Rory Devine

Critics Question SDUSD's New Grading Policy For Racial Equity

The SDUSD board members unanimously approved the new policy Tuesday in an effort, they say, to make grading equitable

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There is growing controversy over the San Diego Unified School District's new grading system, which does not penalize students academically for late assignments, poor attendance or behavior. The school board said the change, approved last week, was made to make grading more equitable.

Data shows that under the old grading system, the vast majority of failing grades went to minority students. School Board Vice President Richard Barrera said to be an anti-racist school district, changes need to be made. Parents on both sides of the issue understand that, but critics question if changing the grading policy is the way to achieve that goal.

“The system they say is racist. What I’m saying is this new policy, I think it’s going to do the opposite,” said Kevin Krown, a professor at La Mesa College and parent of a high school student in the district.

Marlon Gardinera, a football coach and parent of two high school students in the district, disagreed. 

"I think this gives us more than one opportunity to bring a kid forward rather than leaving them behind and then never catching up," Gardinera said.

Under the new policy, academic grades will focus on mastery of the material, not a yearly average, which board members believe penalizes students who get a slow start or who struggle at some point in the year and leaves them feeling hopeless with no chance of catching up.

Another change is that teachers can no longer consider non-material factors when grading. Turning in homework on time and classroom behavior will count toward citizenship grades, not academic grades.

“Lots of things get in the way of them learning everything, and if deadline becomes the most important thing, they miss out, they don't do well, they don't have the information to go on to the next unit. So, it sort of perpetuates poor performance. If you don't get part “A” you won’t get part “B,” Gardinera said.

Krown fears the change will disincentivize students who were already working hard to complete assignments on time, with good scores.

“It removes students from the responsibility of being proactive. It’s basically saying, 'Students, you can't do this on your own, so we have to make these special guidelines for you.' I think it’s creating more of a problem," he said.

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