Q+A: Principal Dr. Bryan Brockett on new grading policy


Finn Corrigan, Editor-in-Chief

Carlsbad Unified School District released new grading policies for remote learning on Apr. 27. High school students at Carlsbad and Sage Creek have the option to receive credit/no credit grades or traditional letter grades, which count towards cumulative GPA. With both choices, students’ grades cannot fall below their standings on Mar. 13, per the district’s “do no harm” policy. Credit/no credit is the default and requires no action from students while opting for traditional letter grades requires students to fill out a Google form (which can be found in their emails) by May 4. We reached out to Principal Dr. Bryan Brockett to find out more about this new policy.


Lancer Link: How does credit/no credit grading work?

Bryan Brockett: Students will see in their Aeries portal their March 13 grade. That was the day we should have ended the first progress reporting period for the second semester. Since we went into such an unusual situation we froze those grades at that time and we’ve been sitting in this holding pattern ever since. Those grades [were] posted on Friday. Essentially, if a student is passing their classes at that time, that is to say they have a D or better in those classes, and they opt for the credit, they can do no worse than earning credit for all those classes for the semester. The flipside is, if a student was not passing one or more classes at the point in time then they would have the opportunity during this second grading period, which starts Monday May 4 and goes through Jun. 11, then they will be able to turn that into a passing grade.

LL: Which is a better option?

BB: I think it’s an individual decision based on the students’ grades, their circumstances, how they’re being impacted by the closure, what kinds of things are going on in their lives, potentially their plans long term, things like that. It’s hard for me to even advise on that because everything is such a person-by-person decision. I think it’s fair to say, and I get the concern about college admissions in future years, that every student in the United States and probably the world has been in a similar situation in this time period that we’ve been in. I think that it’s fair to say that every student will have an asterisk on their transcript for spring 2020, whether their district chose to go with grades or credit/no credit. It’s going to be taken within the context of what we’re dealing with and that it’s going to be the entirety of their transcript that will make the difference for them in terms of college admissions and scholarships.

LL: If a student is satisfied with their Mar. 13 grade, what will stop them from not doing any work? Why should they still participate?


What I would love to say is that it’s just a love of learning. One of our goals is to develop students that are interested in learning, the term we hear a lot in education is that they are lifelong learners. I understand that level of intrinsic motivation for a student is also dependent on us as educators providing relevant and meaningful work for that student to do. So my hope is that over the course of this semester that we will see both of those things play out. That would be my greatest hope, that teachers will be focused on providing things that are relevant and meaningful to students and that may not always be things that students see that way. Some of those things might look more mundane in a student’s eyes but they are valuable for the future. I would love to see us doing things that are maybe out of the norm of what we would usually do and put things in students’ hands that are of value to them.

My realistic, pessimistic answer is that if a student on March 13 was passing all their classes with the “do no harm principle” and they’re happy with where they stand, they could go and not do anything else and be fine. I certainly hope that’s not the case. I get that there are individual circumstances where that could play out. I get where that can be a challenge for our seniors in particular who know where they’re going. It is going to be hard for them to find that motivation to stay engaged. I do think there are some meaningful things teachers can do and are planning to do as well that can help with that.

LL: Can you explain the “do no harm principle”?

BB: From a grading standpoint, what we’re talking about there is that we want to make sure that the students are not not negatively impacted from a grading standpoint for circumstances that were out of their control. That’s where March 13 as a freeze point comes in. They’re not going to go down from where they were previously. We certainly don’t want to take away any opportunities from students based on this situation either so we will look to make sure any concerns around those areas are addressed, to the degree it’s appropriate, to the benefit of the student.

LL: If a student fails a class in either model what happens?

BB: It’s the same as normal. To be completely honest, my message and encouragement to teachers is that we want to really go the extra mile to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here and try to get them across that finish line. There are going to be students who were failing as of March 13 and who do not make the effort to get going between May 4 and June 11. I hope that students who might be of that mindset look at it and say, ‘Hey I got an opportunity to jump in here and do four of five weeks worth of focused work.’ Most students aren’t failing all their classes, some students might be failing one of their classes so they can focus on that work for a short period of time and help themselves in a way that doesn’t negatively impact them long term. We’re continuing to do reach outs, in some way we’ve made contact with more than 99 percent of our students so we have a very small handful now that we haven’t made any contact with yet. We’re going to continue that effort.

LL: Will finals still take place?

