department of Education has released a guidance statement to help superintendents and boards of education make decisions about grading and graduation requirements for high school students. Check out the answers to the questions below to find out
Q: How will student grading be affected by the switch to distance learning?
A: While local and regional boards of education maintain discretion over grading policies, the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) is encouraging districts to focus priorities on student engagement and learning. The SDE recommends that schools adopt a locally guided pass/fail protocol while providing continued educational opportunities. “Pass” markings confirm that students satisfactorily completed the necessary credits pursuant to the Connecticut General Statutes, 10-221a.
The SDE has identified the following potential options for pass/fail grading policies:
Standard Pass/Fail: The traditional pass/fail standard, similar to that offered by many colleges, graduate schools, and high schools.
Pass/Incomplete: This standard would apply to students in grades 9, 10, and 11. Students who are unable to complete their online assignments would have a district-determined timeline to complete their work and receive either a pass or fail grade. This option supports
- Students without adequate access to technology
- Students with IEPs in need of direct support or additional resources
- English learners
- Students who may need counseling or mental health services that they have not received at home
- Students who are sick or caring for a family member or dealing with the trauma of loss resulting from the pandemic
- Disengaged students who could regain their agency, with a second chance and counseling, and attain a passing grade and credit
Pass with Distinction: In some cases, districts may wish to recognize students who worked at a very high academic level during this extraordinary time and celebrate their efforts with a designation of “Pass with Distinction.”
Q: Are there special considerations for student transcripts and college/postsecondary recommendations?
A: The SDE recommends that districts modify transcripts to provide adequate context about the disruption caused by COVID-19 and the resulting change in grading for the period after March 1, 2020.
Districts should also use recommendations to supplement pass/fail protocols and share information with colleges, vocational programs, and other postsecondary opportunities concerning students’ academic strengths and interests, personal qualities, roles in the school community, extracurricular accomplishments, and other qualitative assessments of their potential contribution to a school or program.
Q: Will a pass/fail protocol impact student athletes?
A: In communication with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the commitment was made that a pass/fail or pass/incomplete will not have a negative impact on student athletes.
Q: What are the impacts on students’ GPA, college admissions, and financial aid?
A: The Connecticut SDE has worked closely with its partners in higher education to reach consensus on students applying to or enrolling in Connecticut colleges and universities. Connecticut’s public and private institutions of higher education will accept the following principles. Note that these may not necessarily reflect the policies for public and private colleges outside of Connecticut.
- Pass/fail grades will be accepted for Connecticut high school students taught through distance learning for the semesters in which in-school classes are cancelled.
- For the 2019-2020 school year, the student grade point average (GPA) will be calculated based on performance while students were participating in in-school classes through the time when in-school classes were canceled during March 2020.
- For current seniors, a student’s GPA will include grades earned through December 2019. Underclassmen GPAs will be calculated based on grades earned through December 2019, and those earned beginning when classes resume for the 2020-2021 school year.
- For a year-long course, a student’s GPA will include the fall term grade for the course.
- Colleges and universities in Connecticut will accept electronically certified transcripts from districts for newly enrolled freshmen and will extend the deadline for receipt of officially certified transcripts.
- Understanding that families in Connecticut may have suffered a negative financial impact from COVID-19, colleges and universities in Connecticut will work with families whose ability to pay for higher education has changed in order to determine whether they are eligible for additional financial aid and what state, federal, and institutional resources may be available to help.
Q: What happens to graduation credits when a district is unable to provide a particular course through distance learning or must depart from the planned curriculum?
A: While the SDE recommends that local and regional boards of education continue their program of instruction, the agency understands that exceptional circumstances may pose a challenge. Pursuant to Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7C, the SDE will allow districts to grant students the necessary credits for graduation even where a course or prescribed course of study may not be consistent with the Connecticut General Statutes, Section 10-16b or Section 10-221a(b). In exercising local discretion, the SDE urges boards of education to consider the existing flexibilities in awarding non-seat time credit that are currently available in C.G.S. Section 10-221a (f) and (g), including the attainment of credits through a successful demonstration of mastery, cross-curricular graduation requirements, and virtual learning and online coursework.
Q: What is the status of graduation ceremonies?
A: Graduation ceremonies are a local decision; however, the SDE emphasizes the importance of recognizing student achievement upon graduation. All decisions about graduation ceremonies should be made by consulting Governor Lamont’s emergency declarations in collaboration with local health officials.