New grading system A+ worthy?

Meghan Wysocki '22, Copy Editor

Graphic by Eva McCord ’21

Consistent with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to continue online education through the remainder of the school year, the Grosse Pointe Public School System (GPPSS) has developed a plan for remote learning that includes several changes to the grading system at the secondary level.
In an April 13 email by GPPSS Community Relations Specialist Rebecca Fannon, student and teacher expectations were outlined for April 20 through June 12, the end of the school year. These new procedures included the cancellation of final exams and the subsequent use of weighting the semester grade only by a student’s work. The quarter system has also been removed for easier grading practices, and both a letter grade and a pass/fail system have been implemented to provide students with options for receiving credit.
“Shifting to this grading system for the remainder of the year better accounts for each student’s individual needs,” Deputy Superintendent of Education Services M. Jon Dean, who assisted in creating the plan, said. “(The format) allows students to continue with learning, while also having the option of a pass/fail. We are trying to create a flexible environment that decreases stress for students.”
The cancellation of finals was “an appropriate action” for the circumstances the school district is facing, according to English teacher Elizabeth Lulis. She cited the multitude of challenges district families could potentially face as additional stressors that could impact student learning and add increased pressure to preparing for and taking final exams.
“(Cancelling finals) will allow students and teachers to invest time in the content most needed and allows for a deep sense of compassion as we all traverse the pandemic,” Lulis said. “Already, watching my students adapt with such grace to all of the changes caused by the pandemic has been deeply inspiring.”
Fannon’s email also outlined steps a student should take if experiencing a hardship caused by COVID-19, including “a lack of internet access, health care concerns, family health situations” and more. If a situation should come up, the email states that a building administrator may award a grade of ‘passing’ to a student for a second semester course after consulting with the student’s teacher and/or counselor.
“A student experiencing a hardship should reach out first to their counselor and then their teachers,” Dean said. “We are all working hard to support all of our students. Each student needs to take care of their personal and mental health first.”
In her final semester at South, Natalie White ’20 said it has been “challenging” to move forward with online learning, but the procedures implemented have made it easier to obtain better grades.
“With the new system, I can focus on the homework I am given and the activities I am assigned to gently boost my grade,” White said. “However, being a senior has definitely decreased the amount of motivation I have for getting assignments done. I have extreme senioritis right now, and May seems a little too far away for me.”
Moving into ‘Phase Two’ of online learning, Lulis said she is comfortable with the new grading format, noting that the district and other teachers have been extremely supportive and have worked together to make the best of the situation.
“As both a teacher and a district parent, I am very proud of the response our district has taken in the face of COVID-19,” Lulis said. “Now more than ever, I think everyone involved has made sure we focus on the whole child and value all family members as part of our learning community. I think the methods and communication we have received has made everyone feel like we are part of a ‘GP family.’”