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The North Carolina State Board of Education has altered student grading for the remainder of this year. With schools closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the state approved Thursday a series of measures to address student grading, incomplete teacher evaluations and a request for $380 million in additional emergency funding from the state.

The new, temporary grading policy states that elementary and middle school students will not receive traditional grades for the year, and high school students in ninth through 11th grade have the option of choosing between a grade of pass/no credit or a numeric grade for their spring semester courses this year.

Those students and non-graduating seniors can choose which option is in their best interest. Public school students have been participating in remote learning since March 13 due to restrictions enacted by Gov. Roy Cooper. On Thursday, Cooper extended the statewide stay-at-home order until May 8.

These actions apply to students in both the Iredell-Statesville Schools and Mooresville Graded School District.

“The goal of the policy seeks to positively impact students, honor the work they have continued to complete, and address inequity as it relates to access and technology,” Iredell-Statesville Schools stated in a release. “Additionally, the grading policy seeks to hold students harmless from March 13 through the end of the school year, with a hope that any work done remotely only enhances a final grade.”

I-SS will stop collecting grades May 8, the release states.

“The following week will serve as an opportunity for students to turn in any missing assignments,” the release states. “The final day to submit late work will be May 15.”

Credit recovery will also begin on that date.

Students in grades 9-11 may be contacted about final grades directly from their high school, the release states. “Teachers and administration will guide and advise students as to the best choice for final grades. Again, the goal will be to give students the best outcome for a final grade from the 2019-2020 school year,” it states.

Mooresville Graded School District is also encouraging students to stay the course with the schoolwork.

“Despite this grading change, we do feel it is important for our students to continue to participate in the remote learning opportunities being provided by our schools,” Mooresville Graded School District Chief Communication Officer Tanae Sump-McLean stated in an email. “This will assist in their readiness for school next August. As a district, we have a responsibility to continue to educate and prepare our students for their future, and our teachers and staff will continue their hard work to provide lessons toward that goal.”

Students will have the option of receiving a grade of pass for the semester, based on their course grade as of March 13, a release from the state board of education stated. Students who were not passing as of that date will be able to raise their grade to a pass or a passing numeric grade. Otherwise, the course will not appear on their high school record.

Board Chairman Eric Davis said the grading policy is intended to support all the state’s students facing many differing circumstances since mid-March, when schools were closed and students began remote learning.

“No grading policy will completely address equity issues that exist across our state during these challenging times,” Davis said in a news release, “especially when our educators cannot be physically present with their students each day and while many students struggle to access remote learning opportunities.

“We are making every effort to mitigate any potential negative impacts of COVID-19 on student grading while also trying to validate the efforts of students, families, teachers, and support staff during this period of remote learning.”

Elementary and middle school students will not receive traditional grades for this year, the board states. Instead of final grades in elementary schools, teachers will provide year-end feedback for students regarding learning from the full academic school year, using a format determined locally.

In middle schools, students will receive a grade of pass or “withdraw” for the final course grades for all courses. A student’s grade will be held harmless for learning after March 13, and a grade of pass will be assigned to any student who was meeting expectations and passing the course as of March 13 or who worked to improve to the point of passing after March 13 through remote learning, a release states.

Under the policy, a “withdraw” does not equate to a failing grade, nor does it indicate that a student should be retained or that the course must be repeated. The grade WC19 simply indicates a lack of evidence of mastery of standards addressed in the particular content area.

Here are the details of the policy outlined in a release from the state board of education:

For elementary and middle school students, teachers will document individual student strengths and needs from both an academic and social/emotional perspective to ensure an effective transition from this spring’s remote learning to the 2020-21 academic year. Middle school students taking high school level courses such as Math I or Math II will have the same grading options as high school students.

For high school students, the grading policy means they will be held harmless for their remote learning since March 13 and that they can only improve their numeric grade if they choose that option. Students will be able to choose how each final course grade will appear on their transcript at the end of the semester after consulting with their teacher and school and also in consultation with their parent or guardian. For students who choose a grade of “pass” or no credit, there will be no impact on their GPA, either for spring semester or yearlong courses.

Under a separate policy that the board adopted March 27, graduating seniors will receive for their spring semester courses a designation of pass or withdraw, if they were failing, as of their performance on March 13. For students who had a failing grade, districts and schools have been directed to provide remote learning opportunities to help them to pass.

The board also acted to suspend annual evaluations for those teachers for whom the required number of classroom observations had not been completed this year. As part of teacher evaluations, administrators complete a set number of observations for each teacher during the year. Some teachers may have had those observations completed before March 13, but others may not have.

Tom Tomberlin, director of Educator Recruitment and Support, told the board that evaluations based on remote teaching would not be considered valid, and that many teachers are still mastering the skills of remote instruction.

“We can’t guarantee the validity of the results,” Tomberlin said. “Many teachers are in the midst of the learning process themselves. It would be inappropriate to evaluate them.”

On other issues related to COVID-19 school closures, the board approved a joint request from the board and the Department of Public Instruction for a $380 million request to the General Assembly for emergency funding for a list of needs, including school nutrition, remote learning, support for exceptional children’s programs and funding for a Summer Bridge/Jump Start program for rising first through rising fourth graders needing extra support.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson told the board that the joint funding request represents an important milestone in the state’s efforts to get students and schools back on track for the next school year.

“We are moving from a reactive phase to a proactive phase to ensure we return strong to school in the fall,” Johnson said.

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