Will Grades Count for 2019-2020 School Year?


Stella Gunn, News Editor

Imagine this: you work tirelessly on an assignment but  when you go to submit it, all of your progress is suddenly erased. For students at Charlottesville High School, we don’t have to imagine — except it wasn’t a single assignment, it was all of our grades from the 2019-2020 school year. In our hasty transition from in-person school to online in the Spring, some drastic decisions had to be made. The Charlottesville City Schools Division decided to completely erase the GPA’s from the whole 2019-2020 school year. This was a controversial decision, but it was made with the intent of lightening the stress from the students, but for some it may have done the opposite.

The choice to erase all the grades from the 2019-2020 school year goes much deeper than this single incident. It brings to light problems with academic equity that have been present for a long long time prior to this past school year. The main argument for wiping the transcripts clean was to benefit the students who didn’t have access to online resources in the rushed upheaval, but the choice to retroactively eliminate the grades from the whole year seemed excessive since students were only out of school starting March 10th. Why not keep the grades from August to March?

From March 13th to the end of the school year, not a single grade was recorded. All students were aware that school work completed from March 13th to the end of the 2019-20 school year was optional and would not count towards their final grade, but the prior grades that were erased were not even affected by online learning because they were recorded before the quarantine even happened. If a student was failing a course prior to the shutdown the work was critical to be completed.  Therefore It is confusing to many why the whole school years grades were altered. 

Dr. Irizary, the CHS principle, provided some clarity on the situation and gave some insight on how our transcripts will be presented. In the spring, the School Board decided to have anyone that had above a failing grade have a recorded A. If a student had a failing grade, they could do some make up work to get to a 69% or above, which would count as an A. As of now,everyone either has an A or an F on their transcript. As far as GPAs go, none of these As or Fs will hold weight towards it. GPAs from the 2019-2020 school year do not exist, it simply reverts back to whatever GPA you had prior to the start of the school year. 

This was detrimental to Honor Roll students who worked incessantly for the grades they earned. Many other public and private schools in the area chose to keep grades intact, which posed the question of how will high achieving students at C.H.S. be compared to students who attended different schools and still have a transcript, and will this limit their acceptance into competitive colleges? There has been no clear reassurance on the matter because of these unprecedented times, but some have said students will only be compared to other students from their same school.

Aside from the direct problem at hand, another factor is the lack of communication between Charlottesville City Schools and students. In a recent survey, 53.8% of students said they were not aware that grades from the 2019-2020 school year will not be recorded. How would they know? There have been no announcements or emails sent to students that explain these drastic changes. The lack of input from students and parents leads to a decision that many are unhappy with and many are still unaware of. 

A sophomore at C.H.S. said in response to learning this was the case, “That sucks – I put a lot of effort into getting all A’s and maintaining them throughout the year, and I think it is ridiculous for them to have done that, especially since COVID meant that our grades did not change and could only improve during the asynchronous virtual learning that we did. I don’t think that people’s grades should just be thrown out like that.” Another similar response from sophomore Ari M. was, “I don’t think it’s fair to throw away our grades from the whole year because the last few months were virtual. They should’ve just nullified our grades from March 10th onward.”

When asked about the choice to rework the whole year’s grades instead of just the months that students were online, Dr. Irizary said “We tried to look at the most equitable thing to do for all students and try to figure out what’s the best way to alleviate the stress and anxiety of going into that third quarter […] It was based on what was best for students’ mental health and what was best for students at every grade level going forward […] We were trying to make sure that C.H.S. students were not penalized because of the school’s shutdown.”

This takes us back to an earlier point about equity. Although this decision may not have been beneficial to students in the top percentiles of academic success, that group happens to be predominantly in a economically privileged category. Many students begin to make up work in the later quarters to ensure they finish with a grade they are happy with, so with the year cut short many did not have the opportunity to do this. Some did not have the resources available to try and improve their grades virtually, whether that was a lack of internet connection, teacher guidance, or technological device. This helps to understand why this decision was made to represent those who did not have equal opportunities in the face of online learning. 

It seems like there were many options for how to deal with our transcripts, and many think the School Board could have come up with a fairer option by letting students voice their opinions on the matter. One student suggested: “I wish we had the option to opt in/out of reporting the grades from last year.” Another suggestion was: “I would have had them recorded as normal — college admissions and anyone else who looks at them will know that was the year that COVID hit, and will adjust accordingly.” These times have been particularly hard on schools, and it’s extremely difficult to make these decisions in the face of so much uncertainty, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that everything is subject to change. Remember Black Knights, even though this decision may not have helped you, it helped a lot of students and has no negative impact on you.