Bangor schools shift to pass-fail grades after school buildings close

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Vehicles pull up to James F. Doughty school in Bangor to pick up a two-week handout for remote learning.
The pass-fail grades will count toward the credit requirements students need to satisfy to advance to the next grade level and graduate.
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Bangor will switch to pass-fail grades for its middle and high school students during the spring semester as the coronavirus pandemic forces school buildings to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

The pass-fail grades will count toward the credit requirements students need to satisfy to advance to the next grade level and graduate. But they will not factor into students’ cumulative grade point averages or their class ranks, Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb said Friday on the school department’s website.

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The grading system is the latest change Bangor schools have gone through in recent weeks since closing down and switching students to remote learning until at least May 1, and likely through the end of the school year.

Maine’s public universities have also expanded their use of pass-fail grading this semester since switching all classes online last month. They allowed students more time to opt for pass-fail grades that would allow them to earn course credit without having grades this semester affect their grade point averages.

The pass-fail grades will apply to students’ work on the take-home packets with learning material that their schools have distributed since they closed their doors.

The Bangor School Department came up with the grading system to alleviate stress on parents and students after receiving feedback from households struggling with food insecurity, lack of internet access or parents working full-time and trying to guide children through school work, Webb said.

“No family, no student, no educator would’ve known we would have been thrown into this situation, nor would they desire this situation,” she said. “We want to do no harm.”

Also, if schools are still closed at the end of the academic year, Bangor schools do not plan to administer remote end-of-year exams, Webb said. If students return to school before the end of the school year, teachers will conduct assessments to gauge where students are in their learning and how to help students catch up.

Bangor’s pass-fail grading system for middle and high school students will have four marks: “Pass with Distinction,” “Pass,” “Fail,” and “Incomplete.” Bangor’s elementary schools will use a different pass-fail grading system, with marks of “Pass with Distinction,” “Pass,” “Developing,” “Not Applicable” and “Incomplete.”

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