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Minnesota middle school removes Fs from its grading system to fight systemic racism, allows students to retake failed tests

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

A Minnesota middle school will no longer give students "F" grades in an attempt to combat "systemic racism" and will allow students to retake failed tests. The new policies were enacted after an "equity audit" purportedly found "grading disparities among students of color."

Sunrise Park Middle School in White Bear Lake announced that teachers would no longer give "F" grades to students. For the 2021-22 school year, test scores of 59.49% are no longer "F" or failing grades, but are now considered a grade of "I." No matter how low the score is – including 0% – any grade below 50% is automatically raised to 50% based on the new grading system for the school that serves students in grades sixth through eighth.

YouTube video screenshot

"Our whole intent is to ensure that grades focus on the process of learning," Principal Christina Pierre said in a YouTube video explaining the new school policies. "Therefore, grades will not include behaviors, attitude, tardiness to class, whether the assignment was turned in late or on time. There's other ways that we can communicate those things to parents."

Sunrise Park Middle School: Gradingwww.youtube.com

In the video, Associate Principal Norman Bell said students are encouraged to retake/revise tests, quizzes, papers, projects within a 10-day window.

YouTube video screenshot

Sunrise Park Middle School is a part of the White Bear Lake Area Schools (WBLAS) district outside of St. Paul. The district's superintendent – Wayne Kazmierczak – has said, "Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism."

The district "conducted an equity audit, and in light of the killing of George Floyd and how conversations across the nation have evolved during this past year."

The revelations were made in an announcement about Kazmierczak being named the 2021 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year on the WBLAS website.

An example from the equity audit was the grading disparities among students of color. Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated. Dr. Kazmierczak and WBLAS believe grades should be a measure of what a student knows and has mastered in a given course. Grading should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home. Under Dr. Kazmierczak's leadership and in line with the district's strategic plan and commitment to eliminating systemic racism, the district began tackling grading disparities a year ago when they dramatically changed their grading practices. Leaders in the district know that they will be supported as they have never been before because of the strategic work that has already been done all through the lens of equity.

It is not clear whether the new grading scale will be used in all schools in the district.

The Sunrise Park Middle School made national headlines in March for a "social-emotional lesson" about "oppression." The choir teacher at the school separated sixth-grade students based on "privileged" and "targeted" categories.

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