Grading System: A Note to the Students of DFHS

Dear Students,

I hope that you are doing well and that all of your families are healthy and managing to get through this difficult time. Mr. Meagh reached out to me on Thursday and explained that some of the members of the junior class were asking for some clarification about the grading policy, and that there was concern about the reduction of “weight” that is being placed on Quarter 4. Our Legislative Branch has always done a superb job of identifying issues that impact our student body and our school as a whole. This time is no different. Typically, I would set up a lunch meeting with the members of the Legislative Branch to discuss an issue such as this one and to walk them through the steps that are taken when making decisions that impact the entire organization. Given the limitations that we have due to the current status of things, I’ll share some of that insight with you now via this note.

As you can imagine, we have so many students at our school who are struggling in this new format and are performing well below their norm due to so many circumstances, including inequity based on issues at home, illness, the need to work because parents are without jobs, emotional stress, and so on. We are getting emails daily from parents and students who have never needed assistance before, and the mental and emotional component of our work is at an all time high. In considering all of this, an approach to calculating final grades was needed to account for the distress that every family is feeling (varying degrees, of course) while fully recognizing that certain students are doing well and progressing academically. Of course we are thrilled about the latter; however, there’s also inequity in that as other students were not able to transition as easily to a distance learning format, not to mention the day-to-day struggle of essentially losing the only routine they’ve known since entering kindergarten.

Ultimately, the approach that we went with was based on feedback received over the past four weeks. The feedback came from teachers, building and district administration, the middle school, and with insight of how other districts in the county had decided to approach grading. In fact, several districts made quick decisions to go with a simple “Pass/Fail” for Quarter 3 and/or Quarter 4. While I fully understand the thinking and intent of this approach, my issue is that it somewhat diminishes the hard work and effort that so many teachers and students are putting forth during this difficult time.

In the end, no policy is going to work best for everyone and we can’t have individual policies for each student’s unique situation. However, we do feel that counting Quarter 4 as ten percent addresses the mental and emotional needs of students as outlined above, while still having a significant impact on final grades, including the overall GPA. Essentially, ten percent can mean the difference between at least a half and in some instances a whole letter grade. This is particularly the case with IB DP classes and the grade weighting system that we currently have in place

Please know that while academics are a clear priority at DFHS, our top priority will always be the health and emotional wellness of our students and families. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a school counselor if assistance is needed at any point. Ms. Reim and I are always available by email as well, 24/7.

A special thanks to all of you, including the faculty, for the wonderful videos, the non-stop activity on our new Instagram page, and the endless stream of supportive emails and notes. It is truly an honor to serve as the principal of this exceptional high school, and the way that our school has responded with this situation has truly been my proudest moment over the nine years that I have served in that role.

Be well,

Dr. Falino

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