California Schools Drop A-F Grades, Enroll in ‘Equitable’ Grading

California Schools Drop A-F Grades, Enroll in 'Equitable' Grading a smiling student holds up a paper with an a plus grade on it (Dreamstime)

By Nick Koutsobinas | Wednesday, 10 November 2021 06:14 PM

Los Angeles and San Diego are ditching the old ways of grading, via A-F, in favor of moving to an "equitable" system to raise student achievement levels.

In California, several school districts have been directed to apply grades based on "whether students have learned what was expected of them during a course — and not penalize them for behavior, work habits and missed deadlines," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Since the pandemic, students have been struggling with online schooling. So far, in the class of 2022, only 46% of students are on track to meet college admission requirements compared to the 59% who were on track to graduate in the class of 2019, according to the Washington Examiner.

On a closer look, the Examiner report indicates, due to the pandemic, the achievement chasm between white and Asian students and Black and Hispanic students has only increased, leading school administrators in Los Angeles and San Diego to push for "equitable" grading. Equitable grading would consist of allowing students to retake tests, turn in assignments late, and revise essays for better grades.

In a letter to principals, L.A. Unified School District Chief Academic Officer Alison Yoshimoto-Towery cites from writer Joe Feldman, the traditional grading has been used to "justify and provide unequal educational opportunities based on a student's race or class."

Feldman, the author of "Grading for Equity," who was heavily cited in Yoshimoto-Towery's letter, contended in 2019 that "equity must be part of grading reform" as well as that "continuing to use century-old grading practices, we inadvertently perpetuate achievement and opportunity gaps, rewarding our most privileged students and punishing those who are not."

"When teachers include in grades a participation or effort category that is populated entirely by subjective judgments of student behavior, they invite bias into their grading, particularly when teachers come from a dominant culture and their students don't," Feldman wrote. "Awarding points for behavior imposes on students a culturally specific definition of appropriate conduct that involves interpreting their actions through an unavoidably biased lens."

However, according to American Enterprise Institute's Frederick Hess, while allowing students to retake tests does seem "sensible," discounting their grades or eliminating deadlines does not.

"My concern is," Hess says, "that by calling certain practices equitable and suggesting they are the right ones, what we risk doing is creating systems in which we tell kids it's OK to turn in your work late. That deadlines don't matter … And I don't think this sets kids up for successful careers or citizenship."