Rochester Public Schools (RPS) recently announced that failure to complete minimum course work and performance standards in class will result in an F, reports the Post Bulletin.

The district swapped out the traditional letter grade during COVID, opting instead to give students a “no credit” in “any courses in which they failed to complete or hadn’t mastered most of the knowledge and skills required to pass,” continued the Post Bulletin.

Now, based on feedback from teachers and leaders, the district’s grading committee has recommended once again giving an “F” to students “who do not pass a high school or middle school course,” according to the Post Bulletin.

In the surveys, 65% of secondary teachers who responded said RPS should return to awarding Fs for courses that students fail. Of middle and high school administrators, 69.6% said they supported this change.

“Essentially grades are signals,” Superintendent Kent Pekel told the Post Bulletin. “We want the signals to mean something.”

In district communication, Pekel noted that “the drawbacks of allowing students to earn an NC [no credit] rather than an F have increased.”

The NC doesn’t clearly inform students or parents/caregivers about how well the student understands the material and performed in the class.

The NC does not count toward the student’s overall grade point average at the high school level, so it can send the wrong message about the student’s overall performance in school. GPAs are not calculated for middle school students, so this concern does not apply at that level.

Because NCs do not negatively impact a high school student’s grade point average, it may enable students to qualify to take a college-level course through the Postsecondary Enrollment Educational Options (PSEO) program or other college-level classes that they aren’t truly ready for.

    The return to awarding an “F” is set for the 2024-25 school year. “As the school year gets underway, we will take steps to ensure that all students understand this change and the implications that it has for their coursework next year,” continued Pekel.

    We will also work hard to be sure that students understand how the grades they earn in middle school and high school influence the types of postsecondary institutions they can attend after high school and the types of jobs they can secure. In addition, we will continue our work to provide all students with access to multiple tiers of academic support so that they can succeed in all classes and subject areas.

    As of spring 2022 data on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), 39.5 percent of students in the district were proficient in math and 49.4 percent in reading. The U.S. Department of Education granted the district a waiver for the 2023 assessments due to a ransomware attack that shut down the technology systems needed to administer the tests.

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