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News >  Education

Pass/fail? Letter grade? Waiver? Spokane Public Schools keeps graduation, grading options open

UPDATED: Wed., April 1, 2020

The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Public Schools district office at Main Avenue and Bernard Street is seen Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Confronted with the weighty issue of grades, graduation and course credits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Spokane Public Schools is keeping its options open.

It also plans to give its students – especially the class of 2020 – a chance to do the same.

During a virtual meeting Wednesday night, the board allowed district staff to begin discussions with high school and middle school principals and counselors.

In turn, school officials will meet with students and their families and explain their options in what could be a rather compressed second semester.

How compressed? That is also an open question, because the semester could resume on April 27, in mid-May or not at all.

“This is what we know at the present time,” said Adam Swinyard, the district’s chief academic officer after he outlined some options during a Zoom meeting that included more than 50 people.

“That the landscape could change in the next month is very likely, but we are moving forward the best we can with the information we have at hand,” Swinyard said.

Theoretically, that landscape could be altered as soon as next week, when the state board of education is expected to offer more guidance on grades and graduation requirements.

Swinyard and staff said they felt comfortable in presenting three options for each course:

    Select to receive a pass/fail grade on their high school transcript, for those who don’t want to negatively affect their grade-point average;

    Opt to receive a letter grade in hopes of improving their GPA;

    Request a credit waiver from the school principal (for students with a failing grade and those who do not need certain credits to graduate or provide competency-based model to receive a pass grade).

In some cases, teachers will use their professional judgment in assessing competence in a given subject.

The board is expected to formalize the rules next week.

In the meantime, principals and counselors are expected to meet with students and their families to review their options.

There is plenty at stake, as colleges and universities weigh the academic resumes of prospective undergraduates.

Scott Kerwien, the district’s director of college and career readiness, said that in-state universities are being flexible in their assessment of individual performance in the second semester.

The district is attempting to do the same, said Swinyard, who added the district will communicate the plans to all families in the district.

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