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Local organization hoping for changes in grading policy for students in SMJUHSD

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Posted at 10:47 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 01:47:31-05

"Educators have adapted how they're teaching students during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the grading scale should adapt too."

That's the argument behind a new push to rethink how students are graded in the Santa Maria Joint Unified High School District.

Students struggling with distance learning is not something that is unique to the Santa Maria Joint Unified High School District, but some of the challenges students are facing offline might be.

"A lot of these students have had to make up the financial losses that their families have faced due to COVID-19 by picking up jobs and that has affected their academics," Angel Lopez, Santa Maria Youth Organizer for Future Leaders of America, said.

In a November board meeting, the school district revealed students are failing at around double the percentage of the same time in 2019.

"I don't think that's a surprise to anybody - districts all over the state and country are grappling with this, but it does show we have more work that needs to be done," John Davis, Assistant Superintendent of the Santa Maria Joint Unified High School District, said.

The school district says they have made strides in trying to bridge the gap using initiatives like: the acceptance of late work with no or minimal grade penalty, allowing students to retake quizzes or tests and when appropriate, using ‘Incomplete' or ‘No Mark,’ instead of an ‘F’.

Future Leaders of America would like to see grading changed even more.

"We would like to focus on a new grading policy that is more holistic and focuses on mastery over punitive. A lot of these students are being docked for attendance points as part of their grade, and not because they're not trying to go to class, but they've had issues with their WiFi and makes it them late," Lopez said.

The organization says, however, this doesn't mean they are looking for students to get an easy way out.

"It's more of meeting students where they're at and providing the support that they need," Lopez said.

The school district says it is exploring policy options for the spring quarter.

Future Leaders of America is asking people interested in helping their cause write in to the school board, ahead of the board meeting next week.

We reached out to the high school district's faculty association for their take on this issue and how changing the grading scale might impact student's chances of success in college. We are still waiting to hear back.

Santa Barbara Unified and Oxnard Unified School Districts have already made changes in grading scales similar to what is being proposed in Santa Maria.