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Guest opinion: Let’s not allow COVID-19 to harm any student’s grades

Original post made on Apr 11, 2020

In an op-ed, Mountain View Los Altos High School District board member Phil Faillace writes about why he voted against the board's decision to implement a credit-no credit grading system this semester.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, April 11, 2020, 8:55 AM

Comments (45)

Posted by Covid-Kid
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 11, 2020 at 9:27 am

Why should hard working students take a hit because of a few grade-challenged individuals. Please, this is not a, "every wins world."

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 11, 2020 at 1:06 pm

Trustee Faillace is a long serving and well meaning Board member of the MVLA district. I always respect his -'what if' type of reasoning and his willingness to VOTE HIS OPINION AGAINST THE MAJORITY. Even the 'follow the Superintendent' majorities common in almost all votes in every local school board. His opinions are usually well constructed, sensible, and certainly valid for one member of a LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY making Public Policy.

Unlike the mis- and uninformed opinion of some local board members (in particular Ellen Wheeler of MVWSD) Trustee Faillace is well within his free speech rights - as a dissenting member of a LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY - to make his dissenting opinions widely known by publishing a public letter to the editor. Phil, don't let any misinformed member of your administration or Board make you doubt your rights, under the California Constitution's free speech provisions. You have every right to explain your NO vote on this issue and make it widely known!

Posted by LATeacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2020 at 2:58 pm

Dr. Faillace's comments show just how out of touch he is. It puts it in perspective that Steve Nelson is giving him the thumbs up, since this is the same type of shenanigan we'd expect from Mr. Nelson in his past misadventures on the MVWSD Board. Birds of a feather...

Dr. Faillace is only hiding his true feelings and true intentions. He continues to fight for the top 5% of MVLA students, with no regard for the other 95%. As my colleague from Mountain View pointed out during the last Board of Trustees meeting, he is only focused on the AP students. His hybrid model is wrought with problems, and would only deepen the divide between the haves and the have nots, and cause problems in the admissions process for those same students he's seeking to assist.

This reminds me that he is up for election this year. Every teacher I know is hopeful that he will simply not submit his name because he is completely out of touch with the students he represents, the parents who elected him, and the teachers who work in the district. Ask him how often he visits our campus! Ask him how learning has changed in the 22 years since his child has graduated from MVLA and he will say that he doesn't know.

Posted by MV Teacher
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 11, 2020 at 5:21 pm

I have students who are afraid they will soon be homeless because both parents have lost their jobs. I have students who aren't sure where food is going to come from. I have students who are deeply afraid for their parents who are working because no one in the family has health insurance. I can't imagine expecting these students to be able to give their full focus to school when their most basic needs are not being met. The wealthy and successful students Mr. Faillace is so concerned about will continue to be successful in life. Their hard work will benefit them in the form of mastered skills and knowledge. They don't need a single quarter of grades to help them because they already have so many advantages. But my struggling students can be harmed by one set of poor grades. We are in the middle of a national crisis, and an international emergency. My least advantaged students should not be penalized because they need to prioritize survival over their English class. I wish Mr. Faillace put his considerable influence to work for the students who are the most vulnerable and in the most need. Our community deserves a school board that understands we all benefit when we support everyone and not just the most advantaged.

Posted by LATeacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2020 at 5:38 pm

Web Link

4 In 10 U.S. Teens Say They Haven't Done Online Learning Since Schools Closed

Posted by LAHS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Thank you, Trustee Faillace, for advocating for a flexible and fair system which benefits all MVLA students. It is unfortunate that the "lobsters in a pot" crowd seem to have won the day on this issue. This decision by the board has effectively knee-capped our students who will now be disadvantaged by the inability to improve their GPA's this semester. (queue the sanctimonious "grades aren't everything, we have students who are struggling" responses)

Posted by question for LATeacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2020 at 6:07 pm

Dear Los Altos High School Teacher, could you share what you think is the reason
"4 In 10 U.S. Teens Say They Haven't Done Online Learning Since Schools Closed."

Is it lack of digital access?
Is it immediate crisis or duties with their family?
Is it stress?
Is it lack of executive functioning absent of school supports?
Is it that work is not being graded?
Is it the work is review or not meaningful?
Is it that videos games and social media are more alluring?

My guess is there are some that fall in each of those categories, including trauma. Trauma should inform our instruction, but we should never imagine for our students or their families what education access can they handle, yet across the nation schools are telling disadvantaged families how much education they can handle, all the while well resources families plow ahead on their own. When students tell us it's too much, we should listen, are we asking them or assuming for them?

