Why some California schools are changing student grades


LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Bad report cards could soon be a thing of the past in California, because some of the state’s largest school districts are dropping “D” and “F” grades.

The move is called competency-based learning. Supporters say it will help kids re-engage after nearly two years of virtual learning during the pandemic, but critics are blasting the plan, saying all it does is lie about students’ progress.

Los Angeles, Santa Ana and other California districts have limited the use of “Ds” and phased out “Fs” in grading. High schoolers who fail a test or homework assignment can get a do-over or more time.

Advocates argue that assessment should be based on mastery of learning — what students have learned instead of how they test.

“What mastery learning does is really allow students every opportunity to show that they know the material and if they don’t know the material, to get the support they need to be able to demonstrate it,” said Steven Kellner with California Education Partners.

Some call the grading system idiosyncratic.

“One teacher takes homework assignments late, the other has extra credit, one curves scores on tests, so there is a clear and objective unfairness to students if they get one teacher versus another,” said Alix Gallagher, with Policy Analysis for California Education.

Critics argue that bad grades serve a purpose, letting students know that they haven’t learned adequately. There’s also concern over more grade inflation.

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