What happened to GPAs after some schools changed grading scale or eliminated F’s?

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — Grade point averages in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) went up for the class of 2021 after administrators changed the grading scale to accommodate a “significant slide” in student grades during the pandemic.

“We strongly feel this decision is the right thing to do for our high school students to ensure that their future plans are not derailed due to the pandemic that is out of their control,” interim superintendent Corey Wise said in a December letter to parents.

The adjusted grading scale allowed for students who had an 88 percentage or higher during the fall semester to receive an A while students who had a 76% or higher could receive a B.

Under normal circumstances, an A grade is given when a student has a 90 or higher and a B is given when the student achieves an 80 or higher at the end of the semester. The letter grade, C, was given to kids who had a 64% or higher, and kids were able to pass with a 52%.

Douglas County School District

According to data provided by DCSD, GPAs for the class of 2021 rose with the grading adjustment from 3.21 in the fall of 2019 to 3.35 in the fall of 2020.

“The fact that they adjusted the grading scale meant they knew the kids grades were failing,” Deana Alldredge said, the mother of a high school senior named Sadie. “They weren’t doing well academically. They weren’t thriving. They weren’t doing well emotionally, and the answer is: adjust the grading scale? So you can literally pass the class at like, 52%? That was not the answer for us,” she said, explaining her daughter’s frustration with learning at home instead of on school campus.

“I had a B in one of my classes, so the lower scale would have made that an A, so it kind of made me less stressed,” Sadie Alldredge said, who plans to attend college in Utah next year. 

Alldredge, who told the Problem Solvers she is typically a straight-A student said it was extremely challenging to learn via Zoom. “It was just so hard to keep my grades, especially in math…It was just so hard to learn math online,” she said. 

Deana Alldredge said her daughter struggled through many tear-filled days. “She was – I can’t describe it in any other way – to me, it was broken,” she said. “She used to be described as the happiest girl in the room, and she wasn’t anymore.”

Boulder Valley School District

Other districts used different strategies to protect their students’ GPAs. In the Boulder Valley School District, administrators eliminated the letter grade F for students.

Grade point averages for the class of 2021 across the district moved from 3.49 in the fall of 2019 to 3.66 in the fall of 2020. 

“The teachers are just incredible,” Margaret Crespo said, the area superintendent of the southwest network of the Boulder Valley School District. Crespo said the district’s goal, by eliminating F’s, was to provide students with flexibility to work with their teachers to determine the best path forward.

“Our goal was to really have students feel, as much as possible in the middle of a pandemic, that level of stress just diminish enough so they could be successful – as successful as possible,” she said.

Crespo said she would tell concerned parents to “just breathe through it.” She said students should not feel like they’re always going to fail or that this pandemic experience embodies the rest of their life.

“This is really something that everyone has experienced at a level that has changed us,” she added. “We have all kinds of specialists – mental health support, graduation specialists, attendance people.”

Adams 12 granting opportunities for grade improvement moving forward

For Ethan Varga, a senior at Legacy High School in Adams 12 Five Star Schools district, finding motivation for classwork during the pandemic has been tough.

“I think it’s because most kids are at home. They’re alone in their room. But in school, you’re surrounded by other kids doing classwork there. The teachers are actually in the room with you making sure you do the work. You can’t just goof off on your phone. You can’t take a nap. You have to be attentive the whole class period,” he told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

Despite the challenges, grade point averages for the class of 2021 in Varga’s district jumped from 2.77 in the fall of 2019 to 3.02 in the fall of 2020.

Lee Peters, the executive director of schools for Adams 12 Five Star Schools, said typically students’ GPAs do improve between their junior and senior years.

“I think junior year is an emphasized year at the high school, and students, right or wrong, start taking school a little more seriously because of a natural maturation that happens and understanding the implications a little better for their post-secondary plans,” Peters said.

But this school year has been anything but typical.

Peters said in the spring, the district reassured students their grade that semester could not go down as long as they continued to participate in class. “We felt that was a fair and appropriate way to address grading,” he said of the quick transition to remote learning at the start of the pandemic.

However, Peters said the district still graded and scored all students’ assignments as they normally would.

The district did, however, offer students a chance to improve their grades after the fall 2020 semester was complete.

“If a student was unsatisfied with their final grade and felt they wanted to attempt to earn a higher grade in that semester class, then they had a chance to work with their teacher (in January) to reassess or resubmit missing work and assignments that were incomplete in order to raise that,” he said.

Peters said students will have another opportunity to raise their grade at the end of the school year.

If a student enrolled in a year-long class has an improved grade during the second semester of the class, they will have an opportunity, in May, to raise their first semester grade one level. For example, if a student achieves an A at the end of this school year but had a B in their class at the end of the first semester, the district will retroactively raise their B to an A.

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