The Oregon Department of Education made a “D-” good enough for Oregon students. The department declared all public school students will receive pass/incomplete for coursework during the COVID-19 school closure.
You can understand why the decision was made, even if you don’t like it.
Closing public schools and trying to keep learning going would be complicated even if every student had enough electronic gadgetry. Some students were going to have a hard time finding a quiet place and time to learn at home. Not every home has internet access. Parents may be out of work or at least juggling more stress than usual. Being cooped up puts a toll on households. Student performance could be harder to track.
So the answer was pass/incomplete. For all.
The department should have allowed districts to make their own decisions. Districts have a closer connection to their students and a better understanding of what they need. One size does not fit all. One rule for the state is not necessary for fairness. It’s more unfair.
Before the state made its declaration, Bend-La Pine Schools was making its own plan. Nothing was finalized. The plan was, though, at the high school level, the district was going to default to the traditional ABCDF grading. Parents also would have been able to choose if they would rather have their student be graded pass/incomplete. The decision wouldn’t have to be made upfront, either.
At the middle school level, the thinking was to essentially flip that around. Parents could ask to have grades, instead of a default pass/no grade, Jim Boen, the executive director of middle schools at Bend-La Pine Schools, told us.
What happens now when Oregon students compete for college or scholarships? We’d expect that colleges won’t aim to deny Oregon students access to college because of the peculiarities of grading during COVID-19. They would need to be given a chance to explain. Will they be given that chance?
Scholarships can be super picky about GPA. Will Oregon students lose opportunities? Katie Legace, executive director of high schools at Bend-La Pine Schools, told us it is not unusual for scholarships to convert a “pass” to a “D.” Will every scholarship make a COVID-19 adjustment for Oregon students? Let’s hope so.
We don’t envy those who had to make a tough decision about grading during the pandemic. There’s no way to win when you must decide how much of education should be up to the state department of education, the school district, parents and students. But in this case, the state should have leaned toward the school districts, especially in high schools. Breathing oxygen into district choice or parental choice in education is distasteful to some. It was the way to go for grading. No matter what direction the pandemic drives the new school year, the state should drop this pass/incomplete rule.