Ricky Cortez 0

SOMSD Pass / Fail Final Semester

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This is a very challenging time for our society as a whole. Teachers are working double time trying to convert to distance learning while tending to their own families in the midst of COVD-19 pandemic. Parents are trying to balance work, if they still have jobs, while helping to home school and adjust to distance learning. Some of our families are dealing with sickness while others are simply trying to balance the mental and physical well-being through this extraordinary time. Most parents are not licensed instructors and some students don't have the resources and access to online learning tools.

We would like the SOMDS to move to a Pass / Fail system like many other schools and learning institutions across the world are doing in order to relieve some of the strain put on families and teachers. As we move through this some of our families will be dealing with a family member, friend or relative that has tested positive for COVID-19. We should not add to the stress whether our children will be held back. We would like you to consider this to alleviate the pressure from staff, students and parents.

Given that COVID-19 has forced all classes to be conducted online, we believe that the appropriate course of action that the school district should dually conduct is to enforce fitting changes in grading policy: one vital change that we request is to make all classes have the option of being pass/fail, and yet still count for respective graduating requirements, with the addition of relevant notation on every student’s transcript that alludes to the global pandemic’s influence on grades in the spring semester of 2020.

Even colleges and higher learning institutions are adopting unique policies. On March 13, 2020, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that they would be transitioning to their alternate grading policy, which is a Pass/No Record policy. On March 15th, Northwestern University published its update for academics during finals season to make all final examinations optional, opting instead to give students their final grades based on their contributions in the year thus far, and that they can pursue to shift their grades from a “quality assessment” (a letter grade) to Pass/Fail in the spring quarter, with the consultation of their academic advisors. Northwestern also ensured that language on every student transcript points to the fact that “a global pandemic in winter and spring quarters 2020 required significant changes to coursework and led to unusual enrollment patterns and grades.” As of March 17, 2020, other institutions who have adopted similar policies include, but are not limited to: Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and Smith College. Several schools are currently considering this policy due to student activism.

Transitioning to pass/fail grading would help to drastically reduce student stress to counteract the additional anxieties caused by COVID-19. There exists many difficulties and barriers to online coursework during this abrupt, taxing period. The unexpected, unavoidable home responsibilities and expectations will and already disturb students’ abilities to complete their classwork and studies to their best capabilities and helping with other household duties consist of a few roadblocks’ students must face.

In this vein, we would also like to propose the option to maintain letter grading OR pass/fail with pass/failing still counting towards all graduating requirements. We recognize that some students need letter grades to be eligible for matriculating and they would not like to hinder their abilities to seek higher education. Therefore, as a solution, we ask that all published Spring 2020 final grades, be they pass/fail or letter, are denoted an Asterisk to indicate that the learning environment was disrupted due to COVID-19.

We hope that the SOMSD enacts this change to the benefit of the entire student, teacher, staff, parent and learning community at large and allows students to pass/fail courses for credit without any penalty. We believe this is of benefit to students and staff as we adapt in this uncertain time of global pandemic.

As a former school administrator and Director of Technology at O.W.N.C.S in Astoria, former PTA Corresponding Secretary, Direct of IT at Witness, an international human rights organization, parent and active community member I hope you will join me and sign our petition!


Efrain "Ricky" Cortez

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