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Baltimore City Schools won’t hold back students with failing grades


Baltimore City Public Schools announced a new grading policy Tuesday that will allow the district to move tens of thousands of students who have failed at least one class up to the next grade level. The students will be assessed in the fall to complete their missed course work during the next school year.

The district said the policy was adopted in recognition of the struggles students have faced during the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Academic Officer Joan Dabrowski said it’s meant to “avoid the punitive approach of failing students,” according to comments during Tuesday’s board meeting.

“This is not about a failure, but it is about unfinished learning and giving multiple opportunities, multiple onramps for young people to complete that … learning,” Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said.

For high school students, a failing grade will be replaced with “No Credit,” and for students in second through eighth grades, an “Unsatisfactory” or “Fail” will be replaced with “Not Completed.”

Students who receive these “incomplete” grades will still be able to continue on to the next grade level.

“In all of these instances, we want to emphasize the word ‘yet’. Not completed yet, no credit yet,” said Dabrowski.

Sixty-three percent of middle and high school students are failing at least one class according to Baltimore City Public Schools — that’s nearly 25,000 students out of the nearly 40,000 sixth through twelfth graders in the district.

Even more worrying, 51% of students in grades 2-5 and 37% of Kindergarten and first-graders failed at least one course during this school year.

At the start of the school year, Baltimore City Public Schools struggled with virtual class attendance, Santelises said in an interview with WYPR Baltimore Public Radio.

“We know that our first week daily average of logins — in terms of, you know, students logging in daily, meaning no interruption or anything like that — is at 65%,” Santelises told host WYPR Sheliah Kast.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly included information about reopening plans for Baltimore County Public Schools, which is a separate system from Baltimore City schools.

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