Oak Park and River Forest High School students push for 'no fail' grading policy

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- A group of students want the grading policy changed at Oak Park and River Forest High School in light of remote learning.

It's been a challenging year of learning for all students, but a group of Oak Park River Forest High School students said Wednesday it's been especially hard on Black and Latino kids.

"In the middle of the year, I got COVID and that made my grades fall real bad," said Marlene Meraz, a freshman at Oak Park River Forest High School.

When it comes to letter grades, the students are asking the school board for some empathy.

"We don't agree with the high school's decision to maintain an A to F grading scale," sophomore Jacob Diaz said. "We've had family members pass away, we've been severely affected by COVID-19."

The students are asking the board to give students the option to opt out of grade-based assessments, not fail any student for Spring semester and allow seniors with any F's to graduate.

In a written statement, OPRF school administrators say the school board will consider the students' requests, but time is running out. Classes end for seniors this week and for the rest of the students next week.

OPRF administration said it has taken several steps to help struggling students, like eliminating 2nd semester final exams and providing one-on-one tutoring, but some students and their parents say it is not enough.

"What they are neglecting to see is that this pandemic requires drastic measures," parent Cynthia Brito said.

Grading fairness during the pandemic is something school communities throughout the state are trying to figure out.

UIC Education Psychology Professor Kathleen Sheridan said schools must listen to students and be empathetic. She said college and university admissions staff must look at students holistically.

"We are not just looking at pass no pass or their grade point average, there are a lot of ways we look at students, including their essays, what their course load was," Sheridan said.

Education experts say when it comes to admissions, the pandemic year must be considered for years to come.
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