Posted by Another LA Teacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2020 at 8:35 pm

Dear Question for LA Teacher,
The web link provided by LA teacher takes you to an article that covers many reasons as to why 4 out of 10 U.S. teens have not done any online schooling. It discusses quite a range of reasons that support how nothing about this situation can come close to business as usual, including grading.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Apr 11, 2020 at 9:32 pm

Nothing in Trustee Faillace's comments suggested he only cared for a certain subset of students. If MVLA teachers conflate AP/non-AP with the "have and have nots," it speaks to the equity work left in MLVA once the crisis is over.

It may very well be that a two-option system is too complicated to pull off but there are scenarios where students could benefit (if teachers can pull it off). Below shows that any student who was trending can find themselves looking less competitive under pass/fail.

Student 1:
11th Grade Fall Grade: C 11th Grade Spring Before Closing: A
Grades with Pass/Fail:
11th Grade Fall Grade: C 11th Grade Spring Before Closing: P

Student 2:
11th Grade Fall Grade: B 11th Grade Spring Before Closing: B
Grades with Pass/Fail:
11th Grade Fall Grade: B 11th Grade Spring Before Closing: P

Who will be admitted between those two? I see Trustee Faillace's effort to "do no harm" to students by giving students both pass/fail or grades, whichever benefits the student.

Give the complexity of maintaining two assessment systems on top of the complexity of remote teaching, I support the teachers' conclusion that solely pass-fail was the right vote. And there is nothing wrong for teachers to admit that pass/fail is less work, and given the enormous work every teacher is putting in going to remote instruction, anything that can streamline MVLA teachers' workflow is worth considering. Still, anonymous character attacks do our schools a disservice. Lets model what we expect from our students.

Posted by Paula
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2020 at 10:24 pm

Neither one of them will be admitted. Both have low grades. The deep pool of mvla students with super high grades means that meaning deserving students do not get admitted to elite/highly selective colleges. You need perfect grades an test scores for The 3 top UCs. They are competing against each other not kids from other schools. Only so many kids will get in from each school. If parents really want their kid to succeed move to Tulare.

Posted by MVHS Teacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2020 at 12:06 pm

It's terribly sad to see the privileged fight to defend their advantages, even now. The first comment: "Why should hard working students take a hit because of a few grade-challenged individuals." and the "lobsters in a pot" comment are perfect examples of this attitude. Totally lacking in empathy, which is sad because empathy is a sign of an educated human being.

Posted by Viruses require remote learning
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Apr 12, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Remote learning should be the new model. Herding 2,000 students onto a high school campus every weekday to share this or the next virus is crazy. Even if students don't get terribly sick or die, they will carry viruses off campus. Stupid is as stupid does. Will adults learn from this societal "time out." I bet not.

Posted by MVLA parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 13, 2020 at 12:58 pm

My biggest concern is why there was such a rush to make this decision. The Board and school admin held an emergency meeting last Monday at noon, which was difficult for many parents to join. They barely gave 24 hours notice. We still have almost two months of school left, a decision could have been made after taking more time to consider carefully all the options. School admin also published a survey to the entire community, but then didn't wait for the results before they made their decision.

If they had waited a little longer they could have seen how other Districts across the state are handling this. The San Diego Unified School District with 121,000 students is continuing with the full grading system, with the critical caveat - Grades can only go up.

According to SDUSD Board VP, Richard Barrera - “The general idea is that no students are harmed, but students can improve,” said Barrera. If a student had a “B” in geometry before the shutdown, for instance, that student would maintain a “B” regardless of how much work they complete, once official online learning begins.That means seniors whose grades might be slightly below what’s needed to graduate, will have the opportunity to raise their grades enough to get a high school diploma.

That system, is much more equitable than the blanket - pass/fail, credit/no credit MVLA rushed to adopt.

Many students will be harmed by the MVLA decision. Those who were on a path to improve their grades over the second semester through hard work and determination. That includes students from all across the spectrum, it is not limited to "advantaged vs. disadvantaged" students.

This decision was a cop out and does harm students of all kinds.

I was also dismayed to see the anonymous attacks against Dr. Faillace. With almost 40 years of experience on both MVLA and LASD school boards he has more institutional knowledge than almost anyone else. As a parent, I see he is fighting for all students, not the top 5%. I wish the other elected board members (who are supposed to be representing parents) would have stood up to the pressure and voted for what is best thing for ALL our kids.

