Letter grades suspended for Shawano schools

Grades to be based on work completed as of March 13
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

SHAWANO — The Shawano School Board approved a revised grading system Monday following Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to extend the closure of all schools through the end of the school year in June.

When the order to close schools came in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, school administrators originally anticipated it would be for less than a month. Now that it’s clear that schools cannot reopen this school year, semester grades for the schools are going to be based on what students had accomplished as of March 13. That’s the day when the school district implemented its own closure, shortly before the state closure order superseded.

At Shawano Community High School, grades will be either pass or fail instead of the standard letter grades, according to Kelley Strike, the district’s curriculum, instruction and assessment director. However, students who were in a failing position as of March 13 are being giving the opportunity to redo the work and hopefully reach a passing grade.

College level courses would be graded based on the individual college’s grading standards, Strike said. Also, the requirement that high school students have 24 credits to graduate will not be changing.

The school district had originally considered including assignments from online learning as part of students’ second semester grades, but due to a sizable percentage of families not having access to internet infrastructure needed to participate, those classes are simply going to provide feedback on work completed. Superintendent Randi Anderson said that school staff has not been able to get in contact with 20-30% of families since the closure began last month.

“We don’t want to harm a student who doesn’t have access or due to other circumstances cannot continue to learn,” Anderson said. “There is no script. There is no one model fits all.”

The high percentage of families not keeping in contact concerned board member Chuck Dallas.

“It is disturbing when you say you’re not able to get a hold of 20% of students or families,” Dallas said. “This is where families need to take an active interest in their kids’ education. I don’t know if it’s by radio or by newspaper or by Facebook, but we need to encourage those folks to stay with it and communicate. The way I see it, some of that 20% are at risk of failing, and then it becomes the school’s fault. If we can avoid that, that’d be great.”

Board member Chris Gull questioned whether it was essential to make such a decision right away, with the original last day of school not taking place until the first week of June.

“Our technical and college bound students, this could drastically impact scholarships and entrance, NCAA eligibility,” Gull said. “I don’t want to put us or our students behind everyone else, and we find out way too late that we’ve fallen off this curve, and our kids aren’t getting into the college.”

Board member Beth MacFarlane noted that all schools are in the same boat due to the coronavirus, so college plans all over are changing.

As for the other schools, Shawano Community Middle School will also skip letter grades this semester, but the grade system will be pass or insufficient evidence. At the elementary schools, final report cards will include narrative summaries and issue recommendations on areas of learning where students need to improve.