Legal Update Memo No. 26-2020 – CDE Provides Information Related to Grading and Graduation (K-12)

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On April 1, 2020, the California Department of Education (“CDE”) released a Frequently Asked Questions (“The FAQ”) regarding grading and graduation requirements during this period of “distance learning.”[1]  The FAQ makes it clear that grading remains a local decision.  Here are some key takeaways:

  • In addition to traditionally used grading rubrics, which remain an option, Local Educational Agencies (“LEAs”) are permitted to award credit/no credit, pass/fail or a modified A-C or A–D as student grades. New distance learning and grading policies should be arrived at in consultation with the local bargaining unit and as reflected in locally-negotiated agreements.  Changes should be clearly communicated to staff, students, and families.[2]  Grading policies should, as always, take into consideration English Learners, homeless and foster youth, and differing access among students to digital learning and other tools or materials.
  • The University of California (“UC”), California State University (“CSU”), Community College systems and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities are willing to accept credit/no credit grades in lieu of letter grades for all courses, including A–G courses, completed in winter/spring/summer 2020 for all students. Grades of credit/no credit will not affect the UC or CSU calculations of GPA.
  • Spring semester grading decisions should take into consideration the way grades can or will be determined to illustrate overall performance. This determination should seek to support students in preserving the progress they made prior to school closures and enabling them to demonstrate further learning in ways that are appropriate to their context. Educators may need to consider their overall learning goals; alternative means of administering tests, projects, and other assessments; adaptations to assignments; revised weighing in individual teacher gradebooks; and prioritizing the assessment of student mastery of essential standards.
  • An LEA may seek a waiver of graduation requirements from the State Board of Education “for specific students.”[3] The CDE expects LEAs to enable students to complete state graduation requirements with the flexibility that may be necessary based upon “the nature of assignments and mode of grading during any period of school closure.”  Also, LEA boards may modify policies setting graduation requirements higher than the state minimum.
  • Attached to this Legal Update is a chart of second semester grading options being employed throughout the state, and considerations related to adopting these options.

Please contact our office with questions regarding this Legal Update or any other legal matter.

The information in this Legal Update is provided as a summary of law and is not intended as legal advice.  Application of the law may vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances at issue.  We, therefore, recommend that you consult legal counsel to advise you on how the law applies to your specific situation.

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[1] (last visited on April 2, 2020).

[2]  An exemplar is Palo Alto’s recent communication of its credit/no credit policy for the remainder of the school year:

[3]  As with any waiver request, the employee association must have an opportunity to participate in the development of the waiver and the waiver must be approved at a public hearing of the board. More information on the SBE waiver process can be found on the CDE Waiver web page at: