NPS Grading Guidelines During Emergency Closures

Norwalk Public Schools Grading Guidelines During Emergency Closures
Posted on 05/22/2020
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Working with guidance received from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Norwalk Public Schools has developed grading guidelines for all grade levels during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis. The district is committed to making sure that all students have the opportunity to improve their grades during the emergency closure, but that grades are not impacted negatively for those students who faced extraordinary circumstances during Distance Learning. A practice called “grade bracing” allows reporting of either a student’s mid-point or year-end grade, whichever is higher. For high school students headed to college, grade point averages (GPAs) will continue to be calculated as usual and reported on official transcripts.




The districtwide approach to grading takes into account the reality of student experiences since Distance Learning began on March 16, as well as the needs of all students. The priority is to ensure students continue to remain motivated and engaged with learning, while also receiving feedback so they can continue to improve.


During an emergency closure such as COVID-19, grading practices will be used to:


  1. Provide feedback and information on learning progress to students and parents
  2. Determine student promotion to the next grade
  3. Recommend students for intervention and additional support including summer school
  4. Recommend students for course selections
  5. Issue transcripts to colleges
  6. Verify that students meet all requirements necessary for graduation


These recommendations are based on the needs of all the students at each grade level. Grade reporting, progress reports and report cards will be available for access online. Students who receive accommodations identified in 504 plans and Individual Education Plans will continue to do so, and as appropriate, those accommodations will be taken into consideration at the time of grade calculation. 





The high school guidelines includes a process for determining high school Grade Point Average (GPA) as usual for student transcripts and ensuring student success in earning the required course credits.


Calculating High School Grade Point Average (GPA)


Grade Point Averages (GPAs) for the year as well as a cumulative GPA will be reported on a student’s transcript, as usual. GPA’s also will still reflect course weighting for Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and honors courses, as outlined in NPS graduation policies. This is no different from past practice. Students rely on their GPA when applying to colleges, so we know that it is important to make sure this information continues to be included on the transcript.


To determine a grade point average, we are using a process called “Grade Bracing.” This means that the mid-point grade average, which includes the Semester 1 average and the mid-term exam grade if given, will become the floor (or “brace”) for a student’s course grade.


At the end of the year, teachers will calculate a student’s course grade based on work for the entire year, as usual. But it will be the higher of the two grades, either mid-point or year-end, that will be the grade used to calculate GPA. For example:


  • Scenario #1: If the cumulative full year course average grade is higher than the mid-point grade average, the cumulative course grade will be the final grade.
  • Scenario #2: If the mid-point grade average is higher than the end of year average, then the final grade will be the mid-point average, assuming the student has been sufficiently engaged in coursework through the fourth quarter.


This practice supports the growth and enrichment of our students, while providing protections for those students who are more vulnerable during this unprecedented disruption. 


No summative or cumulative final exams will be administered during an emergency closure, except for the Advanced Placement (AP) exams administered nationally by the College Board. Some classes may require a cumulative project. On-line assessments may be used for benchmarking and progress monitoring.


Determining High School Graduation Credit: Pass/Fail


To determine credit towards graduation, a Pass/Fail determination will be used for the transcript instead of a letter grade. The transcript will note that Pass/Fail was required as part of Board of Education’s response to COVID-19. Students receiving a passing grade of A or higher will receive Passing with Distinction.


Colleges across the country are completely aware of the impact of COVID-19, and understand and support the use of Pass/Fail when applied in a consistent manner. Before the pandemic, colleges may have evaluated a Pass/Fail differently, but that has changed with the current circumstances. Admissions officers accept and understand the changes that high schools have had to make under these unprecedented school closures.


The Pass, Fail and Passing with Distinction will determine if a student earns credit towards graduation.


High School “Incompletes”


Students who have faced extraordinary circumstances, as listed below, will be given the opportunity to earn an Incomplete at year’s end. A plan will be developed for these students to make up the required learning within the first three weeks after the end of the school year, and will be provided with the opportunity for tutoring to support their learning.


This standard for an “Incomplete” will apply to the following extraordinary circumstances for students in grades 9, 10, 11 and 12:


  1. Students who did not have adequate access to technology during closures
  2. Students with disabilities in need of direct support, or who otherwise require additional resources to succeed
  3. English Learner students
  4. Students who may need counseling or mental health services that they cannot receive at home
  5. Students who are sick themselves, caring for a family member or dealing with trauma as result of the pandemic, and
  6. Disengaged students


Students who fail a course will either take a credit recovery course during the summer or retake the course or credit recovery during the following school year.





At the middle school level, grades will be reported at the end of each course, as usual. Grade Bracing will be enacted as described above. This means that the student’s final grade will be either the midpoint or year-end grade, whichever is higher.


The Pass/Fail determination will not be used at the middle school level, unless a student is being awarded high school credit in World Language or Mathematics. Final course grades will be used to determine students who are eligible for high school credit in World Language and Mathematics and course placement for the following year. This course will then be recorded on the student’s transcript but does not calculate into the GPA.


In grades 6, 7 and 8, the AIMSweb Reading Assessment will be taken online in May to help determine Summer Academy recommendations and to understand student learning needs. Special education teachers are also using AIMSweb to progress monitor students.





At the elementary school level, the use of the Standards-Based report card will continue as usual. Progress that students were making during in-school instruction will be used as the “brace” for the end-of-year academic rating. Teachers will use additional assessment information gathered during the COVID-19 closure as part of their elementary assessment practices, to show additional growth and progress. This practice is called “progress bracing” and is parallel to “grade bracing.”


For example: If a student rated 2, “Approaching Standards,” at the end of the 2nd trimester, then that student would maintain that rating at a minimum. The student could also improve based on the work demonstrated to the teacher during Distance Learning. The student progress can stay the same or improve in the third trimester.


Areas that will be continually assessed on each students Progress Report include Language Arts, Mathematics, Art, Music and Physical Education.


Each school may decide to “X” a specific indicator that was not assessed in Science, Social Studies or Personal/Social development. Based on a specific school’s learning focus in the third trimester, this may differ for each school.


Report cards will identify if the elementary student is recommended for Summer Academy and grade promotion.


For questions about grading at any level, please contact your principal.