The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented education equity crisis in California. Education leaders at schools and colleges across the state have closed their physical locations and begun to implement distance learning plans, doing their best to support their students and communities in these uncertain times. 

Education leaders have a responsibility to support and protect all students, particularly those who are most vulnerable, through this crisis and beyond. Amid school and college closures, parents, families, and students deserve to know what instructional supports and resources are available to them. 

Education Trust-West is calling attention to key issues that school and college leaders will encounter and offers recommendations for moving forward with equity at the forefront. To ensure this crisis does not widen opportunity gaps for students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, and students with disabilities, Ed Trust–West suggests education leaders consider the following:

  • Meeting P-12 Students’ Learning Needs
  • K-12 Grade-Level Promotion 
  • High School Graduation and Postsecondary Transition
  • Course Grading Flexibility and Supports at Colleges and Universities
  • Student Transitions and Progress at Colleges and Universities

5 steps policymakers can take:

  1. Direct school districts to make distance learning plans publicly available via an easily accessible, user-friendly, multi-lingual platform.  
  2. Adopt emergency regulations that describe how schools should measure student learning during this crisis and how this information should be used to allocate district- and school-level resources and tailor supports to help students catch up on missed material.  
  3. Enact emergency regulations to provide more flexibility for students in the Class of 2020 to meet high school graduation requirements and be a-g eligible with necessary ongoing support.  
  4. Hold schools accountable for providing specific outreach, resources, and support to students with disabilities and English learners in students’ home language.  
  5. Require that state federal coronavirus response funds be used by school districts to achieve these purposes and that higher education invest coronavirus response funds in improving support for incoming students, addressing academic needs without traditional remediation, expanding access to evidence-based student success programs, and providing wraparound services—including access to food and child care—to support students.

As of May 27, 2020, updated recommendation: Direct CDE to require guidance for all LEAs to implement a uniform “pass/no pass” grading policy for all COVID-19 impacted terms with the understanding that students who were otherwise on track before the pandemic will receive a passing grade.

5 steps K-12 district and school leaders can take:

  1. Create systems that grant all students the opportunity to access grade level content in ways that ensure the most marginalized students have access; do not solely rely on online learning. This should incorporate clear direction, criteria, and resources for students to meet course requirements and demonstrate readiness, including through written work packets and project-based learning.
  2. Institute flexible, student-centered grading criteria such as pass/no pass grading policies for the remainder of the school year. Generate a note on all students’ transcripts that explains pass/no pass grade is a result of COVID-19 related school closures. 
  3. Extend access to already a-g approved online learning opportunities to every high school student in the district/school. 
  4. For the Class of 2020, pass a resolution to recognize California’s high school graduation requirements in lieu of individual district/school graduation requirements. This includes a waiver for the Spring 2020 semester for students in the Class of 2021, 22, and 23 if they are unable to complete the semesters credit requirements as a result of school closures.     
  5. Allocate resources—staff, time, and materials—for extended learning time during the summer (if possible due to the pandemic) and for the 2020-21 school year based on student need, ensuring that the most vulnerable students are prioritized for instructional and socio-emotional support and opportunities to catch up and advance academically.

As of May 27, 2020, updated recommendation: For grade point average (GPA) calculation purposes, weigh a “passing” grade as equivalent to an “A” grade. Ensure that students’ academic transcripts reflect this calculation. 

5 steps higher education leaders can take:

  1. Institute flexible grading policies that that allow currently enrolled students to determine their preferred grade notation (i.e., letter grade or pass/not pass), at the end of the term. The flexibility should be extended across all colleges and universities in the state. Implement a notation on all students’ transcripts that explain course grades were impacted by coronavirus.  
  2. Private colleges and universities should follow the California State University and the University of California’s decision to temporarily accept transfer units taken as “pass/no pass”  for undergraduate admission. 
  3. Exempt the number of pass/no pass units taken during COVID-19 impacted terms from the total number of “pass/no pass” units students can take during their undergraduate career to be eligible for graduation. This should extend to graduating seniors (i.e., Class of 2020) and the Classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023. 
  4. Remove the restriction to fulfill major specific courses for a letter grade. Students should have the flexibility to take courses that complete their major course requirements and not have to retake coursework for which they received a “pass” to complete. 
  5. Probation and academic dismissal procedures associated with a student receiving no pass in a course should be suspended for current college students who attempt to persist in the course. Similar approaches should be taken for circumstances in which students elect to withdraw from a course during the current academic year. The California Community College system has already issued such guidance; the University of California, California State University, and private colleges and universities in the state should do the same.

As of May 27, 2020, updated recommendation: Weigh a high school “passing” grade equivalent to an “A” for Covid-19 impacted terms.

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School and college leaders have a responsibility to support most vulnerable students and families through the COVID-19 pandemic. @edtrustwest shares key principles and actions education leaders should consider to ensure #EdEquity

The #COVID19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented education equity crisis in California. @edtrustwest shares recommendations for school and college leaders to address learning, transitions, and grades during these times


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