ODE: K-8th graders won’t be held back based on 2019-20 performance

The Oregon Department of Education on Wednesday released new guidance for grades K-8, calling for report cards without letter grades and ensuring students won’t be held back unless a parent requests it.

ODE Director Colt Gill sent a letter to educators outlining the latest plan of action after Gov. Kate Brown ordered schools closed for the rest of the academic year earlier this month.

The “Supporting our Students” in Grades K-8 Guidance in short:

  • Centers the mental, social, and emotional needs of K-8 students and prioritizes well-being.
  • Emphasizes family and community engagement by including families and critical community-based organizations as partners in students’ learning.
  • Emphasizes equity by:
    • Honoring the culture, language, ways of knowing, and perspectives of the families and students we serve;
    • Allowing flexible options for students to demonstrate learning;
    • Naming a Safeguarding Student Opportunity Clause to ensure no student is held back or denied access to opportunity due to extended school closure;
    • Focusing on promising practices that promote and support student learning.
  • Requires a Pass or Incomplete (or local equivalent) marking system for report cards.
  • Requires district-wide application of end-of-year reporting practices, including a report card (or district equivalent) for every student.

“Student promotion to the next grade level shall not be based on performance during the period of school closure; no child shall be held back or retained due to any impacts of extended school closure,” according to the ODE. “For students needing additional supports, districts shall coordinate outreach to the student and the family, confirming the district’s commitment to the student’s future success and outlining next steps”

The ODE had previously announced a Pathway for Graduation for seniors, which included Pass/Incomplete grading for work before March 13th.

Since then, the ODE and school districts have been working with parents and students on distance learning programs, while recognizing the unique challenges the effort entailed.

Earlier this month the ODE released additional guidance for middle and high schoolers, saying they’ll receive Pass/Incomplete grades for the spring term instead of their usual letter grades.

The Wednesday announcement calls for the same plan to be put in place for elementary students.

Gill said the guidance provides a framework for a common approach, but doesn’t completely address the challenges presented by the extended school closure.

“We must collaborate on solutions and strategies–now and in the years to come–in order to support our students’ long-term success and well-being,” Gill said in a letter to Oregon educators. “Our collective effort must leverage the assets, roles, and strengths of our children, families, educators, Tribal Nations, community partners, school districts, educational association leaders, state and local leaders, and business and industry partners. Guided by a shared approach and leading with a mindset of innovation and creativity, we will learn from each other, develop ideas and promising practices, and harness new ways of relating in a landscape we have not seen before.”

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