Written by Katherine Welander
Earlier this month, Shared Decision-Making Site Council (SDMSC) Chair John Giambruno presented M-A’s grade breakdown for this year’s fall semester. Overall, the data shows an increase in As and a decrease in Fs between this year and last year’s fall semesters, but the grade disparity between ethnic groups remains the same.
Giambruno explained that given the transition from distance learning to in-person, this year might have been easier, a “lay-up year,” and that it should be noted that “there’s so many variables that go into combining that data. Between COVID-19, return to school, stress, changes to school personnel, it’s a lot.”
Principal Karl Losekoot said the goal of looking at this data is “always to identify areas that are working and areas that are not, reflect on best practices, and figure out better ways of supporting students.” He explained some of the key ways M-A is doing this such as “supporting professional development around standards based grading, release days for teachers to collaborate around curriculum and best practice instruction, professional development around creating productive student talk in the classroom, and individual coaching for teachers.”
“The good news is that we have more ‘As’ and we have fewer ‘Fs’ than we did last year,” Giambruno said. “This could be because of distance learning, and there’s probably a lot of other reasons for that.” He added that while As are “only up five percentage points, we’re trending in the right direction.”
Below are graphs showing the overall grade breakdown from the 2020 and 2021 fall semesters.
P/CR means a student passed the class or received credit for it.
Grade Distribution Fall 2021
Grade Distribution Fall 2020
However, the larger issue that this data illustrates is the large gap between the grades of the various ethnic groups on campus. Giambruno explained, “The trend is still there though, and the eyeopener, the place where we need work, is this one where there’s a clear line being drawn where if you are Caucasian or white you have way more of the A percentage than any other race, and if you are Latino, you have way more of the failing percentage. It’s like a stepladder, and it’s harsh.”
Below are graphs showing the grade breakdown by ethnicity from the 2020 and 2021 fall semesters.
Grade Breakdown by Ethnicity Fall 2021
Grade Breakdown by Ethnicity Fall 2020
Most noticeably, white students make up the largest portion of As and Bs, with 62% of As and 43% of Bs, while Latinx students earn the majority of Cs, Ds, and Fs, with 52%, 65%, and 70% respectively. Giambruno added, “There are also some dire stats with other groups like African American or Pacific Islander, but the percentages are so small they can be discussed away by a lot of variables, whereas [the gap between white and Latinx students] is so big it’s like, we need to do better. That’s the bottom line. We need to do better when it comes to racial equity in our grades.”
M-A offers many resource to students such as after school tutoring, the writing center, peer tutoring, and works with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the 49ers Academy, Star Vista, and Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, but Losekoot said, “We can still do a better job of connecting students to these resources or finding ways to tap into student interests, understanding student perspectives, and building even stronger relationships with students so that students are more engaged in both the classroom as well as the resources available outside of the classroom.”
Giambruno said, “This whole grade discussion started as a way to look at a subject being taught by multiple teachers and see how that grade distribution lined up. You could have one teacher have a completely different experience than another teacher, and we don’t share that data digitally, but it’s actually improved quite well.” He continued that “it’s my hope that by looking at the racial breakdown of these grades, that I can say the same thing, five, eight years from now, that it’s now completely even or that the disparities aren’t there. But they are there right now, and the hope is to improve the experience for all students so it’s as equitable as possible.”
“What’ll be really interesting is next year,” Giambruno added, “Doing this again next year will be big to see. ‘Are we continuing the trend, or is it stagnant, or is it reversing?’”