Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction. (AP File/Ted S. Warren)

Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction. (AP File/Ted S. Warren)

Failure is not an option: Schools won’t give out Fs this year

State Superintendant Chris Reykdal said Wednesday the lowest grade a student can earn is an incomplete.

OLYMPIA — None of the state’s 1.2 million K-12 students will earn a failing grade for the rest of the school year, state Superintendent Chris Reykdal said during a call with reporters Wednesday.

Districts must assign either an incomplete grade or a letter grade better than F to high school students, according to a new policy from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In elementary and middle schools, districts can continue with whatever grading system they use. But a student cannot fail a course.

The policy gives “broad discretion” to each of the state’s 294 school districts but ensures students won’t be penalized as school administrators and families navigate distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic, Reykdal said.

“We didn’t want anything that created a permanent record for students when, to no fault of their own, they just didn’t have connectivity or the support to do the work,” he said. “Nothing about this is perfect. Any system we choose has inequities, but we tried to draw the best interest from as many perspectives as we could.”

Under the policy, incomplete grades will not negatively impact a student’s grade point average. Instead, districts are required to provide options like summer school, independent study or a course repeat for students who don’t pass a class.

Each district decides how they’ll do that, Reykdal said.

Administrators across the state were notified about the policy Tuesday night. Many are still figuring out how they’ll comply.

Districts can give out any range of As, Bs, Cs, Ds and incompletes for high schoolers.

For example, Seattle Public Schools voted Monday to go with As and incompletes as the only grade options.

In Everett and Mukilteo, district leaders haven’t decided how they will proceed. Announcements are expected Monday by Everett Public Schools and Wednesday by the Mukilteo School District.

The Marysville School District also hopes to announce its plan next week, spokeswoman Jodi Runyon said in an email. The district is sending a message to families Thursday about that process.

“The bottom line is that we do not want to make any final decisions until we fully review the guidelines/framework from OSPI and have a very solid understanding of how our final plan will impact our students,” she said.

It has been over a month since Gov. Jay Inslee announced all schools would move to distance learning. On April 6, the governor extended school closures until the end of the academic year.

Now it’s unclear whether schools will even open in the fall.

That’s a decision for the governor, Reykdal said.

If students head back to class for the new year, social distancing measures could be in place, he said. That could include staggered schedules or keeping high school students online while elementary and middle schools re-open.

“It’s too early to make any of those determinations, but we’re already starting to think about that,” he said.

Since schools moved to online learning, administrators have placed extra emphasis on graduating seniors, Reykdal said. If a senior earns an incomplete grade, they won’t have time to make up the lost credit prior to graduation.

Reykdal said he doesn’t think many seniors will earn incompletes, and those who do will have options to recover credits over the summer. Additionally, the state board of education is allowing districts to apply for certain credit waivers for graduating students.

“This is not new,” he said. “We’ve had seniors for a long time who got right up to that graduation ceremony and didn’t quite get the credit or grade they needed, so there are typically programs in the summer for credit recovery.”

Additionally, Reykdal’s office will track student grades and demographics to try and spot possible inequities in distance learning, he said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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