SC Department of Education says high school seniors will be able to graduate
South Carolina students will still be graded based on the school work they're doing from home, and seniors will still be able to graduate this year, the state's Department of Education announced Tuesday.
The department released a list of directives sent to school districts on how to handle grading and course requirements while schools are closed in an effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. That guidance includes a waiver on the number of hours students must receive instruction.
Ryan Brown, a spokesperson for the department, said districts have the discretion to grade students as they see fit but students must receive a numeric grade.
"They're going to get credit for the work they've done," Brown said.
Other states, such as North Carolina, have switched to a pass/fail grading system for high school seniors rather than a numeric or letter grade while schools are closed.
Brown said the department discussed the plan with several universities, which helped guide their decisions.
"They do not want them to have a pass/fail — they want them to have a numerical grade," Brown said.
The guidance for South Carolina schools says students will receive grades in their classes for the last quarter of the year but that it will be combined with the grades they received in the third quarter. Instead of having two grades for the semester, students will have one combined grade.
Brown said the department is not mandating how districts grade students — whether they use assessments or participation grades — but the intent is for schools to take into account what students and families are currently facing when they grade assignments.
Students will be able to take online remedial courses and short-term, fourth quarter courses on the state's Virtual SC program starting in April, with priority given to high school seniors. Registration for the virtual classes opens on April 1 and classes start on April 6.
State Superintendent Molly Spearman lamented the loss of traditional activities for high school seniors, such as prom, but said she hopes the graduation news provides some ease.
"This year has not been fair to them in letting them experience everything they would have been able to experience, but they will be able to graduate," Brown said.
The department had previously announced that several federally mandated assessments would not be given this year after the U.S. Department of Education waived the requirements, including end-of-course exams, the SC READY test given to third through eighth grade students and the SC PASS test given to fourth and sixth grade students.
Since the directives do not guide districts whether to give tests or not during remote learning, it is left up to individual schools and districts to decide.
Teri Brinkman, a spokesperson for Greenville County Schools, said the district is still working through the directives to determine how it will affect Greenville students.
Ariel Gilreath is a watchdog reporter focusing on education and family issues with The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ArielGilreath.