Kobza sends letters to parents on grading for Masuk, Jockey Hollow

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MONROE, CT — Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza sent letters to parents Friday, explaining the pass-fail grading system that will be used for Masuk High and Jockey Hollow Middle schools in the fourth quarter.

Educators had to come up with a grading system for distance learning since school buildings closed for social distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Though the Connecticut State Department of Education recommended that districts adopt a locally guided pass/fail option, Kobza said other issues also factored into Monroe public schools’ decision to implement it.

“Providing a single grading structure for all students addresses the various disparities arising out of this health crisis,” he said of distance learning. “In the typical classroom setting, all students have immediate and consistent access to their teachers and other supports. We are seeing that there are students of all ability levels struggling without this structure. We know that many families are also struggling with new challenges that may continue for some time.” 

“Nowhere is this inequity more clearly demonstrated than in the food security needs in our community,” he continued. “The demands at the food pantry continue to grow, and our free breakfast and lunch program is serving twice as many students as it did when the school closure began only four weeks ago. Sadly, this number continues to rise daily.”

Other than equity, administrators considered the physical health and emotional well-being of students and families, recognition of the limitations that accompany distance learning, as well as encouraging assessments and feedback that prioritize the essential learning standards for the remainder of the year, according to Kobza.

He said the fourth quarter will look far different than previous years with the realities of distance learning forcing the truncation of curriculum and instruction.

“Our dedicated faculty has been working hard to determine the essentials for students to be successful next year, and we have necessarily had to let go of some usual coursework from Quarter 4 to allow for the new challenges we face,” Kobza said. 

His letter went on to detail the fourth quarter grading plan for parents. Kobza said it reflects a more holistic assessment of student work with pass/fail instead of traditional letter grades.

“Understandably, there are concerns about engagement,” he said, “but we know that Masuk students are motivated by far more than just their letter grades.”

College admissions

Kobza said his administration sought the guidance of numerous admissions and financial aid officers at colleges in Connecticut and around the country before making its decision on the grading system.

“They have all indicated the same thing: they understand that high school teachers are working around the clock to provide instruction and feedback to students in the midst of this global health crisis,” Kobza wrote. “They have emphasized their need to look more holistically at student profiles and are prepared to accept Pass/Fail grades for the period that school has been closed.”

He said students and families will receive more information about the impact of COVID-19 on the college admissions process during their regularly scheduled junior planning sessions.    

“Understandably, there may be families that still have questions,” Kobza said. “Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or [Masuk Principal] Jake Greenwood directly.”

Masuk’s grading procedure

Kobza included an outline of how Masuk’s grading will be done:

  • Teachers will continue to assign and grade work in Powerschool with a focus on the most essential learning.
  • End of year course grades will be calculated through the end of Quarter 3 (April 9). 
  • Transcript GPAs will be the average of Quarters 1-3 and the Midterm exam.

Note: Only a course grade (not individual quarter grades) appears on a student’s transcript  

Course credit will be assigned upon the successful completion of Quarter 4, which will be scored as follows:

  • Pass with Distinction (83 percent or higher)
  • Pass (65 – 82 percent)
  • Incomplete (64 percent and below)

Students will have the summer to complete Quarter 4 assignments. The Incomplete will default to Fail if work is not completed by Sept. 1, 2020.  

  • Students earning a Fail will not be assigned credit for the course.
  • Quarter 4 will not be calculated into a student’s overall GPA and there will be no Honor Roll. 
  • Courses earning a Pass with Distinction during Quarter 4 will be noted on a student’s transcript.

Jockey Hollow

“Jockey Hollow teachers have been working diligently with their instructional leaders to ensure a smooth transition for all of our students next year, including our eighth graders who will be transitioning to high school,” Kobza wrote in a letter to middle school families. “Understandably, there may be families that still have questions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or [Principal] Jack Ceccolini directly.”

Kobza also included the grading procedure for Jockey Hollow’s main campus and STEM Academy:

Teachers will continue to assign and grade work in Powerschool with a focus on the most essential learning. Quarter 4 grades will be scored as:

  • Pass with Distinction (above 83 percent)
  • Pass (65 – 83 percent)
  • Incomplete (64 percent and below)

Students will have summer work opportunities to complete quarter 4 work by Sept. 1, 2020. A student’s grade of incomplete will default to Fail if the missing work is not completed by Sept. 1, 2020.

  • There will be no Honor Roll in Quarter 4
  • No final exams will be administered at the middle school.

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