CDE Issues Guidance on Grading, Graduation and College Admissions


On April 1, 2020 the California Department of Education issued detailed guidance regarding K-12 grading and graduation requirements, as well as college admissions. The guidance addresses specific questions regarding grading and graduation requirements, as well as college admissions.

Grading Policies

The Guidance acknowledges that “LEAs have the authority to determine how final grades will be assigned and teachers have final discretion when assigning grades.”  This statement effectively captures the distinction between grading policies, which are adopted by school boards, and individual student grades, which are assigned by teachers.

Education Code § 49067 authorizes school boards to “prescribe regulations regarding the evaluation of each pupil’s achievement,” i.e. to adopt grading policies.  Such policies are not a mandatory subject of bargaining under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) (Gov. Code § 3540 et seq.).

Operating within the grading policies established by the school board, the teacher has authority to assign the student’s grade, and the teacher’s decision is final except in cases of mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency (Ed. Code § 49066).

Graduation Requirements

The Guidance also acknowledges that where local school boards have established graduation requirements which exceed state requirements, “[t]he local governing board has the authority to revise [the] policy” setting graduation requirements.  Any such revisions, however, must be consistent with State-adopted minimum graduation requirements. (Ed. Code § 51225.3 et seq.).

In this regard, CDE also clarified that the California high school graduation requirements remain in effect and LEAs are expected to enable students to complete these requirements.  However, LEAs may submit a request for a waiver of graduation requirements for specific students.  Such requests should be submitted to the State Board of Education.

College Admission Requirements

The CDE confirmed that certain in-state university systems (University of California, California State University, Community College systems and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities) will accept credit/ no credit grades in lieu of letter grades for courses completed in the winter, spring and summer 2020.  The university systems issued a joint statement regarding other college requirement flexibilities.  CDE did not address whether out-of-state colleges/universities are offering similar flexibility.

Our friends at Capital Advisors Group also indicate the UC and Cal State systems have both determined they will not consider letter grades in A-G or AP courses for Winter, Spring and Summer of this year and will only consider grades during those terms on a pass/fail basis, regardless of the approach taken by local school districts.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR presentation/publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.

©2020 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo

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