A new policy in the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) in Orange County, California, allows children with failing grades to pass, provided their teachers approve of their efforts.
The policy, which went into effect last month, set a floor grade of 55 percent to accommodate students who are having problems with distance learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The change was made as a "lifeline" to students living under extreme conditions that may affect their education, including connectivity issues or stressful households.
Fermin Leal, SAUSD’s chief communications officer, told The Epoch Times that the floor grade of 55 percent is now “the lowest possible grade a student can receive.”
“There's no zero grade. Let's assume that a student just doesn't do any work at all. The lowest possible grade the student can get is that floor grade,” Leal said.
According to Leal, all other grading remains unchanged; the change only affords a teacher the opportunity to bump up a failing grade by 5 percent to a D at their discretion.
“The teacher can kind of work with them to give them the grade that the teacher thinks that they've earned,” Leal said. “If you're trying—the teacher sees that you're trying to do the minimum work, but you're still kind of putting in the effort—then that's where you would get ... the 5 percentage bump to a D, rather than an F.”
If a student doesn't do the work, make any effort, or listen to the teacher, however, they can still fail.
SAUSD officials have noted concerns from teachers that district students might have grade-point averages that inaccurately reflect their level of learning because of the change.
Dr. Jeff Barke, who just opened the Orange County Classical Academy, a free, public charter school in the City of Orange, called the grade adjustment "shameful."
“Our kids in California are already failing to learn math and ELA (English language arts) at grade level. This was before the pandemic. Now this?” Barke told The Epoch Times.
But Leal said there is no “free pass.”
“That’s why there’s still an F. If you're just not trying at all, or just not involved, or you're just not putting in the effort, we don't want to reward those students with a D,” he said.
“There's going to be a percentage of students who are just going to fail, regardless of the resources and efforts you put into it.”
SAUSD is the second largest school district in Orange County, with over 50 schools and around 47,000 students.