Recent proposals to change the grading system in the Santa Barbara Unified School District merit close attention from the community. One important concern is process. I have never known of as significant a policy initiative to be proposed for action in as short a period of time during 45 years of involvement with the Santa Barbara Board of Education.
It is unclear what is being proposed at this time. The original proposal, at the secondary level (grades 7-12), was to replace Ds and Fs with Incompletes and No Credits. However, a “new proposal (with stakeholder input)” has also been referenced in school district materials this week indicating that D grades might be retained.
It is essential for the Board of Education to keep D grades in secondary schools at this time. Eliminating D grades could cause a large spike in the number of Hispanic students, in particular, who would not graduate from high school this spring.
There are very few students who receive D grades who, immediately out of high school, attend colleges that require a grade point average to enroll. However, there are many students, who — if they do not receive the units which a D grade allows them to receive toward high school graduation — would not be able to graduate from high school this spring with an Incomplete rather than a D.
It would also be very undesirable to implement a policy of eliminating D grades in secondary schools when it is so widely opposed by secondary teachers. Also included with material for this week’s board meeting are data concerning secondary teachers’ lack of support for eliminating Ds. These data are that 86 percent of the 437 secondary certificated personnel participated in the survey, and only 20 percent favor implementation of a no Ds policy starting in January 2021 and only 26 percent favor implementing a policy of no Ds in future terms. As myself a member of the American Federation of Teachers (through lecturing at UCSB), it is inconceivable that the Board of Education could institute a policy change of this magnitude on less than two weeks’ notice in the face of overwhelming opposition from teachers.
Increased summer school programs are the most feasible way to address the substantial loss in education that many, especially lower socioeconomic, students have experienced as a result of the change in program to accommodate COVID-19. To this end, it is positive that, in the recent staff report on Response to Learning and Credit Loss, the option of a “Summer extended learning plan” is under consideration. Summer school proposals merit much more development in the coming weeks.