New Laws Provide Support and Flexibility to Students Following the 2020-2021 School Year
Assembly Bill 104, signed and filed on July 1, 2021 as an “urgency statute,” added three new sections to the California Education Code, operative immediately. Each section uniquely addresses public concerns with grading and student achievement during the 2020-2021 school year, resulting from distance learning and virtual education. Each of these sections and changes impact “public schools” including school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools. Some have short timelines and must be implemented immediately. The new laws include the following:
**Section 48071 – Supplemental Retention Process and Consideration
While public agencies have always adopted retention processes and procedures, this new law requires additional considerations above and beyond any existing policies and procedures, which remain undisturbed. This new law only applies to students in grades 11 and below who received “deficient grades” (defined as D, F, or No Pass) in at least half of the student’s coursework during the 2020-2021 school year. For these students, upon receipt of a request for retention for the 2021-2022 school year, the public agency must offer a consultation with the parent, student, administrator, and a teacher within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request. In the consultation meeting, the following must be discussed:
- Specific interventions and supports;
- Access to courses during the 2020-2021 school year in which the student received a deficient grade, some other form of credit recovery, or other support;
- Consideration of the student’s academic data and any other information relevant to whether retention is in the student’s best interests, academically and socially; and
- Discussion about research on the effects of student retention and the types of interventions and supports that have been shown to be beneficial to students generally.
A decision regarding retention must be made and the guardian/student notified within 10 calendar days of this meeting. If the student is retained, the student must be offered supplemental interventions and support. If the student is not retained, the student must be offered specific interventions and support and the ability to either re-take the courses from the 2020-2021 school year in which the student received a deficient score or engage in credit recovery support.
**Section 49066.5 – High School Students May Request Grade Changes to Pass/No Pass For Classes Taken During the 2020-2021 School Year
It is well established in California that absent specific circumstances, as outlined in Section 49066, a teacher’s grade is final. A challenge to the teacher’s grade involves specific procedures. Without changing or modifying these procedures to a “grade challenge,” Education Code section 49066.5 permits students (and their guardians) to request a grade change from a letter grade earned in the 2020-2021 school year to a designation of “pass” or “no pass.”
Under section 49066.5, any student who was enrolled in a public high school during the 2020-2021 school year, may request that a course letter grade on the student’s transcript for a course taken during the 2020-2021 school year be changed to “pass” or “no pass.” Making this change may not negatively impact the student’s grade point average, and the public agency may not place a limit on the number of courses the student requests to have changed. The Legislature has included provisions that prohibit this change from impacting eligibility for financial aid, requires the California State University System to accept “pass/no pass” grades, and encourages other post-secondary institutions (specifically, the University of California and private postsecondary educational institutions) to do so as well.
To assist compliance with section 49066.5, the California Department of Education developed a template to request this change. Public agencies must post this template on their websites and provide specific written notice of the process for the request to the eligible students/guardians within 15 days of the template’s development (post now!), as well as a list of postsecondary institutions who will accept pass/no pass grades (said list to be provided by the California Department of Education) and a disclaimer that some postsecondary institutions, including those in other states, may not accept pass/no pass grades for admissions purposes. Students/guardians have 15 calendar days after the notice is posted and provided by the public agency to request an application for this change and the public agency has 15 calendar days after receipt of the request to make the change. After this window closes, no requests will be accepted and the student’s grades will remain final unless the existing formal grade challenge process outlined in section 49066 is followed.
**Section 51225 – Students Who Were In Their Third of Fourth Year of High School During The 2020-2021 Who Are NOT On-Track To Timely Graduate May Receive Additional Support
Section 51225 applies only to students who were in their third or fourth year of high school during the 2020-2021 school year and who are not on track to timely graduate, including meeting all the individual district, county or charter school requirements. For these students, the following apply:
(1) For students not on track to graduate in four years, students are exempt from coursework and other requirements adopted by the public agency that are in addition to the coursework required by Education Code section 51225.3.
(2) For students not on track to graduate in either the 2020-2021 or 2021-2022 school year, students shall be offered the opportunity to complete the coursework required by Education Code section 51225.3. Such opportunity may include, but is not limited to, a fifth year of instruction or credit recovery.
As noted above, these changes became operative upon signing of the law and public agencies must work to ensure these new timelines for retention requests and grade changes are followed while also ensuring that the necessary supports and services are in place for the students referenced in these laws. If you have specific questions about how these changes apply in your public agency, contact us.