CPS Updates Grading, Graduation Policies for Remote Learning During COVID-19 Pandemic

With remote learning in place through the rest of the school year in Illinois, Chicago Public Schools is updating its grading policy, telling students they won’t be negatively impacted by “circumstances beyond their control” as in-person instruction has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Specifically, CPS students cannot receive a lower grade than they received in the third quarter, before the district’s remote learning plan took effect.

The district is also proposing to ease high school graduation requirements and advance all K-8 students to the next grade level in the fall.

“While nothing can replace the time spent in the classroom with dedicated educators, I am truly inspired by the motivation, creativity and persistence we’ve seen at schools across the district as they continue to educate Chicago’s children,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement.

Students will continue to receive grades in the fourth quarter of the school year, but CPS said those grades can only maintain or improve upon what the student received in the previous quarter.

If a student completes their required coursework in the fourth quarter and earns a lower passing grade than they did in the third quarter, they will receive a “pass” on their transcript. That means they will earn the credit for that course, but the “pass” will not affect their GPA, CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said in a district-produced video Thursday.

If a student has access to digital instruction but does not complete their coursework, they will receive an “incomplete” grade. This also will not affect the students’ GPA, but they won't earn credit for the course and will be “prioritized for summer school,” McDade said, in the event summer school can be held this year.

“We’ve taken care to develop a grading system that rewards students for their hard work, but provides significant flexibility given the challenges we face,” she said.

These grading policies are in line with recommendations the Illinois State Board of Education released last month.

The Chicago Teachers Union and others have been pushing for CPS to revise its grading methods in light of the ongoing pandemic. But the CTU on Thursday criticized the CPS strategy, claiming it creates a “two-tier system” for those who do have internet access and those who don’t.

“This still allows for great inequity,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said, “and represents separate and unequal conditions in our district that have led to record school closings, inadequate resources for the neediest school communities, and a digital divide that leaves tens of thousands of students behind.”

CPS is also asking the Chicago Board of Education to approve a modified promotion policy allowing all elementary school students to advance to the next grade level, while waiving some graduation requirements for high school seniors including: service learning, SAT, Constitution test, financial literacy and computer science.

Students who already met these requirements will still receive credit, but seniors who have not yet taken these courses or exams will still be able to graduate if they meet the other requirements.

“While this is not the fourth quarter we envisioned for you, the school year is not over,” McDade said. “Teachers will continue to teach. Students will continue to learn. The important work of education will not stop.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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