Posted by Stomping Feet
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Thanks for participating, sorry it didn't go the way you wanted.

Posted by get a grip
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 13, 2020 at 2:38 pm

People are dying. It is time to get off the "students need to attend elite schools" bandwagon. In 25 years, the colleges these students attend will not matter at all. Their own work ethic, integrity, and expertise is what will matter. I say all this from a family to whom education matters a great deal.

Posted by LAHS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Even LA Unified (as in Los Angeles) announced today that they are giving grades with caveats to protect students. LA Unified! MVLA completely jumped the gun and made a hasty, poorly thought out decision. Why are we intentionally knee-capping our students when the rest of the state is giving their students the opportunity to improve their grades this semester?

Posted by Parent LAHS
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2020 at 3:04 pm

Phil - My highschooler and I attended the board meeting and we both felt you were the only one really advocating for students to have a choice in the matter. You asked questions, proposed solutions and compromises and were fully engaged in the thought process. Thank you for considering all positions and not backing down.

This meeting also made me really consider who I will vote for on school board in the future as a number of members simply sat there with nothing to say or had very little to add. I was very disappointed in the lack of engagement and will be voting very differently during the next elections.

Phil will definitely have my vote.

Posted by MVLA parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 13, 2020 at 3:15 pm

There is also an ongoing Petition created by a LAHS student, asking the board to reverse it's decision. If you are a taxpayer, parent, or student you can join 1000 other MVLA stakeholders and sign the petition here: Web Link

Many, many students are devastated by this decision, and they are not all "elite" or "disadvantaged", students of every background are being harmed and demotivated by this rushed decision.

Posted by Another LAHS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 4:14 pm

My student is a senior and this situation has taken an enormous toll on her mental health. The seniors have lost so much and they are devastated, demotivated, and grieving. The have lost prom and graduation, as well as excitement for the future as their freshman year of college is likely to be online, as well. They are not able to visit the colleges they have been accepted to to see decide where they want to go. She is both stressed out and depressed. The only bright spot was when the district went credit/no credit. She and I both were genuinely concerned that she was going to have many of her college admissions offer rescinded. I have spoken to many of my friends with seniors and their children are in the same boat. I am literally sick to my stomach with the thought of it returning to grades.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 4:28 pm

Interesting premise, but impossible to achieve unless you just give every student an A for the spring semester. It's really speculation as to what grade any student would have gotten if this catastrophe hadn't messed things up with the semester less than half completed. You can coulda woolda shouda up the wazoo saying some students do better in the 2nd semester compared to the first, but you can't PROVE what their grade would have been. You can make a case of making BOTH semesters pass/fail as well, based on that logic. Let's do that!

Posted by be careful what you wish for
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 4:56 pm

I’d suggest all those advocating for letter grades do the research about grades and online versus brick and mortar classrooms. You might start singing another tune.

Posted by Timothy Campos
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Thank you Phil for explaining your vote. As with Sanjay I celebrate your service to the community and I appreciate you being willing not only to stand up for what you believe, but to explain it to the community.

I agree with you that the decision made was not the best. Frankly I believe it was actually a terrible decision. Eliminating grades is not in the interest of the students, or the community, and I actually do not believe it is in the best interest of the teachers or the administration either. Sadly I think the impact of the decision on each of those groups will be in the future. For Students this clearly creates significant problems for them. High school students need to distinguish themselves and grades have been the most effective predictor of a Student's success in college - more predictive than SATs. Sadly both seem to be off the table for some students - which only creates pressure to find something else. Whatever that something else turns out to be will be a burden to all, and available only to those who can carry that burden.

Students who need to demonstrate improvements in their grades are now forced to look at online schools or community college. This assumes they can get in in time, and also will create significant administrative burden on the school district to support the resulting transcript transfers (this process is hard enough for those who have attempted it in normal times - now you will see a significant uplift in this demand). Parents have to be involved in this process and it is incredibly time consuming and difficult - not all parents will have the ability to do this.

Students who may not need to improve their grades will be looking for other mechanisms to distinguish themselves such as their college essays and teacher letters of recommendation. The former is something that requires time and support, for many kids a consultant. Placing more emphasis on the essay will not benefit the disadvantaged that the decision to move to pass/no pass was intended to benefit.

The increased importance of the letter of recommendation will only place more demand on teachers to provide them. Sadly it is likely the best teachers and those that have the most connection with their students who will feel this demand. Not the mediocre or poor teachers.

