Analyzing the steps of the grade basement


Colin Davis

Staff writer Colin Davis talks to NPHS principal Pete Nicholson about students’ grades in a virtual world.

Starting off the 2020-2021 school year, North Penn knew they would need to adapt. With school having to be online for over half of the first semester, some students were having trouble adapting to the new learning environment and falling behind. This is to no fault of the student as it is known there are a multitude of learning types in the world, including being a hands-on learner, which would be a disadvantage in the remote learning environment. Realizing this increase in failing grades from students, Principal Pete Nicholson and North Penn leadership came up with a system to help get these students back up to speed.

The grade recovery system connects students with counselors to help students assess the struggle they are dealing with in a specific class and discuss how they can get their grades up. The recovery also includes meeting with tutors to help make up missing assignments and tackle current work that the student is having trouble with.

“What we looked at was a one-time way to try and help a student dig out of a bad situation,” said Principal Nicholson. “If a student is struggling and around a 40% in a marking period, we are looking to get them up to a 60% and that way,  if they do well in the following marking periods, there is still a way for them to pass the course.”

The process is not an automatic boost in grades for the student. The student will work for a period of time with staff to catch up but, they must still show effort of their own. If a student does go back to struggling or slacking off and not taking it seriously, they will still get a low grade and not be able to pass.

“It’s really a two-way street,” said Nicholson. “The student still has to show up to class and do the work. It is not a free pass and if they won’t do the work, they will still end up failing the class.”

The process did have a slight pushback over concerns that this would discourage students from taking the school work seriously. No one wanted to see someone be rewarded for doing no work, while students are doing their due diligence and getting their passing grades the hard way. Principal Nicholson assured any opposers that this was not the case.

“We talk a lot about equality vs equity in the district,” said Nicholson. “This is more along the lines of equity. A 60% is still a failing grade. With a far outlier like a 30% in a marking period for a semester course, it is possible to pass even with a 100% in the second marking period. So for these students being affected, it is the best case to just get them up and have them pass with a D rather than fail the course.”

There are a multitude of districts that even if you do not do a single piece of work all year you can not earn less than 50%. While not sure if North Penn would ever switch to that format, Nicholson believes that this recovery system is something they will assess whether to keep or not.
“When we are back in the building with 3,000 students it is something we will look at,” said Nicholson. “We are going to have to critically look at it and discuss whether it was successful and something we keep or something that did not work out and move forward.”

The recovery process or any help needed at all can be started by reaching out to your guidance counselor, who can be found in your home office or reached via email.