Teachers Union Weighs in on Changes to San Diego Unified Grading System For Racial Equity

The school board unanimously approved the new policy, which would base academic grades on a student's mastery of the subject, not a yearly average

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There has been more pushback about a controversial grading policy approved by the San Diego Unified School District to combat racism, this time, though, it's not from parents but from the teachers union that said educators need clarification.

Under the new policy, academic grades will be based on how well students master the subject, not on a yearly average, so students will be allowed to retake tests. Also, students will not be penalized for turning in late assignments; instead, work habits will be given a citizenship grade. The board said it approved the policy to make grading more equitable, given that data has showed that most failing grades go to minority students.

“I support the district trying to be antidiscriminatory in their grading policy … but I think our educators in their environment are so overwhelmed trying to create an entire new way of delivering instruction, I don’t know that this is the time now to also have them completely change the way they grade students,” said Kisha Borden, the president of the San Diego Education Association.

NBC 7's Alexis Rivas spoke with two board members about this new policy and what it means to students.

Borden said the union is concerned about the potential for an increased workload for teachers in terms of late submissions of work and retests.

“I don't think teachers would have an issue if it shows the mastery of the standards," Borden said. "It’s just, Does the teacher have time to grade a large influx of papers right before the grading period ends?”   

Borden said some teachers were unaware of the policy until the board approved it. The rollout, she said, is as important as the policy. 

“We need more time," Borden said. "This needs to be given the space and time it deserves so [that] everyone -- parents, teachers, everyone -- clearly understands what this means and how it can affect them.”

Some don't think the new grading policy is in the best interest of the students. NBC 7's Rory Devine has the story.

Nicole DeWitt, an instructional support officer for the district, said it will be up to educators to work with principals and their departments to determine “the type and frequency of revisions and reassessments for their subject area.” 

As for the rollout, a district spokesperson said the district has been working on the policy for two years with input from teachers, counselors and parents.  “Communication went beyond the final board approval.”

The district also said that teachers underwent professional development training earlier this year on how to do grading based on the mastery of standards ad that upcoming webinars and more professional development will be provided

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