I could go on with the unintended consequences of this decision, and there are many. As much as we think we are solving a problem, we are actually creating an even bigger one. Grades exist for a reason in our educational system, and eliminating them might seem like a solution, but it is really just brushing problems under a rug. Doing this in a rush and without thought is only creating a bigger problem in the near future.

One last issue I feel is worth mentioning is how this decision was made - it was rushed and done without sufficient input from the community. I have yet to hear an adequate explanation of why this decision was made when it was, and why community involvement in the decision was more effectively sought. A survey was sent out the friday before the board meeting which gave parents only a couple of days to voice their opinions. Moreover, it is not my understanding that the survey was even used - certainly the results of it have yet to be published.

We need more board members like Dr. Faillace on our board - board members who are not just thinking about the interest of the most important customer here (the students), but also who are thoughtful and measured in their decisioning.

Thank you for your advocacy, and I'm sorry that our school board made such a terrible decision.

Posted by Yet another MVHS teacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2020 at 5:43 pm

The hypocrisy in this community is staggering. The very same people who are questioning the district’s rush to judgement bashed them for not getting things done fast enough in the immediate days of transitioning to online learning? So which is it?

The very same board member (Faillace) who spoke so eloquently while quoting Benjamin Franklin in a school kick-off presentation, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are equally as outraged as those who are,” voted against the very policy that does just that. So which is it?

Those of you advocating so passionately for letter grades should do your homework more carefully. The research paints a pretty bleak picture of how ALL students fair, the high achieving ones too, with online learning versus classroom learning. Be careful what you wish for.

I applaud the four board members for making the difficult but most advantageous decision for all students in our community.

Posted by MVLA parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 13, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Dear MVHS teacher,
I honestly don't see the connection between the board's rushed decision to turn to credit/no credit (24 hour notice), is comparable to the concern many parents and students had over the 3 work weeks it took to get anything besides a review going with distance learning. You are comparing apples to oranges and two completely different situations.

Students were given an entire week (4 school days off + 1 holiday) while teachers had those 4 work days to transition to online learning. Then...two weeks of pure review for the kids (some kids were given work to do from their previous years) while teachers were spending more time getting ready for the transition. Little or no stimulation and no new learning for three weeks. Then, the kids were off again for another week, meaning we are now four weeks into this new environment with little or no progress on the education front. Granted today was the first day of Phase II learning, but hard to see any improvements at this point. In the meantime the kids have lost an awful lot of momentum and motivation.

I realize it's not easy to turn a ship the size of MVLA around, but again, if Los Angeles (734,000 students), and San Diego (121,000 students) school districts can pivot to distance learning AND grades (with no child harmed) then where are we as a District? Other local school districts are proceeding with grades and taking more time to make a decision.

As for Mr. Failace's comments, I don't think the argument has been won that the credit/no credit is the most equitable. The argument that grades can only go up, not down, seems to be the most equitable, with no penalties for anyone.

I"m not quite sure what your point is regarding online learning vs. classroom learning; it is looking more and more like online learning is in our future, whether we like it or not and the sooner we get there the better for keeping our kids engaged and learning.

Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 13, 2020 at 9:52 pm

For all the people in favor of the pass/fail over they hybrid system, I have one single question.

How is the system of having the OPTION to choose pass/fail OR receive a letter grade when the grade can ONLY go up in any way unfair to disadvantaged kids?
I have yet to hear a clear and reasonable argument that condemns the hybrid system. All I do hear from this who oppose that system is, "Those kids who want that already have so many advantages. They don't need this too." What I have NOT heard is a reason why ALL the kids shouldn't have the option to choose.

When you put in place the pass/fail system, you effectively threw all the hard work that kids did into the garbage. Now, the kids who were staying up late to make sure they got good grades in their AP and Honors classes are at exactly the same place as the kids who are barely passing their courses. It is absolutely true that some kids are doing poorly because they are facing challenges. It is also absolutely true that some kids aren't doing well because they don't choose to put in the work to get good grades. But those distinctions don't matter to those advocating for pass/fail. They don't think it is at all unfair that some have weeks of hard work flushed away while others get a second bite of the apple.

Why is it okay to demotivate some kids and motivate others? How is that equitable? The hybrid system doesn't punish anyone. For some, apparently, that is the problem with it.

Posted by Yet Another LAHS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2020 at 11:01 pm

Of all comments here the most impressive are from the teachers:
- He continues to fight for the top 5% of MVLA students, with no regard for the other 95%;
- The wealthy and successful students Mr. Faillace is so concerned about will continue to be successful in life;
- It's terribly sad to see the privileged fight to defend their advantages, even now.

