By Heather Janssen

JACKSON (CBS13) — Many students across Northern California are struggling with distance learning. One local school district is changing its grading scale to help some students make the grade.

“The kids are falling behind,” said Lisa McKee, who has a daughter in the Amador County Unified School District. She’s witnessed the hardships the school year has presented during the pandemic and says most families are having a hard time.

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“Kids aren’t doing as well as they were,” McKee said.

Amador County Unified noticed that and said more students are failing than normal school years. The district has allowed the grading scale to change, allowing more students the chance to pass.

But some teachers aren’t too keen on the idea. English teacher Cameron Duggan spoke at a Monday night school board meeting to express his frustration.

“I, and my colleagues, take pride in creating a safe environment for failure,” Duggan told the school board.

The change was made at an administrative level, not voted on by the board.

“Students who deserve to pass will pass. Students who deserve to fail will fail,” he said. “Because I’m a professional and know how to do my job.”

Duggan emphasized he and his fellow teachers have put in a lot of work this year and felt discounted by the change.

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“(We have) worked tirelessly this past summer, and this past semester, to ensure that all students had equitable access to the curricula,” he told the board.

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Teachers reportedly received an email from the administration announcing the change to the grading scale. Under it, students who score anything above 49% could have the chance to pass their class. But the district said final grading decisions are still ultimately left up to the teachers.

In a statement, Superintendent Dr. Amy L. Slavensky said:

“We remain focused on student success, support, and high expectations for learning. We also want to offer our students lifelines, especially for those who are experiencing circumstances and home conditions beyond their control, honoring student effort and motivation.”

Some parents feel thankful for this new consideration, as some who were once successful students barely hang on. Others, like McKee, aren’t sure it’s right for students’ futures.

“They’re getting robbed of their education,” McKee said.

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The ACUSD said the new grading scale is in place for the 2020-2021 school year.

Heather Janssen