Seattle schools approve new 'A' or 'Incomplete' grading during COVID-19 closures

SEATTLE -- The Seattle School Board approved a plan to temporarily replace the grading policy during the COVID-19 pandemic in a 5-2 vote Monday.

For the Spring 2020 Semester only, high schools will use “A” or “Incomplete” as the grading options.

The temporary change is a result of schools closed for the rest of the school year due to the outbreak.

“Time is of the essence," said Denise Juneau, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent. "Seattle Public Schools has had its buildings closed for over a month. Remote learning has been happening for weeks. Staff, students, family continue to ask for clarity so they can refocus on engaging with students and other critical work."

Juneau and other district leaders said they understand not every student can afford the same access to resources at home like some of their peers. With the new grading policy, it will reduce educational inequalities for any student who does their work, she said.

“We anticipate that 'A' will be the main grading option," said Dr Diane DeBacker, the district’s chief academic officer. "We do not anticipate very many 'Incompletes' in this situation if our teachers stay engaged and our students stay engaged to their extent possible."

Juneau explained an “Incomplete” grade as the result of a student who does not participate nor complete their lessons and teachers have tried all other options.

“The 'Incompletes' will have to be accompanied with explanations of how an educator came to that conclusion,” said Juneau.

District leaders said students who receive an “Incomplete” grade will be able to finish their work through Summer and Fall Semesters of 2020 and their transcript will be updated.

During a teleconference with the School Board, DeBacker addressed why the district is not using a “Credit/No-Credit” grading policy. This topic was one of the district’s frequently asked questions before the vote.

“We know that many universities and other programs across the country have stated that students will not be penalized for posting credit or no credit,"she said. "But that is not a universal approach. So, making 'A' the only credit-based grade will ensure our students are not penalized."

District leaders said they worked closely with the Washington Office of Superintendent Public Instruction toward the most efficient option for high schoolers while they are away from class.