Schools in Los Angeles and San Diego have decided to stop grading students’ homework and exams with A-F letter grades due to concerns that assigning actual grades contributes to racial achievement gaps. A more “equitable” grading system includes eliminating deadlines and allowing students to retake tests and revise essays for better grades, said LA Unified School District Chief Academic Officer Alison Yoshimoto-Towery.
Letter grading practices “justify and to provide unequal educational opportunities based on a student’s race or class,” she wrote in a letter to Los Angeles principals.
Yoshimoto-Towery quoted grading consultant Joe Feldman, who said in 2019 that teachers “invite bias into their grading, particularly when teachers come from a dominant culture and their students don’t.”
“By continuing to use century-old grading practices, we inadvertently perpetuate achievement and opportunity gaps, rewarding our most privileged students and punishing those who are not,” Feldman is quoted as saying in Yoshimoto-Towery’s letter.
The new guidance instructs teachers to base final academic grades on the “level of learning demonstrated in the quality of work, not the quantity of work completed.” And students who are failing classes should be assigned an “incomplete grade” so they can have extra time to improve their grade or retake the course.
The move comes after a year and a half of remote learning, during which students suffered massive academic losses. Only 46% of California’s projected class of 2022, for example, is on track to meet the state university system’s admission requirements.
“Our goal should not simply be to re-create the system in place before March 13, 2020,” the San Diego school board declared last summer. “Rather, we should seek to reopen as a better system, one focused on rooting out systemic racism in our society.”