Pass/Fail, Exempt FAQ
Mt. Lebanon School District Pass/Fail, Exempt FAQ
- Why was P/F, Exempt selected?
Pass/Fail, exempting the grade from the QPA, is a long-standing practice in the District for students with extenuating circumstances, particularly circumstances that result in a modification to the curriculum or assessment strategies used in the classroom.
- Was there a modification to the curriculum or assessment strategies during FID or S@H to warrant P/F, Exempt consideration?
Yes. During FID and S@H, faculty are utilizing an Essential Curriculum Framework to guide the delivery of instruction. Big Ideas, Core Concepts and Competencies, and Essential Questions aligned to Standards and Assessment Anchors, and where appropriate, Eligible Content are the faculty’s focus.
The modifications required to implement an Essential Curriculum Framework using online and asynchronous instruction impact the fullness and depth of content covered and assessed. As an example, the District has eliminated High School Blue Book assessments and final exams so that teachers can focus on the essential curriculum with students.
- Was a student’s access to FID & S@H instruction a factor in the decision to use the P/F, Exempt strategy?
Yes. Equity with respect to all students’ ability to access the instruction, and providing protection to all students, especially those who were unable to access their education, were substantial considerations.
To date, the District has deployed 775 chromebooks across the district to 597 families. There are 237 high school students living in homes where one or more chromebooks have been provided by the District. And, the District has deployed 16 mifi devices. This need was heavily considered in deciding to use the P/F, Exempt strategy.
The sentiments in this recent Harvard University article, explaining their approach and that of other peer universities, aligns closely to the thinking of our District leadership team.
- Was abruptly transitioning to an online teaching and learning environment for students and faculty a factor in the decision to use the P/F, Exempt strategy?
Yes. Our District is very conscious of the fact that we had to abruptly stop the teaching and learning process in a brick and mortar school setting and transition quickly to an online environment. During the time leading up to school closure, faculty were at various stages of delivering the curriculum, and students were away from their classrooms for a number of reasons, resulting in outstanding/deficient assignments and assessments.
Furthermore, building the students’ and faculty’s ability to be successful in this new, asynchronous online mode of instruction is a process. It takes time. As student and faculty abilities improve with asynchronous instruction, it is important to the District that everyone can access their education, stay focused on the teaching and learning process, and find success. The P/F, Exempt strategy provides this opportunity.
- Who was involved in the discussions about using the P/F system?
Arriving at the decision to use the P/F system was a collaborative approach that included the Superintendent of Schools, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education, Director of Special Education, Director of Technology, Building Principals K-12, Secondary Department Chairs (teacher leaders), Elementary Facilitators (teacher leaders), and parents.
- Was parent perspective considered in the discussion about using the P/F system?
Yes. Formal engagement with our partners of the Mt. Lebanon PTA Council leadership was part of the decision-making process. Informal engagement of parents also occurred. And through email and phone conversation with parents, input was received. Many of our principals, department chairs, counselors, and administrators are also parents in the District.
- Did the School Board have to vote on the implementation of the P/F, Exempt strategy?
No. A review of Board policy and past practice indicated that this was not required. This was confirmed through consultation and review by the Solicitor's office.
- Were other factors considered in arriving at the decision to use a P/F, Exempt system?
Yes. Our District wanted to be sensitive to the issues our families are dealing with as a result of this worldwide pandemic. We know there are families who have been impacted by the economy and are now trying to figure out how to financially manage. We know there are families who have been impacted by the virus, both students and family members, and are trying to sort through health issues. We know there are families that are under extreme stress and anxiety because of the change in living expectations. Moving to the P/F, Exempt system provides our students and families the greatest flexibility and protection in light of these factors.
- What information from the colleges/universities was considered in this decision?
The District benchmarked its decision to use the P/F, Exempt strategy against messaging that is coming from colleges/universities. Our School Counseling Department solicited feedback and reviewed information from top tier colleges/universities regarding how they are planning to treat a student’s admission profile. Provided in the April Counseling Bulletin are statements from colleges/universities as to how they plan to take an informed position about a student’s transcript from this semester. As our School Counselors continue to contact colleges/universities, they have provided an updated list as to how colleges/universities plan to take an informed position about a student's transcript from this semester in the May Counseling Bulletin. Another good point of reference is this Washington Post article from a college admission’s Dean. The District is aware that most colleges/universities normally recalculate students’ QPA as it is reported from families across the country and world, in context of their specific admission criteria.
