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What's behind grade changes in Providence schools?

{p}Educators in Providence turned to the NBC 10 I-Team, concerned that F grades they gave to students were replaced by I's -- for incomplete. (WJAR){/p}

Educators in Providence turned to the NBC 10 I-Team, concerned that F grades they gave to students were replaced by I's -- for incomplete. (WJAR)

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Educators in Providence turned to the NBC 10 I-Team, concerned that F grades they gave to students were replaced by I's -- for incomplete.

"It was brought to my attention that grades didn't look quite right,” said a veteran high school teacher who asked NBC 10 not to identify her because she fears repercussions for speaking out. "When I looked at my grades and reflected the next day, I noticed the grades were not changed by me."

She and other teachers told the I-Team that they're troubled by what they've noticed in recent months: someone at the district level changing failing grades to “incompletes” in the computer system.

"It feels like a slap in the face, almost,” the teacher said.

NBC 10 learned Providence has had a written grading policy dating back to 2016 that F's must be changed to incompletes, except for 8th graders and high school seniors, who would be. Providence teachers told the I-Team the policy wasn’t enforced in years past, and they were able to give failing grades when necessary, such as when a student didn’t show up for class at all.

But during the pandemic, an email went out from an administrator saying the "no F's" policy would be enforced due to distance learning and the high number of students sick with COVID or forced to quarantine. Multiple teachers said that policy is still being enforced this school year, even though school is back in person.

Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2020 5:45 PM
Subject: Grades
Superstar Secondary Network Educators,
Thank you for a great day of learning yesterday. We appreciate everyone’s active engagement during these professional learning sessions and hope you walked away from with additional tools for your toolbox.
As you know, Quarter 1 ends on Wednesday, November 18th and grades are due in Skyward on November 23rd. Over the past 5 weeks, two separate committees of teachers, principals, counselors, district staff and even a parent met to discuss the grading procedures; the committee concluded their series of meetings last Friday. Please note that the committee’s recommendation (which will be honored) is to follow the grading procedures (found here) that was set in August for Quarter 1. As such, please adhere to these guidelines when reporting grades in Skyward.
As you think of quarter 2, here’s a great resource that was shared by one of our amazing teacher leaders at West Broadway. It’s an old guidance from Skyward but very relevant to us now with providing teachers, who enter grades in Skyward, directions on how to email parents directly notifying them of missing assignments/work information.
Final guidance related to the committee’s recommendation for quarter 2 will soon follow. We ask that you please include comments when you enter grades in Skyward, as this is one additional recommendation of the committee. Thank you again for all that you do!!

The I-Team obtained an email sent recently by a Providence high school principal that says in part, "Per district policy the F’s should be converted to I’s. Only Seniors can be receiving "F"Please have these grades corrected by end of day today."

Subject: Student's grades
Good Morning Team
I hope every one is having a great day. I just received a call and an email from the district stating that we are currently out of compliance with the current district grading policy. For P3 grades the following F’s has been reported. Per district policy the F’s should be converted to I’s. Only Seniors can be receiving "F". This was previously expected to be done before progress reports.
Please have these grades corrected by end of day today.
9th- 16%
Thank you in advance.

No one from the district would sit down with NBC 10 for an interview, but Providence Schools spokesperson Nick Domings sent the following statement:

“The Providence School District’s current grading system was adopted by the school board in 2016 to decrease opportunity gaps and increase student engagement and motivation. A number of large school districts across the country utilize this grading approach. Providence Schools will continue to provide students with every opportunity to improve, succeed, and achieve excellence.”

The I-Team took what we found to state Sen. Lou DiPalma, D-Middletown, who sits on the Oversight Committee, which is holding hearings into the state’s takeover of Providence Public Schools. DiPalma said several Providence teachers have reached out to him with their concerns about grades being changed.

"You either mastered the material or you didn't. An incomplete says, it's incomplete,” DiPalma said. "Several folks at the [most recent] hearing brought up about grades being changed."

"And I'm saying to myself, what are we saying to the students of Providence? What are we saying to the parents?" DiPalma said.

Under the policy, students who receive an incomplete then have until Nov. 15 of the following school year to make up their work.

The teacher who sat down with NBC 10 said she'll do whatever she can to help students who are legitimately struggling. But she’s concerned students who don’t show any effort now have an extra six months to catch up.

"What message is that sending to the student who comes into school every day, who works hard?" she asked. "That's not the equality that we want for our children by any means."

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