So much hatred from those who teach our kids!

Posted by Sarah K
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 14, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Given the vastly different online experience that kids are having with online classes, I am truly grateful that letter grades are NOT in the mix. For my child 4 classes look reasonable and I think she will do fine and make progress. One department has completely dropped the ball. The kids feel abandoned and real teaching is completely absent. It has become teach yourself, good luck. It would not be fair AT ALL to hold students accountable with grades when they were not being taught at all reasonably. (or, in fact, at all)

Posted by parent of high schooler
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 14, 2020 at 3:03 pm

Hi Sarah,
I agree, but imho the option of grades can only go up, not down is actually more fair than a blanket credit/no credit. Your daughter could show improvement wherever she's doing well, and keep the grade she had previously under full instruction if that is a higher grade.

Posted by Sarah K
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 14, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Hello Parent of a High Schooler,

Yes, her grades could go up- but no one would pay attention to artificially inflated grades anyway. They would just be that odd semester when all the kids got all As. You would have to tag that somehow on a transcript- so not useful

(also woe betide the poor student with an 89 (after only 1/3 of the grades for the semester are in and a teacher who has already gone on summer break and doesn't plan to teach or assist at all- that 89 would stick!)

If you cannot tell, I am appalled by one department's response to this crisis. It happens to be the one class in which my child actually needs to be taught!

Posted by parent of high schooler
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 14, 2020 at 3:58 pm

hi Sarah,
I am just curious why they would be artificially inflated grades? If a kid had a C or a D in first semester, but earned a (B or C) in 2nd semester, that higher grade would be reflected and they would not be stuck with the C or D.

It would have to be based on real work...I guess I don't see the inflation and I'm not sure how this would equate to all kids have straight A's.

I'm with you though...we are also appalled.

Posted by Aaron Davies
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Is it not possible for our local academic system to equitably service the needs of a diverse student body? Based on some members of the Board, our Superintendent, and various teacher responses such as this, some things do in fact appear to be outside of reason and beyond reach.

The pass/fail policy perhaps works for some students. It absolutely does not work for all students. The petition in response to the pass/fail decision is strong evidence of this fact and should be met with a correction which puts the needs of more students first. There is a lot of rhetoric about this unique pandemic situation incapacitating students. I have not been able to find real-world examples of this which are statistically significant, particularly in MVHS and Los Altos High. To the contrary, I am directly aware of student frustration with this decision through my own child at MVHS and his broader peer group. These students are strong, capable, brave, and competitive. This myopic policy approach comes at the expense of our students who want and deserve every chance to compete with 1000's of schools across our nation which have not embraced this policy.

This local decision is particularly frustrating when we consider precedence. Many schools and universities have come to a balanced solution which allows for students to opt for EITHER pass/fail or letter grade. My own collegiate level son is the beneficiary of such a policy at his state university.

If we truly intend to empower MVLA students and facilitate their success, we must act swiftly not necessarily by completely reversing the decision at the cost of those students for whom this policy might be helpful - but by adapting this policy (and modeling it after clear examples right before our eyes) to allow for letter grades at student discretion.

Posted by Sarah K
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 14, 2020 at 5:09 pm

It is artificially inflated if it cannot go down. In normal times, some kids start the semester with As but do worse later on and end up with Bs- others start with B's but do better later on and end up with A's. In the you only do better system, both kids get As. Not normal.

Posted by parent of high schooler
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 14, 2020 at 5:21 pm

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for sharing your thought process. Mine continues to be a little different. What many of us were advocating for was a choice...take the best grade from 1st semester, Q3 or Q4. The important thing is that no harm is done since the CoVID outbreak forced the kids out of their seats.

I think it could result in a kid who is having a difficult time with the online environment keeping the grade he earned for first semester (let's say a C), or taking his Q3 grade (also while at school) but showing improvement at a B. If that same kid earned an A by the end of the school year, that's what he should get. But if he had no improvement, he could not get worse than the C (Meaning if he completely lost it during the second semester for any reason, he would not be held to a C-, D+ or worse.

Still not sure where you are finding all kids getting A's. (I wish that were the case for mine :-)

Posted by @Sarah K
a resident of North Bayshore
on Apr 14, 2020 at 8:32 pm

If your child is struggling in a teacher's class, I hope you are bringing that concern to the teacher, or ideally, supporting your teenager bringing up the concern directly with the teacher. If that doesn't help, taking it to the department chair, and then the principal if needed, but first reaching out to the teacher.

