Shelton schools offer two grading options for fourth quarter

The Board of Education during its remote meeting Thursday, April 30.

The Board of Education during its remote meeting Thursday, April 30.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Students in grades 5 through 12 have two choices when it comes to final quarter grading.

The Board of Education, at its special remote meeting April 30, voted unanimously to pass the administration’s hybrid grading plan for the fourth quarter, bucking state educators’ recommendation of instituting a pass/fail final quarter grading system.

“We did not go with a one-size fits all plan for the district,” said interim Superintendent Beth Smith. “We felt if we went with that approach, it could have lifelong effects for some of our students.”

Smith said administrators felt student engagement would significantly decline with the pass/fail grading plan. She added that the hybrid plan was also created to accommodate those students who must share devices, have spotty or no internet, work only on their iPhones, or must aid in taking care of siblings as parents continue to work full time.

“There is not a level playing field,” said Smith.

Fifth through 12th graders will earn traditional grades A through D for the fourth quarter, and distance learning incompletes for those in the failing range.

The second option allows parents to place their child into the Shelton Public Schools Distance Learning Alternate Grading Plan for the COVID-19 Health Crisis, which will simply list participants’ final grade as distance learning pass or distance learning incomplete. A comment on report cards in grades 5 to 12 will state “Quarter 4 reflects performance under the Shelton Public Schools Distance Learning Plan.”

For the third trimester, elementary schools will grade as normal, using progress codes on report cards. A comment on all elementary school report cards will state “Trimester 3 reflects performance under the Shelton Public Schools Distance Learning Plan.”

“The grading plan is really thoughtful,” said board member Amanda Kilmartin. “I know there is no way to make everybody happy, but I think what you have come up with is the best of both worlds. These options allow those working hard to get these grades without penalizing those who are really struggling.”

Board Chair Kathy Yolish said with the hybrid plan, “all students’ needs were taken into consideration.”

“Many students are working hard and deserve to earn the grade they have achieved,” said Smith. “Not all students attend college in-state. Those attending out-of-state should not be penalized with pass/fail grades during the post-secondary acceptance process.”

Student athletes should not have to worry about whether pass/fail would affect them in college athletic opportunities and continuing to offer numeric and letter grades will assist with student engagement, the proposal states.

“This plan would allow final grades to be calculated under both options and allow anyone with Distance Learning Incomplete with the opportunity to complete their work to raise their final grade,” added Smith

Parents of students who would choose the alternate grading option must complete the alternative grading plan sign-off sheet.

Students opting into the alternative grading plan will receive distance learning pass — a numeric quarter four average of 65 with a GPA value of 1 — or distance learning incomplete.

Students who earn the incomplete designation will receive the numeric quarter four average of 50 with a GPA value .5 and would have until the last day of the first quarter in the 2020-21 school year to make up the work to receive a passing designation.

Smith said feedback on end-of-year grading was received from Assistant Superintendent Ken Saranich, the district’s Office of Teaching and Learning, the director of technology, all principals, curriculum leaders and parents through a survey.

In making the decision, Smith said, information was also gathered from CES, the Southern Fairfield County Superintendents Association and Southern Connecticut Conference of school administrators. There was also guidance provided by the state Department of Education, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.