For some school districts, there may be no turning back.
“I think it’ll be difficult to go back to something that’s more restrictive and less individualized,” said Kate Wilcox-Harris, chief academic officer for St. Paul Public Schools, which has a work group exploring permanent grading changes.
After Gov. Tim Walz ordered schools closed in March 2020, the St. Paul district converted all third- and fourth-quarter D’s and F’s into passing grades so that high schoolers would stay on track for graduation.
For the 2020-21 school year, the Minnesota Department of Education urged schools to maintain a “do-no-harm” philosophy. Students, the department said, should get to choose the option of receiving a letter grade if it’s going to help their grade-point average, or a pass/fail grade if it won’t.
“During this time of COVID-19 and beyond, families, students and educators must be given choices in assessment and grading,” the department said in a guidance document last summer.
St. Paul followed that advice, offering students the option of converting D’s, C’s and even B’s into grade-point-neutral P’s, for