New York Mayor Says Schools Dropping Traditional Grades for Some Students

April 28, 2020 Updated: April 28, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced the Department of Education’s new grading policy amid the challenges of pandemic-driven school closures that he said would strike a balance between standards and flexibility.

“Today we’re announcing a new grading policy for the current semester that fits the moment we’re in NOW,” de Blasio said in a tweet, characterizing the new policy as “one that keeps our standards in place but adds flexibility because of what students and families are going through.”

The Department of Education separately announced the new grading policy, noting that it would be in effect for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year only, and that “no student will receive a failing grade.”

The mayor said upholding academic standards has been a challenge as New York City’s 1.1 million public school children were forced to make an abrupt transition to distance learning as they face “a moment of crisis and trauma for families.”

“We have to help students that are struggling to catch up,” de Blasio said, adding that students would get assistance based on their needs.

“A lot of kids are going to need help catching up after this crisis ends. Some will just need a little help, some will need a lot. We’ll be matching each student with support programs this summer and into the fall to get back on track,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
A student works on a home schooling project in New Rochelle, New York, on March 18, 2020. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A key change for kindergarten through fifth grade, he said, would be a shift from the regular grading regime to just two standards: “meeting standards” or “needs improvement.”

“Students will be evaluated based on school projects, assignments, and writing,” de Blasio said, adding, “Any student struggling will get the help they need to catch up.”

Calling middle school “already a tough time” even without the added challenge of the pandemic, de Blasio said this group of students would see a shift to three grades: “meets standards,” “needs improvement,” and “course in progress.” This third category is meant for students who need more time to finish their coursework over the summer, for which the mayor said arrangements would be made.

“High school grading will continue, but with more flexibility. If students pass a class and earn credit, they can decide whether to take a letter grade or a simple ‘pass’ that won’t affect their GPA,” he said.

While school closures and social-distancing measures preclude traditional graduation ceremonies, each school will mark what de Blasio called “one of life’s defining moments” in its own way.

“No matter what, we’ll also host one big citywide virtual graduation for the class of 2020,” he said, separately telling reporters that “maybe down the line, maybe we’ll get lucky enough that some gatherings can start to occur.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a briefing Tuesday in Syracuse, reported 335 new COVID-19 deaths statewide and said a decision would be taken by the end of the week on when schools would open.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives a press briefing about the coronavirus crisis in Albany, New York, on April 17, 2020. (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

“Three hundred and thirty-five people passed away yesterday from this virus in this state—that’s 335 families,” he said. “You see this number is basically reducing. But not at a tremendous rate. And the only thing tremendous is the number of New Yorkers who still pass away.”

Cuomo said that while reopening is the aim, the state must do so “without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system.”

“Everyone is talking about reopening—I get it. You can’t sustain being closed, the economy can’t sustain it, individual families can’t sustain it. We can’t sustain it on a personal level,” he said. “[But] it shouldn’t be a philosophical discussion, shouldn’t be because people are protesting. It is a factual discussion on reopening.”

dog on street
A woman wearing a protective mask carries a pug dog in New York City on April 2, 2020. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

The governor said earlier that upstate regions might be able to resume normal life around the middle of May, but didn’t suggest lifting restrictions in New York City, for the time being, adding that a broader reopening of the southern part of the state would be “problematic.”

Echoing earlier statements that reopening would be done based on a regional analysis of conditions, Cuomo followed up in a tweet: “We have studied reopening plans around the world and spoken to global health experts. We’ve come up with factual, data-driven principles to guide us on reopening. We will approach this on a regional basis. It’s the only smart thing to do.”

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM