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Buffalo Public Schools releases new grading policy for remainder of school year

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

Seven weeks into remote learning necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, Buffalo Public Schools is rolling out a new grading policy. WBFO’s education reporter Kyle Mackie spoke to district officials to learn more.

As schools across the state remain closed through at least May 15, parents, teachers and students have raised many questions about how student work will be graded for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. In response, Buffalo Public Schools issued new instructional and grading guidance Tuesday.

This is the first public update about the district’s grading policies since Superintendent Kriner Cash said a new policy was in the works during the last school board meeting on April 8.

In this full conversation, WBFO’s education reporter Kyle Mackie speaks to BPS Chief Academic Officer Anne Botticelli, Lead Associate Superintendents for School Leadership Sabatino Cimato (High School) and Cassandra Wright (Elementary), Chief Technology Officer Myra Burden and district spokesperson Elena Cala. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

“We took some time to make sure that we were providing the most equitable procedures that we could, considering all of the struggles that many of our families have experienced,” said BPS Chief Academic Officer Anne Botticelli. “So, we really were mindful that any practice we were putting into place would be supportive of families in this time.”

The major grading updates include:

  • Quarter 3 is extended for all K-12 students until June 19, after which no new assignments will be given. Students can continue submitting work until the final day of school on June 25.
  • Quarter 3 grades will count as 50% of students’ overall grades. Quarters 1 and 2 will count as 25% each.
  • Numeric grades will be converted to ratings of Incomplete (0-64%), Satisfactory (65-85%) or Outstanding (86-100%) for students in third through sixth grade. Students who receive a final rating of Incomplete in reading and/or math will be recommended for summer school.
  • Numeric grades will still be used for students in seventh through 12th grade. All new assignments submitted after March 13 can only improve, not lower, a student’s in-progress Quarter 3 grade. Final averages that fall below 65% must be recorded as Incomplete. Students who receive an Incomplete rating will be recommended for summer school.

The district’s guidance also states that additional credit recovery options and supports will be considered for the 2020-2021 academic year as needed.
“We took great care and intentionality in developing a process that would be fair and equitable and take into consideration the deep impact of this pandemic not only on the students, but on the teachers, the administrators [and] just society as a whole,” said Cassandra Wright, lead associate superintendent for school leadership at the elementary level. “We did everything that we could to make sure that people were held harmless. That’s the last thing that we wanted to do was to be punitive during a time when people really are suffering. We have no idea how people will emerge from this, and as members of this Buffalo Public Schools family community, we just wanted to be supportive of everyone.”

In classroom technology updates, Chief Technology Officer Myra Burden said the district plans to start make up distribution of laptops for students in third through eighth grades on Thursday. The district will also start delivering its first round of Wi-Fi hot spots this week to at least 77 high school students who lack internet access and are enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. The district’s mobile hot spot request survey is available online here.

“We’re feathering the nest on the if-come that this [extended closure] might continue,” said Elena Cala, special assistant to the superintendent for public relations. “If schools don’t reopen, we will be more ready.”

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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