Online Petition Asks for LBUSD to Discard 2020-21 School Grades

By: 
Daniel Pineda

 

The year 2020 was a time that changed everyone’s life, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many had to learn and readjust to the way the pandemic changed the routines of our daily lives; especially for the many young students of the Long Beach Unified School District, who had to grow accustomed to taking their classes online.

Some have managed to completely adjust to the new style of learning, while others have surely struggled. And now, parents of those LBUSD students are concerned that their children’s grades, during the years of the pandemic, will likely limit their academic choices, entering High School.

One such parent is Carol Jones, a resident of Long Beach and a mother of three children. According to Jones, she finds it unfair for students to become limited on their academic decisions, because of a situation that nobody could’ve prepared them for.

“The pandemic left such a big impact on their choices for highschool,” Jones said, referring to all the middle school students on Long Beach that will soon be transferring into high school. “It feels like they’re already being punished by having to work from home, and then punishing them more by limiting their choices in high school. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

The LBUSD recognized some of the same concerns parents like Jones have, and worked to make adjustments and accommodations to their students. The  Beachcomber got in touch with Chris Eftychiou, the LBUSD’s public information director, for more information on the matter.

“The school district has been well aware of students’ struggles during the pandemic and has responded accordingly,” Eftychiou said. “From additional tutoring, to “targeted interventions,” or additional academic help in the areas where support is most needed, to new Wellness Centers at all high schools and middle schools, many forms of academic and emotional support have been carefully planned and backed with significant resources.”

Eftychiou also added that the LBUSD have made changes to GPA requirements needed for certain programs in high school. One of these changes was adding GPA scores from the eighth grade as a requirement.

“Until this year, LBUSD considered sixth and seventh grade scores for the GPA requirements related to specialized high school programs,” Eftychiou said. “For some time now, the school district has received feedback that eight grade scores should be considered for high school choice.”

Eftychiou continued: “The rationale is that eighth graders will be more engaged in their eighth grade year, knowing that their eighth grade scores matter. Plus, they can focus on their fall semester grades without the added pressure of the school of choice process just one month into the eighth-grade school year. Also, remember that this year’s eighth graders experienced virtual instruction in sixth grade, so allowing an additional semester’s worth of grades could help to boost their GPA.”

But to Carol Jones, what the LBUSD has done so far is not enough.

“Previously, they [LBUSD] had only used the sixth and seventh-grade grades.” Jones said. “And because of the pandemic, they had made the decision to add a semester of eighth-grade grades. But with five semesters counting that only represents 20% of the GPA, and sixth grade will still weigh in at 40%. That’s almost half.”

Jones continued: “Personally, I feel like they didn’t do the math on that, because leaving the sixth-grade grades still is the piece that, I think, doesn’t make sense.”

Eventually, Jones would take a big step in hoping to get her voice across. She filed a petition on the website, Change, asking the LBUSD to drop grades from the 2020-2021 school year.

“I am asking that LBUSD drop the 2020-2021 school year from the calculation,” Jones wrote, in the description of her online petition. “It was an aberration in school experience and should not limit these students, who’ve suffered enough interruptions in their education, from having all the choices available to them, based upon their true aptitude. Not their aptitude based upon the pandemic year. Please stand with me. Together we may have a voice.”

Jones’ petition has garnered plenty of signatures since it had been made public. Some of Jones’ supporters have even voiced their opinions online.

“Students should not be penalized for barriers of learning due to the pandemic,” one petitioner said.

However, despite a vast amount of support for her petition, Jones told the  Beachcomber that her petition was also met with criticism by other parents.

“I’ve had parents, who’ve had children that did very well during the pandemic year and worked hard to keep their grades up, and they were offended by my petition,” Jones said. “They’ve told me things like: ‘my kids did well during the pandemic. Where were you for your kids? Why didn’t you make sure they were passing?’”

Jones however feels that some of the criticism comes from how differently students may have been taught during the pandemic. She uses her children, who she feels didn’t get the proper teacher during the pandemic, as an example.

“My kids needed the structure of an actual classroom,” Jones said. “Half of the teachers during the pandemic were just putting videos on for the entire class time. Even their homework assignments were to just look at more videos”

Jones continued: “Doing seven hours of school, followed by more of those videos as homework, that’s not helping the kids who can’t learn that way.”

But regardless of the criticism, Jones refuses to let it get to her, and the goals she set her eyes on.

And aside from just filing an online petition, Jones has also reached out to multiple members of organizations like LBUSD and High School Choice as a means of helping express her concerns, as well as getting them to agree with her petition’s goals.

However, according to Chris Efychiou, neither the LBUSD or High School Choice have any current plans to discard any grades from the pandemic year.

“Under state education code, the school district cannot change a student’s grade. Only a teacher can change a student’s grade,” Eftychiou said. “We follow the law, and we respect the judgment of the classroom teacher. Fortunately, however, the high school choice process includes an appeal option that takes into consideration potential hardships.”

In the end of it all, according to Eftychiou, the final decision comes down to the office of High School Choice and their board members.

“We sympathize with all families whose children have struggled during the pandemic. But the high school choice process considers GPA as only one aspect, and the appeal provision leaves room for consideration of extenuating circumstances.”

Carol Jones spoke similarly, in regards to the LBUSD’s comments about the final decision coming down to the High School Choice office. However, she still carries hope that they will do what she believes to be the right thing.

“It’s really up to the High School Choice office, and what they want to do,” Jones said. “And I hope that if they feel like enough families feel the same way as I do, then hopefully they will make a decision to scrap those grades.”

If you’d like to visit, or even sign, Carol Jones’ petition, you can visit her official page at https://www.change.org/p/discard-2020-2021-pandemic-grades-from-gpa-for-...

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