Laguna Beach Unified School District adopts ‘flexible, no harm’ interim grading policy for 2019-20

Laguna Beach Unified School District board member Dee Perry asks a question to district Supt. Jason Viloria about the grading system for the rest of the school year.
Laguna Beach Unified School District board member Dee Perry asks a question to district Supt. Jason Viloria about the grading system for the rest of the school year.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

The Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Trustees received an update Tuesday morning on the grading system — one that does “no harm” to its students in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to schools shuttering through June.

The district is made up of two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.

For secondary school students, which includes sixth through 12th grades, teachers will be adopting a combination of the traditional grading system in conjunction with credit or no-credit. Regarding the traditional grading, District Supt. Jason Viloria said students can receive A, B or C grades, and the intent being that students can potentially improve their grades but won’t disadvantage them.

On the other hand, the credit and no-credit system provides an opportunity for students who are struggling to keep up with the workload to receive credit for the class. Those that aren’t participating will not receive credit, but the hope is to provide additional opportunities during summer or credit recovery so they can receive full credit for the course, Viloria said.

For grades in transitional kindergarten through fifth, teachers will not be assigning marks or grades because of the degree of variation between students on accessibility, support and independence. Teachers will be providing narrative summaries that focus on facts as related to student engagement, level of participation in distance learning and performance on assignments.

Elementary students operate on a trimester system. The grades for the first two trimesters will appear on their report cards, but for the third trimester, which just began when the schools transitioned into distance learning, no grades or marks will appear for the third trimester on progress toward standards or effort.

“We’ll just be providing narrative summaries that will inform parents in terms of anything they may want to work on with students during the summer or the teachers for the following year,” Deputy Supt. Leisa Winston said.

Winston said teachers would be aware if a student couldn’t access distance learning and acknowledge that they will need to assess student progress “and they’re going to meet them where they are.”

"[District staff] think from a ‘do-no-harm’ model, this is the best approach we have,” Viloria said.

Board members were in consensus that the grading system adopted by the district was sufficient, though board member Dee Perry raised additional concerns on whether or not sophomores and juniors in high school would be at a disadvantage for admissions because of grade-point average calculations for UC schools.

Perry also asked if grades could affect scholarships for students.

For colleges, the credit or no-credit system indicates that the student passed the class, but does not factor into the calculation, Viloria said. He added that assigning of credit or no credit would be on a case-by-case basis and expects most students will receive A’s, B’s or C’s. Viloria said he expects to see more guidance from universities for fall admissions.

Board member James Kelly recommended that the district keep the policy as simple as possible, adding that he felt “colleges will be bending over backwards as far as to make [admissions] work.”

“Every scenario’s going to be unique depending on the student’s access issues or simply their ability to manage their course load at home,” Viloria said.

He added that the district needed to be realistic in knowing that not all homes were the same and that not all parents would be able to support their children because they may need to work.

“That’s part of the reason for ‘do no harm,’” Viloria said, "... and so, are you punishing a student simply because it’s harder for them to organize digitally? Which, it is hard for kids to create an organizational system.

“When we’re at school and the bell rings, they get up and go to the next class. They know that this is their system. When they’re left, you’re talking about teenagers and younger kids, that when they’re left to try and figure it out on their own, that is why this system needs to be flexible so we can respond to those situations and aren’t doing harm to those students.”

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