- Will colleges/universities be notified of Mt. Lebanon’s approach to grading during COVID-19 school closure?
Yes. Mt. Lebanon High School will make a notation on both its transcript and school profile that a P/F, Exempt grading system was implemented for all second semester grades for the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This notation will be made for the Classes of 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
- Is grading standardized across high schools and how do colleges/universities handle this?
No. Prior to COVID-19, High Schools across the Commonwealth had variations in their grading practices that are unique to their school community. This holds true as Districts and high schools respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an example, colleges/universities recognize that schools weight Honors and Advanced Placement courses differently, assuming that they offer such courses, which creates variation in a student profile, e.g., Central Catholic (an A+ in an AP course = 6.0 QPA points), Upper St. Clair (an A in AP Course = 4.25 QPA points), and Mt. Lebanon High School (an A in an AP course = 5.5 QPA points). In order for colleges/universities to normalize applicants, they reconfigure QPA for the individual student in context of their specific admission criteria.
- Does Mt. Lebanon High School calculate quarterly grades into the QPA and record them on a transcript?
No. Only semester grades are calculated into the QPA and recorded on the transcript. First semester grades and associated QPA points from the 2019-2020 school year are included on a student’s transcript.
- Will students continue to receive the QPA add-on of .05 points to weighted QPA for taking 6 credits each semester?
Yes. The District’s grading system for all students in the 2019-2020 2nd semester is P/F. Consistent with past practice, students will receive the .05 points to the weighted QPA if they have taken 6 courses for the second semester.
- Were other grading methods considered?
Yes. Based on available information, a number of grading strategies were considered at the onset of school closure that included: 1) Awarding letter grades in the traditional sense; 2) Providing choice to students to select between letter grades and P/F; 3) Employing the P/F, Exempt strategy; and 4) Employing a P/F, Award QPA points strategy. P/F, Exempt was determined to be the most equitable and reasonable course of action aligned to long-standing practices.
- Were the strategies that other area high schools are using considered?
Yes. Strategies employed by Districts like Pine Richland, Upper St. Clair, North Allegheny, South Fayette, Bethel Park, Fox Chapel, Peters Township, Upper Dublin, and Central Bucks were considered. As the worldwide pandemic has advanced since March 13, 2020, each of these school districts, as well as probably many others, have considered their grading practices and have been responding to questions/concerns from within their respective communities.
We are aware that some neighboring high schools’ calculations look different than ours. We firmly believe that receiving an “A” and all associated QPA points for a “P” (4.0 for Academic, 5.0 for Honors, and 5.5 for Advanced Placement) creates an inequitable situation for our student body.
- How does the P/F, Exempt strategy affect high school students and QPA?
All students’ QPA will remain as reported at the conclusion of 1st semester of the 2019-2020 school year. For students who take six classes, they will receive the .05 add-on, and their QPA may increase by .1 (depending on rounding).
- What statement will occur on all transcripts for the Classes of 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023?
Due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mt. Lebanon School District adopted mandatory pass/fail grading, not included in weighted or unweighted QPA calculations, for spring semester 2020.
- What statement will be included in the High School Profile and school counselor recommendations for these same classes of students?
Due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mt. Lebanon School District adopted mandatory pass/fail grading, not included in weighted or unweighted QPA calculations, for spring semester 2020. Ensuring equity for all students and presenting a transcript that considered the extenuating circumstances of our students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic were of critical importance to the District. We recognize that schools nationwide are using a variety of methods to assign credit on the transcript for spring 2020. To ensure that all Mt. Lebanon students receive appropriate consideration when being compared for admission and/or merit scholarships, we request that the admission officer or scholarship committee contact our student’s School Counselor if there are any questions about our method.
- What statement will be included on the “Grades to Date - March 13, 2020” report that a family can request from their school counselor should they wish to provide this additional information on college application?
This PDF shows the student’s grades as of March 13, 2020, the last date that students were physically in our school building prior to closing as a result of COVID-19. Due to the fact that our school closed abruptly, this March 13th “Grades to Date” report is a snapshot in time and may or may not be a true reflection of the student’s actual grade on that date since we operate on a semester, not quarter, basis. Students may have had missing work or ungraded assignments that were not factored into the “Grades to Date” snapshot. We request that the admission officer or a scholarship committee contact our student’s School Counselor if there are any questions about this report. We began online learning on March 30, 2020. Due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mt. Lebanon School District adopted mandatory pass/fail grading, not included in weighted or unweighted QPA calculations, for spring semester 2020.