“Hold Harmless” Grading

The Francis Howell School District has decided it’s policy for online grading


Pencil and paper learning has become a thing of the past, now replaced by screens and keyboards. The concept of grading has also shifted in this abnormal time.

For a while, the Francis Howell School District has been wrestling with the issue of how grading will work during online classes, and in an extremely unpredictable time of life. On Thursday, April 2, the district had reached a consensus and sent out a blast email to all teachers, students, and parents in the district to address the major concern with online learning affecting grades in a negative way. 

The District understands these concerns and stated in their email, “We know that learning new material may be a challenge for students as they attempt to access learning in new ways without the typical supports provided at school.” 

The high school policy for grading that will immediately affect students and teachers at FHC states that grades will stay the same as where they were at the end of the third quarter. “The District will take a “hold harmless” approach to grading,” the blast email stated.

They can improve so that students who are putting in effort and completing assignments can achieve higher grades, if that is desired. However, if a student is not doing at least 75 percent of their classwork and assignments, their grades can be affected negatively after teacher and principal attempts to contact the student to see why assignments are not being completed. This decision was not made lightly, and according to Associate Principal Andrew Downs, a wide range of perspectives were collected in order to make the best decision possible. 

Many hours were spent talking about this decision.  It was not made quickly or without great thought and consideration. There were numerous meetings and the district leadership sought out the input of all staff members either through meetings or surveys,” Dr. Downs said. 

With that being said, this system of grading is new to not only students, but also teachers and administrators. It is going to take a group effort to combat any challenges it may spring up. 

“This  situation is not anything that I or anyone with whom I have worked has had to face,” Dr. Downs said. “It is very unique, and, obviously, I would love to have the opportunity to work with students and staff at school like we have in the past, but we cannot.  We are all working hard to make the best possible experience for our students, and I am proud of our staff’s effort to do that.”

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has also released statements as of March 19, in regards to how online learning and school closures will affect state wide testing. The Commissioner of Education, Margie Vandeven announced, “There is a time and a place for statewide required assessments and now is not the time. Effective immediately, Missouri will be canceling statewide required assessments for this school year.” Assessments like EOCs (End of Course exams) were included on the list. 

Following a similar approach, FHSD has decided to cancel all high school finals for this semester with the exception of AP classes and dual enrollment classes still having their tests being conducted. This will be the second semester this school year in which FHSD high schoolers have not had final exams that can hurt their grades. 

There may be some concerns surrounding data not being collected this year to compare to next year’s performance on final exams, but Dr. Downs asuringly said that is not a concern. 

“We have a lot of other data, such as formats throughout both semesters, to show student growth and to show us where students are in terms of meeting standards,” Dr. Downs explained. “We have data that we can use for comparison.”

The FHC administrators are confident in their teachers’ abilities to overcome the challenge of this grading system and support their students through the process as well. 

“The grading system was just shared recently, so teachers are just starting to adjust,” Dr. Downs said. “However, I know they will adjust and do a great job, as they love our students and want to give our students what they need in order to be successful.”