To Grade or Not to Grade? Districts had to Decide for Themselves

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications & PR

DashBoard, May 27, 2020

While interviewing Michigan public school districts for the learning from a distance article that is in the Spring 2020 LeaderBoard issue, they shared information on a variety of topics. One that I found particularly interesting was whether they would offer a credit/no credit option or continue with letter grading for their students.

The Michigan Department of Education recommended using credit/no credit, but a number of districts chose to continue letter grading. The main reasoning has been motivation for students to actively participate in remote learning.

“Even though the Governor stated that all children will grade-level advance that doesn’t mean [for us] they will course-level advance,” Holland Public Schools Superintendent Brian Davis shared. “A number of classes are dependent on learning and completing coursework from the year prior. We’re telling our students to not neglect doing the work since classes build on each other from year to year, especially in science and math.”

HPS students in sixth through 12th grades have the opportunity to improve their grades before the end of the year. The letter grades will be based 80% on what they are doing on a daily basis and 20% on exams; it is usually reversed.

Novi High School chose the credit/no credit route. “A tagline that I have been using that was borrowed from Dean Martin Kaye at the Oakland Schools Technical Campuses-Southwest is that our focus needs to be on GRACE over grades,” shared Principal Nicole Carter, Ed.S.

Meridian Early College High School has taken a hybrid approach.

“We involved a third of our faculty and students in developing our Continuity of Learning plan,” MECHS Principal Tara Mager, M.A., LPC, PBSW shared.” It was very clear that the pass/incomplete option was not going to validate the amount of work that kids had already applied since the beginning of the marking period so we decided to do a hybrid that allows kids to choose between a letter grade and pass/incomplete. Those who are above 71% can choose to switch to a grade; 60-70% are pass automatically; and less than 60% are automatically incomplete. We hope to have summer options to help them pull those grades up.”

As with all aspects of the COL plans, each district had to decide what was best for their students. What route did your district take? Share with us at

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