Parents on Queens education council blast new DOE grade policy, claim agency ignored them

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The Community Education Council 24 passed a resolution that expressed their frustration with the new grading policy during their virtual monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

School District 24 represents Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale, Middle Village, Elmhurst, Corona, Woodside as well as parts of Long Island City and Sunnyside neighborhoods in Queens — some of the neighborhoods hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the district is also home to some of the best performing schools and students in the city.

During their virtual meeting, which had more than 80 users in attendance, CEC members, Councilman Robert Holden and parents discussed some of the downfalls of the new policy and remote learning as a whole.

Some of their main concerns involved how the grading policy will impact students’ performance during an already confusing remote learning period, and how it will affect admissions to middle schools and high schools.

Councilman Holden, a vocal opponent of the Department of Education’s handling of the crisis, said the “current grading policy discourages hard work.”

CEC 24 President Phil Wong echoed Holden’s comment.

“The DOE is telling kids with a 95 average that they have the same grade as another student with a 70 average,” Wong told QNS. “These grading changes would affect middle school admissions, and those changes are harmful to hard-working students. To fight inequality you level the playing field by bringing everybody up, not down to the lower denominator.”

On April 28, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza implemented an adjusted K-12 grading policy for students grappling with COVID-19. For grades K-5, schools will use “Meet Standards” and “Needs Improvement;” for grades 6-8, schools will use “Meets Standards,” “Needs Improvement,” and “Course in Progress;” and for 9-12, schools will continue grading scale they had before remote learning with the addition of “Course in Progress.”

“Course in Progress,” as the DOE puts it, is meant to help students who can’t submit work or demonstrate mastery. Failing grades will be considered “Course in Progress,” and students will be given the time and support they need to complete coursework and earn credit through January 2021.

Additionally, in alignment with CUNY’s COVID-19 flexible grading policy for their 2020 Spring Semester, high school students who have successfully completed and earned credit for a course will have the option to convert a passing grade to a “Pass” rating that preserves their existing GPA, but will still count as credit toward graduation.

All students who receive “Course In Progress” who haven’t yet completed required course work, will be enrolled in summer programming, according to the DOE. High school seniors and current 8th graders who receive “Course in Progress” will be prioritized to keep them on track for August graduation and promotion. When students complete the course, their grade will be changed from “Course in Progress” to the appropriate passing grade.

A DOE spokesperson told QNS the policy reflects the input of teachers, students, and parents from across the city. During an Education Council Consortium (ECC) meeting on Saturday, April 25, with all CEC presidents, Chancellor Carranza spoke about the grading policy and took questions from attendees.

“We engaged teachers, students and parents, including those on CEC 24, on our proposed grading policy prior to its release, and the final policy incorporated feedback,” DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson told QNS. “The policy explicitly states that schools must take into account the full year of work, and emphasizes flexibility and patience for all students in these unprecedented times.”

But CEC 24’s leadership maintain that they weren’t consulted, and that there’s been a lack of communication and uniformity since remote learning began in March.

“District 24 consists of some of the hardest COVID-19 hit neighborhoods in the City and Nation; our children, families, teachers and schools are reeling emotionally and physically from the devastating effects,” Henry Choi, vice president of CEC 24, told QNS. “[The resolution] expresses Community Education Council 24’s frustration with the Department of Education’s unilateral decision to alter the grading methods without any local consultation. The resolution, with the inclusion of the Do No Harm plan, asks that the DOE respect and honor students’ hard work from earlier in the year while also assisting those who have been so badly injured and impaired by COVID-19.”