Posted by Another LAHS parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 14, 2020 at 8:39 pm

There seems to be a sentiment amongst the commenters that those who want grades instead of pass/no-pass are the privileged students and parents. I am not sure what the source of this sentiment is (please share if you have it). I just ask that you spare a thought to

(1) The Junior who is an AVID student, who is just on the wrong side of the 3.0 GPA cusp who is looking to break the 3.0 GPA to qualify for Cal Grant A, which could be what the student needs to be the first in their family to go to college

(2) The motivation that grades give to some students to actually learn. There is data from Coursera that of all students who take an online course, only 10% complete it if there is nothing to gain from it, 50% complete it if there is a credential or grade they can get and 90% complete it if it has the potential to lead to something meaningful (like a job or ability to get to college). I can hear the purists' point on the inherent evils of extrinsic motivators. To them I say to each their own, who am I to judge someone else's motivation?

(3) The student who relies on the structure that a grading rubric provides to help them focus and prioritize their learning and what to do next

(4) Not to mention the 400+ students who signed the petition asking for the option of grades if they choose to

So don't be quick to judge people's motivation as evil or protecting their privilege or advantage. While that maybe, choice is a good thing. If a student and their parent/guardian wants to choose grades over pass/no-pass or vice versa, why not give them the choice? Phil Faillace raises some valid points for discussion. It is easy to dismiss him as someone serving the privileged (I don't know his voting record or positions), but it behooves us to consider the points, discuss and create policy that benefits ALL students

Posted by MVLAeacher
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2020 at 8:52 pm

@another LAHS Parent

30% of my students “attended” class this week. I only teach AP and Honors.

Posted by @MVLAeacher
a resident of North Bayshore
on Apr 14, 2020 at 9:34 pm

Regarding "30% of my students “attended” class this week. I only teach AP and Honors."
Asking without any pre-judgement, what do you think is causing lower participation?
-lack of access
-home crisis
-disinterest with the content
-no high stakes/grades impact
Thank you for any insights, and thank you for teaching!

Posted by parent of high schooler
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 14, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Dear MVLAeacher:

"30% of my students “attended” class this week. I only teach AP and Honors".

You must be using a different rubric than other teachers. So far there have only been two days of school this week.

My student was told yesterday (first day after Spring break) that she only had to check in 3x per week, per class to have 100% attendance, so she is still considered 100% by your measure. So I'm curious where your 30% number is coming from.

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

Browse, Above the Noise, and other sites full of issues and interesting ideas
Learn about writing research questions by watching two helpful videos:
Video from NC State University Library: Picking your Topic Is Research
Video from North Kentucky University Library: Developing a Research Question

Posted by Community Minded
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2020 at 11:27 pm

Lots of people thinking way too hard about this. MVLA could have chosen any grading plan and it would have worked out just fine for all the students. Because it’s hard for teachers to do ERL on such short notice and without much preparation, and from their homes while having to watch their own children, and this whole pandemic and sheltering-in-place is stressful for them and for the students, it seems most sensible just to go to credit / no credit to give everyone a break.

Colleges know that there’s a pandemic and many have already announced that they will modify admissions procedures. Even Harvard says it's alright not to freak out about not being able to check all the admissions boxes while a pandemic rages on:

Web Link

If your student thinks that s/he was on the cusp of a major improvement in grades that was unfairly not captured by the transition to c / nc grading this semester, you could have him/her write an essay explaining that to colleges.

Why all the comparisons to Los Angeles Unified and San Diego? Palo Alto right next door is also going to c / nc grading this semester. I’m sure those kids will be fine too.

While you might have wished the decision would go another way (but come on, would any decision have pleased everyone? Would the triple bank shot, “hybrid method with guaranteed improvement only” have been fair to ask of teachers, or even worth the crazed complexity?), none of this is worth beating up on any of our elected public board members of MVLA, who are just our fellow citizens trying to do their best with a once in a century pandemic. Let’s go, Spartans and Eagles!

Posted by Lets not allow quest for grades to harm any student
a resident of Bailey Park
on Apr 15, 2020 at 7:40 am

Boom. Right there.
We don't need anymore of them to join the Parade of damaged kids that PASD spits out.

Posted by Sarah K
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 15, 2020 at 7:44 am

Hello Again Everyone,

My last thought on this. For the near future, the game is over.

Which game? The competitive get into a far away residential college game.

