‘Equitable grading’: Minnesota middle school to give students automatic 50% on all assignments

Any percentages below 50% will no longer be used, and all students will have the opportunity to revise or retake any exams, quizzes, papers, and projects within 10 days.

Sunrise Park Middle School Principal Christina Pierre discusses the new grading changes in a video posted online. (Sunrise Park Middle School/YouTube)

A middle school in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area will no longer give students an “F” for failing to turn in an assignment.

Sunrise Park Middle School, located in the city of White Bear Lake, announced it will automatically give students 50% on every assignment, even those that aren’t turned in.

An updated grading scale shows that as opposed to an “F,” assignments receiving a grade below 59.5% will be marked with an “I” for “incomplete,” according to a video of Sunrise Park’s principal and associate principal talking through the changes.

Any percentages below 50% will no longer be used, and all students will have the opportunity to revise or retake any exams, quizzes, papers, and projects within 10 days. Late assignments will also receive the same credit as those turned in on time.

“Our whole intent is to ensure that grades focus on the process of learning,” said Principal Christina Pierre. “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 and so they’re not going to be included in grades.”

But Pierre maintains that the new grading policy is “really increasing the rigor of grades” because the school is “insisting that students make sure that they learn the material.”

In a report published Thursday, The Minnesota Sun posted an exchange between parent and school board candidate Rebekah Bradfield and her daughter’s English teacher about the new grading procedures.

“I want to make sure I understand this correctly,” Bradfield said in an email to the teacher. “If a student doesn’t turn an assignment in at all, they still get 50%. And late assignments still receive the same credit as one turned in on time.”

“Did I read that right?” she added.

The English teacher, unnamed for privacy reasons, told Bradfield she was “correct” in her understanding.

“The two aspects you mentioned will actually be implemented schoolwide this year as we move forward with more equitable grading practices throughout the district, so you should be seeing those two practices in all of [redacted]’s classes,” she wrote.

Bradfield told The Minnesota Sun that she thinks the updated grading policy will “cause a decrease in motivation and work ethic as there is little incentive to do the work.”

In light of the vision of Dr. Wayne Kazmierczak, superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools, the changes do not come as much of a surprise. Named Minnesota’s “Superintendent of the Year” in 2021, Kazmierczak believes grading “should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home,” according to an article on the school district’s website.

“Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated,” the article says. It also adds that an updated grading system was adopted after the district conducted an “equity audit” in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

It’s unclear if Sunrise Park’s new policy is being implemented district-wide, but the article notes that “the district began tackling grading disparities a year ago when they dramatically changed their grading practices.”