On Thursday, the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Education will vote on where to continue it’s “hold harmless” grading policy, which prohibits teachers from failing a student as long as he or she engages in minimal class participation.  This easy “no Fs” grading policy has been in place since last spring. The AUSHD characterizes it as “equity-based” – although without explaining what is means by that fashionable buzzword.

The district shut down in-person instruction in March 2020, forcing students and teachers to attempt the business of education via remote instruction.

Under this “hold harmless” policy, students will get at least a D (or a ‘No Credit” mark) as long as they do at least two of the following:

  • Regularly log in to school (although “regularly” is left undefined).
  • Turn in a minimum amount of school work (although setting that minimum is left to each teacher).
  • “Participate” (again, left undefined) in class, which could include – but isn’t limited to:
    • Using the chat feature or clicking the unmute button to:
      • Ask a question
      • Provide an answer
      • Share a thought
      • “participate” in a discussion
    • Participating in a poll
    • Participating in a Jamboard
    • Participating with third-party apps like Nearpod, Peardeck, etc.
    • Completing the exit survey part of a live check-in.
  • “Engaged with the teacher” by any variety of means, “including but not limited to” email, phone calls, Google Meets/office hours, Tuesday/Thursdays live check-ins, or other forms of communication.

Talk about setting the bar low.  Under this criteria, a student could literally type “I like math” in the chat box and send an e-mail to the teacher and skate with a D.  So much for “Unlimited You.”

Every teacher I know is fed up with remote learning – which they regard as a joke – and longs to return to the classroom.  Conscientious teachers strive to do their best under trying circumstances, while less ambitious teachers may take advantage of the situation to phone it in. The “hold harmless” grading policy fits the latter nicely.  It short-changes diligent students by devaluing their hard-work.

Whither Al Jabbar?

Al “No Learning Loss Here!” Jabbar

It will be interesting to see how AUSHD Trustee Al Jabbar votes on extending the hold harmless grading policy: Its underlying premise is the COVID pandemic-induced school closure have had the a negative impact on the ability of AUSHD students to learn that it is necessary to go easy on grading them.

In other words, a “hold harmless” grading policy is necessitated by learning loss.

But during last month’s AUSHD Board meeting, Jabbar claimed there has been no learning loss due to the nearly year-long closure of AUSHD schools. Indeed, he asked that the phrase “learning loss” by banned from usage by the district. He painted the school closures as a character-building exercise that will make this generation of students “resilient.”

But if there is no learning loss and these students are so resilient, then there is no need for a “hold harmless” grading policy.

Jabbar’s assertion that the prolonged suspension of in-person instruction generated no learning loss is patently false and risible. His claims of resiliency are belied by an alarming spike of adolescent self-harm, depression, suicidal behavior and other self-destructive behaviors.

It will interesting to see how he tries to spin this square into a circle when he votes to support the “hold harmless” grading policy.