Rantz: WA school changed all grades to make up for its failing remote students

Dec 6, 2020, 8:32 AM | Updated: Dec 7, 2020, 5:13 am

Students from Frontier Middle School in Graham. (Frontier Middle School Facebook page) Students from Frontier Middle School in Graham. (Frontier Middle School Facebook page) Frontier Middle School in Graham. (Frontier Middle School Facebook page)

A Bethel School District middle school changed the grades of all its students because too many were falling behind due to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The district says it was to allow students “to finish the trimester strong.” Only they won’t be finishing strong. They’ll not have learned what’s necessary for future classes to make sense.

This doesn’t just highlight the inadequacies of remote learning. It means children are not being served when given an automatic pass to a higher grade when they’ve not even learned the material. This move has incredible implications that could follow students for their entire academic careers.

Frontier Middle School changes grades over remote learning failure

Calling it a “School Wide Reset,” all students at Frontier Middle School in Graham, Wash., were given a one-time grade bump. It was to make up for poor performance from remote learning.

Students who earned an “incomplete” would have their grade adjusted to a “C.” This happened regardless of how little retention or understanding of the material the student acquired. Students who didn’t struggle also benefited from the reset. All other grades were adjusted one letter grade higher, which means a “B” student was given an “A” from their teacher.

When I asked Frontier principal Bethany Aoki about the policy, I was blown off.

“I have no comments at this time,” she told me curtly. She did not respond to follow-ups.

A spokesperson with the Bethel School District confirmed the grade change. He said it was “to allow all students to focus on their current work and finish the trimester strong.”

Rubs parents the wrong way

Parents in and out of the school were not happy with the move. For starters, it treats students in the district differently from one another. It also masks the problems facing students in the remote learning environment.

“I do understand that these are difficult times, however, to me this highlights how much our schools are failing our children,” one parent-tipster in the district told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH via email. “They do not seem to even care. They know this model is not working for most kids but their answer is not to change the model. It’s to change their grades. Where does that leave the children going forward? They have not learned the material for this year and will inevitably do very poorly next year because of it.”

This parent is spot on. Getting a “C” when you don’t even have your average understanding of a subject means you will be one step behind classmates who didn’t get an inflated grade. And not all teachers will know the student benefited from the fake grade.

This is especially true if the student moves to a different district. Depending on the subject and the student’s ability, they may always play catch-up on the material. That’s not fair to them.

“This is a stand alone grade adjustment at FMS in response to struggling students to re-engage them in their learning,” the district spokesperson told me.

How about they admit the remote learning environment doesn’t work and reopen schools? A mountain of data and studies show it’s safe for students to attend schools. It also notes that schools are not the super spreaders that some teacher unions claimed them to be. Some made the claim while simultaneously-but-definitely-not-coincidentally demanding better contracts before returning to the classroom.

Simply unfair

For one parent of a student at Frontier Middle School, the decision is simply unfair.

“My child has worked diligently to ensure her grades,” the parent tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “She often spends hours a night in an effort to learn, prepare and study. She takes pride in her work product and expressed true pride in what her efforts and commitment to her education had produced. We teach accountability in our home and want our kids to understand the efforts they expend today will carry through to tomorrow.”

The student was “extremely disappointed” when she found out grades were being changed. After all, she worked hard to earn her grades.

“She asked why did she work so hard for all A’s when they handed out free grades,” the parent said. “I explained to her not all other kids live in an environment that is conducive to learning, but I also told her I did not agree with the position that all students deserved an across the board grade bump. I’m not ignorant to the data that failing kids may disengage, which is not an answer either. However that data surrounds specific circumstances and requires an individualized plan for specific students and I don’t see how it justified a one size grade bump for all students.”

Full statement from district spokesperson:

Thank you for reaching out. Frontier Middle School, using data from student progress reports, parent survey results, and input from our teachers, made a site-based decision for a stand alone grade adjustment to allow all students to focus on their current work and finish the trimester strong.

A parent meeting was held earlier this month where parents were notified that students who had an “incomplete” in a subject would have their grade adjusted to a C. All other grades were adjusted one letter grade higher. During the parent meeting, the school also shared tips on how students can be more successful in our remote learning environment.

This is a stand alone grade adjustment at FMS in response to struggling students to re-engage them in their learning.

We are not interested in being interviewed at this time, but we encourage parents who have issues to continue to contact the school directly so we can work alongside them to ensure their students are receiving the best education possible under these difficult circumstances.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: WA school changed all grades to make up for its failing remote students