My daughter and a friend discussed this issue yesterday and agreed that if (when) their desired schools couldn't provide the residential experience they would go to Foothill and bide their time. Current seniors are looking at a gap year or staying at home and taking classes online. (Most people won't pay top dollar for that!)
The current juniors, therefore, are looking at a traffic jam with two classes worth of kids trying to start fall 2021 if that is even possible. GPA?? SAT?? ACT?? APs? How does anyone pay for any of this during a Depression anyway?

The game is over, and we don't even know the rules or parameters of the new game. We're going to need the high schools to help us guide our kids into this new reality. Credit versus noncredit is the tiniest of issues in this big picture.

Posted by Jon Keeling
a resident of Gemello
on Apr 15, 2020 at 2:36 pm

This is a VERY long message that I will break down into sections to save you time if you don’t have much of it. :-)

1) Background on me
2) The situation at MVLA
3) Grading options
4) My view
5) Implementation
6) Looking forward to the future
7) Teachers
8) Kids

1) Background on me:
One of my kids is a sophomore at LAHS. I have two older kids who graduated from LAHS and Paly. I have also worked with many students at MVHS & AVHS, mostly volunteering with mentoring and mental health efforts.
I come from a family of teachers and have been a teacher since 1984. I have taught well over 10,000 students on three continents. I am known for my innovative teaching style and helping students reach (for) their potential. My graduate degree included a teaching focus. When I assess my students, I provide them with useful, specific feedback. I have also done a lot of mentoring, where I work to help people holistically and inspirationally (the same way I teach and parent). I know how to teach and assess students, to motivate them and help them understand but not get frustrated by their shortcomings and to appreciate their abilities and successes. I have also done a ton of volunteering in the mental health space.
I have never been a fan of grades or test scores as the primary indicators of a student’s worth. I have always told my kids that I would like them to pass their classes but don’t care about the grades nearly as much as I do about them learning the material and fostering an appreciation for the learning process that I hope sticks with them for the rest of their life.

2) The situation at MVLA:
We have students of all types in our district. Some are pushing hard to maximize their GPA in an effort to gain access to an elite university. Some are from families with limited income, where the high school student may be working to help with the household income, taking care of younger siblings, and have limited access to wifi. Some have learning or emotional issues. Our public school system is meant to support/educate ALL of these various students. In general, they have a very good reputation for doing this.

Online learning is new to most students and teachers. It is more difficult to facilitate student discussion, distracting for many students, and assessment can be challenging. (I know…I am teaching via Zoom about 18 hours/week these days)

3) Grading options:

There are quite a few ways grading can be handled in our schools. Four of them were included in the survey sent out to parents and teachers a couple weeks ago. Several others were NOT listed. Each has its benefits and shortcomings.

4) My view:
As many of you already know, I was pushing the OPTION for EITHER a letter grade OR credit/no-credit since the idea of switching to C/NC first came up in March. I was in the debate in Palo Alto before it was even brought up in MVLA. I was the first one to bring up this idea in the MVLA board meeting on March 30. And I still believe that this would have been better than requiring everyone to go credit/no-credit, all things considered, to accommodate ALL students. It would have provided less stress for those who are currently overwhelmed with financial hardship, additional responsibilities or limited access to wifi, while keeping incentive for those working for high/higher letter grades. (Please note that Los Angeles and San Diego have offered this option and San Mateo is apparently leaning toward this in their vote tomorrow)
That said, I think it is probably too late in the semester to allow students to potentially cherry-pick which classes they want to receive a grade for. If a student is able to opt for letter grades now, I think it would have to be all-or-none. Regardless, I am fine with a policy that does not offer the choice letter grades…conditionally (see below). As I mentioned above, I am not a fan of grades in general. But I realize that they are important to some people. So I would like to offer an updated recommendation that should not only keep everyone happy but quite possibly result in an improvement over what we have had in the past…

***As I mentioned in the last board meeting, I would like to require all the teachers to enter into the system written qualitative comments about each student for each class.***

This is the way it worked when I did my undergrad at UCSC about 30 years ago: It was pass/fail (similar to C/NC but a "fail" would result if you didn't pass in P/F but in C/NC the class just drops off if you don't pass it) with an option for a letter grade. But ALL students received a written comment, regardless. Even if you did not opt for a letter grade, the equivalent grade could be inferred quite easily from the comment ("excellent work!" was an A, "very good" was a B, etc.).
I say we push to have all the teachers write qualitative comments for all the students. This way, students can point to these on their college applications and say "I put in an A-level performance in this class." I think this is a reasonable compromise and the board does not need to overturn their decision to go with credit/no-credit for all students in all classes.

