March 30, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,

When our students are physically attending HBW and VHS, their teachers assign traditional grades (A, B, C, D, and F) as a standard practice in assessing learning via homework, participation, projects, and assessments. This is how schools function when times are normal. However, what happens when times are not normal, when times are extraordinary? What does grading look like and how do we make sure that we are being fair and consistent with all of our students? 

Over the past two weeks, our administrative team has had conversations with teachers and other administrators about the prospects of short-term and long-term grading when teaching students remotely. When initially faced with a relatively brief closing of our schools, continuing the grading of students' work seemed manageable and sensible because this is what teachers do when school is not physically closed. However, as we are now confronted with the distinctive challenge of our schools closing for a prolonged period of time, the conversation regarding grading our students has shifted. We particularly believe this is necessary when considering the myriad of hardships that may present themselves at this time, such as a family member becoming ill, a parent losing a job, a family-owned business that is struggling, increased and ongoing social isolation and more. In short, while we all desire a measure of continuity, we do not believe that traditional practices are sufficient or appropriate in the chaotic and unstable environment we currently find ourselves in.   

Moreover, we are a district that believes in supporting our students’ social, emotional, and mental wellness. In fact, we know that in order for a student to be successful in school, these three components need to be solidified before the fourth component, academic learning, can begin to take shape. We are indeed living in a unique time and since we will most likely not be returning to school for an extended period of time, we have decided to implement a pass/fail grading system at HBW and VHS for the remainder of the academic year. 

In making this transition, we will be combining the third and fourth marking periods (second semester) and will assess students based upon their completion, submission, and understanding of their work. Teachers will continue to teach students their curricula using Google Classroom, Google Meet, Zoom, and other platforms. Additionally, teachers will formatively assess students with shorter assessments such as “Do Nows”, exit tickets and quizzes, and summatively assess students with projects, unit assessments, and writing assignments. Students who complete their assignments and meet these expectations will earn a grade of “passing” for the second semester ( please see the three examples below ). By doing this, we join a multitude of public and private colleges and universities who have recently adopted similar policies. In a recent policy statement, Columbia University stated that “this, of course, does not reflect a reduction in expectations, but rather an acknowledgement of the severe complications of this unusual moment.” 

Example 1: A student earned an A in the first marking period and a B+ in the second marking period. For the second semester, the student earned a P (Passing Grade). The student’s final grade is the average of the first two marking periods: 4.0 + 3.3 = 3.65. Therefore, the student’s final grade is an A-.
Example 2:  A student earned an A in the first marking period and a B+ in the second marking period. For the second semester, the student earned an F (Failing Grade). The student’s final grade is the average of the first two marking periods and the second semester: 4.0 + 3.3 + 0.0 = 2.43. Therefore, the student’s final grade is a C+.
Example 3: A student who is enrolled in a spring semester course at VHS or a cycle/quarter course at HBW and earns a passing score (60% or greater) will receive credit for the course with a “P”. 

After much careful consideration, the Verona Public School district has decided that this revision in our grading practices is the most appropriate course of action to support our students, parents, and staff during these challenging times by reducing the stress for everyone. Once again, we do not take this decision lightly but rather sincerely believe that the uncharted territory we are now forced to navigate requires us to rethink standard grading expectations that were designed for more normal times. We will continue to meaningfully teach our curricula while supporting the whole child.

We thank you for your continued support and understanding. If you have any other questions, please contact your building principal. Thank you and we wish you and yours continued health and safety. 


Dr. Charles R. Miller
Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment