In a video shared on YouTube, Sunrise Park Middle School Principal Christina Pierre explained that the new grading system will replace the “F” with an “I,” which stands for “incomplete,” and teachers will no longer assign a letter grade to students who receive below 50 percent for their work.
Instead, students will get a percentage grade and be given an opportunity to improve if they receive 49 percent or below. Students are encouraged to retake tests, quizzes, papers, and projects, and have 10 days to do so after the date the grade is posted.
The new grading system will also end taking into consideration factors like a student’s behavior, attitude, tardiness to class, and whether the assignment is turned in on time. “There’s other ways that we can communicate those things to parents,” Sunrise Park’s Associate Principal Norman Bell said in the video, adding that this is meant to make sure that grades “focus on the process of learning.”
The changes at Sunrise Park are championed by White Bear Lake Area Schools Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak, a long-time educator who seeks to address “grading disparities among students of color.” The school district said it “dramatically changed grading practices” last year as part of its “strategic plan and commitment to eliminating systemic racism.”
“Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated,” the school district’s website reads. “Grading should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home.”
A middle school serving the northeastern suburb of Minneapolis, Sunrise Park made national headlines earlier this year after a teacher asked 6th grade students to assess how much privilege they supposedly possess.
According to documents posted to social media, the teacher asked her class to consider whether they belonged to the “privileged group”—a collective term for those who are white, male, Christian, heterosexual, and born in the United States, or “the targeted group,” referring to those who are non-white, female, non-Christian, LGBT, and immigrants.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that each of our students’ needs are being met,” Kazmierczak said in a statement after the class activity caused controversy online. “We know from listening to our students that our continued and sustained commitment to educational equity is a critical part of how we achieve our stated district mission and close gaps that currently exist in our student outcome measures.”