5) Implementation:

Although I would prefer teachers to provide detailed feedback for each student, at minimum the teachers could set up templates to copy/paste and then tweak as appropriate. This does not require an entirely new skill-set for teachers, as they are used to providing feedback. It is only a minor change to what they have already been doing. I would think this should be quite simple to implement and I doubt any teacher who cares about his/her students would object.

6) Looking forward to the future:

Imagine if we switched to credit/no-credit being the default for all students, permanently...Less pressure for those who are not looking to get into the most competitive colleges and the focus could be more on learning as opposed to grades. We could get education back to its roots: focus on learning. This is a GOOD thing, isn’t it? We could set an example for other public schools to follow. I have done a ton of research in the field of education and many great education specialists are saying similar things. If we provide the OPTION to receive a letter grade AND we require teachers to add a comment for each student for each class, we could please pretty much everyone. It would only be a little more work/time for our teachers.

My hope is that if we can keep it going for the future, we could be an example for other schools to follow. (some background reading: Web Link )

7) Teachers:

As we know, our teachers are not in this profession for the money. I can tell you this from first-hand experience as a teacher who left a 20-year career in investments and technology to focus exclusively on teaching. Our teachers want what's best for our kids. If we ask them to do this for their students, I think/hope there would be no push-back. And we need the teachers to be on our side. We rely on them to help our kids learn. As with nurses and several other professions, they do it because they care more about the people than for the money. At times like this, we parents and administrators should be supporting them, not fighting against them.

8) Kids:

And the ones we should be fighting FOR are our kids. That doesn’t mean juts fighting for our own kid(s). We should be fighting for ALL of them. And not just for their ability to pass classes or get good grades in classes. We should be fighting for them to have the best opportunities to LEARN and to be inspired to learn and develop and use their creativity and compassion and maintain a positive attitude.

I want ALL of our students to have the opportunity to do their best and to be recognized for their efforts without unnecessary stress. Let’s show compassion and support for ALL of our students.

Our primary duty as parents and educators is to help prepare our kids to survive (and hopefully thrive) by themselves after they leave home. What are we teaching them about life? As a teacher, mentor, parent and parenting coach, I think this is a very important decision we are facing right now. I want our kids to know that we care about ALL of them. Not all of them should be required to get a letter grade. Not all of them should be required to simply be given credit without acknowledging their effort and achievement. All of them deserve to be given opportunity and motivation.

If YOU were the student right now, what would you want YOUR parents/teachers/administrators to do? I fight for my kids. And I fight for others. I always have. And I always will.

Posted by parent of high schooler
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 15, 2020 at 2:48 pm

hi Jon,

The only issue I have is where you describe the following scenario: We have students ...some are pushing hard to maximize their GPA in an effort to gain access to an elite university. Some are from families with limited income, where the high school student may be working to help with the household income, taking care of younger siblings, and have limited access to wifi.

You are assuming a lot. Believe it or not there are kids who are disadvantaged in a number of ways, but are still working their butts off to get good grades and get into good schools. Just ask the AVID kids and the folks who support the Mentor/Tutor connection. Your argument also ignores the fact that grades can provide a baseline of motivation, not necessarily related to college plans, but just making it through high school.

Don't assume that every kid who is working hard at school is elite, wealthy, or needing the credit/no credit option by default. Many of them are just as disappointed in this situation and I know quite a few.

I do agree that the option of either would be the best, or a second choice would have been the 'hold no harm' that San Diego and Los Angeles and many other districts across the state and nation are using.

thank you

Posted by Jon Keeling
a resident of Gemello
on Apr 15, 2020 at 3:03 pm

@parent of a high schooler

Hehe. I am not making any of those assumptions by not including them. I just figured my comment was already way too long for most people to read in its entirety and so took out some of what I had originally planned to include. :-)

I am very familiar with the fabulous work of Mentor-Tutor Connection. I've been volunteering with them for the past three years and am working on trying to set up a similar program for Palo Alto students. Want to help? :-)

Posted by parent of high schooler
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 15, 2020 at 3:39 pm

Thanks Jon, MTC is great. I would like to help out one day soon, but currently have a number of other volunteer obligations going as well as working full-time.

I simply thought the way your comment was written used a very limited stereotype to illustrate kids and their motivations. I hope you don't feel the same way you stated it.

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