BB:Our encouragement is that finals will not take place in a traditional sense. I think that there are obviously issues when we look at testing in a remote environment in terms of integrity. We are really encouraging teachers to look at this from an opportunity to do some different approaches. In some classes you might still see what looks like a more traditional test. I certainly hope that week of July 11 we are not taking what we traditionally think of as our semester finals. In any event, the way that the grading period has worked out I think it almost lends itself to having to look at it differently anyway.

LL: Will grades from this semester impact Royal Lancers and class rank for future seniors?

BB: If one chooses grades, they will be calculated in the GPA. If one chooses credit/no credit, they will not be calculated in the GPA. We don’t officially use class rank as a factor at our school, although we recognize a valedictorian and salutatorian and we do the Royal Lancers so how or if we adapt and adjust those things is not something we’ve had any discussion about at this point nor would I encourage a student to make a decision based solely on those factors.

LL: How will this impact colleges seniors are going to?

BB: I would definitely recommend that a senior reach out to their college that they are planning to attend to confirm that. I would assume that most if not all schools have this information readily available on their websites right now. We know about a significant portion of schools that have said that, obviously the UC’s and CSU’s have given that information. A number of private schools have said that already. If it were me, I would double check that for whatever school I was thinking about going to.

LL: Since community service requirements were waived for graduating seniors, what will happen to seniors who need to complete PE credit?

BB: Athletic PE is being treated the same way as the credit piece, that’s already a credit/no credit situation so they’ll be fine with that. 

We did waive the community service requirement for two reasons. One, we know that a lot of students had completed the community service but hadn’t turned in that information. From a practical standpoint right now we didn’t really have a great opportunity to collect that. In addition to that, we had students who did need to complete hours and in the current environment, although we tried to provide some opportunities and guides about online options the reality is those were impractical as well, once we had the ability to look at waiving that requirement we felt like that was in the best interest of our students and stuff.

Community service is another one of those things that I throw in the lifelong learning category. We hope that if students did the community service they got something good out of it and it’s something they will continue to do. For students that may not have, I communicated to them that they have an opportunity to do community service right now by abiding by the stay at home orders and helping their community in that way. I think we get hung up sometimes on keeping track of our hours, like our grades, as opposed to the real benefit we can gain and give back to other people. I hope this is an opportunity for folks to reflect on that.

LL: What will happen to summer school?

BB: No word yet on summer school. Our next step is that we’re waiting on some updated guidance from the county health department and the San Diego County Office of Education. We expect that will come later this week as existing health orders expire. As it relates to schools, we’re still gonna wait and see. 

I think our district has done a great job of practically and conservatively approaching this situation, we haven’t jumped the gun on making any decisions without making sure those are based on the recommendations we are getting. There probably is some frustration, and I get questions every once in a while, about why don’t we just cancel school for the year. The reality is that that’s not necessarily the guidance despite what we hear from politicians or out in the community. There has been no executive order issues to close school for the year. There has been no guidance or direction from the California Department of Education or the county office of education to do so. We’re going to wait and see what their next step is. I think that we can all realistically look at that and say that it’s unlikely that we would be continuing in any capacity but I think that we should base that not upon our own feelings but on the best guidance that we get from the experts in this area. Summer school fits into that but when we get that updated guidance, we’ll see where we stand with that. 

Obviously graduation fits into that boat as well. There are even a couple of end of the year senior activities that we haven’t officially cancelled yet I would be skeptical that a Magic Mountain trip is going to happen but we are waiting to get the updated health orders and to hear from Magic Mountain. Grad Night was cancelled because ultimately Disneyland came out and cancelled all grad nights so that was not even a decision that we had to weigh. I think it was still in everyone’s best interest to wait and see how that played out and we’ll do the same with the few remaining things we have this year.

LL: Given recent comments by Governor Newsom, do you think it’s likely that school could be back as usual in August?

BB: We were all a little surprised by that. I give the governor a lot of credit, I think he’s done a great job with communication and management of our situation. There have been a couple times, from a school standpoint, where a couple comments have come out that have caused people to say, ‘Woah what’s that?’ A couple weeks ago was the one about schools being cancelled for the year and that was a decision that had not entirely been made yet. The one [Tuesday], we got follow up messages from both the county office of education and the state superintendent that there’s a long way to go in terms of planning before we are anywhere close to talking about modifications to next fall’s schedule. There’s a lot of work to do on that. On the county level, there is a task force looking at that from a San Diego County perspective and Rick Grove from our district is a part of that which is great. My understanding is that they’re going to offer some guidance or recommendations to county schools somewhere around mid-May. That’s another big indicator that we will be looking at.