AB 104 Explained: California Gives Students New Grading Options

AB 104 Explained: California Gives Students New Grading Options (Photo: Angelina Litvin/Unsplash)

As schools across the country begin to reopen this fall, many students are still trying to heal from a year of distance learning. During the 2020-2021 school year, the pandemic took a toll on many students’ education, and grades took a significant dip

But in states like California, those worried about fallen grades will at least have options to move forward.

In July, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on Assembly Bill 104, intended to provide learning recovery options to high schoolers during the 2020-2021 school year. The bill, drafted by San Diego Assembly Member Lorena Gonzales, hopes to account for the various struggles students faced over the past year of virtual school.

So there’s a bill in place, but how does AB 104 help students? Here’s a breakdown of what options are given to students and how lawmakers are hoping to get classrooms back on track.

What Even Is AB 104?

AB 104 proposes three options towards learning recovery: (1) pass/no pass grading, (2) student retention and (3) altered graduation requirements.

1. High school students may opt for a pass/no pass grade on their transcript instead of taking a letter grade. And there’s no limit on the number of courses they can apply “pass/no pass” to.

2. Students who received D’s and/or F’s in half or more of their courses may apply to retake their grade level. The student’s administrators and teachers will discuss with parents/guardians about available learning recovery options, before making a final decision. After a consultation, if retaking the grade level is not in the student’s best interest, the student would be provided access to credit recovery options such as taking remedial courses.

3. Students who were in their junior and senior year and are not on track to graduate will be exempted from local graduation requirements. In order to graduate, they would need to only complete California’s requirements. These students are also eligible for other opportunities, including a fifth year of high school, if necessary to fulfill all mandatory state graduation coursework. 

How Does it Impact You as a Student in California?

Though AB 104 appears to have positive ramifications for students affected by the pandemic, there are a few important caveats to consider. 

Pass/No Pass

With many students having struggled to strike a rhythm during distance learning, pass/no pass is an opportunity to revisit fallen scores. 

Under AB 104, students can only opt for pass/no pass if the change doesn’t negatively impact their GPA. So students can keep their letter grade if it’ll be to their benefit.

All California public universities and some California private colleges have agreed to accept such transcripts for admission purposes. So you can definitely submit your applications to these schools. Plus, requesting for pass/no pass will not restrict your eligibility for institutional or state financial aid. But still, many out-of-state and private colleges have not explicitly agreed to accept pass/no pass transcripts. More information can be found here

Student Retention

Some research shows that retaking a grade level — at least early on in education — can reinforce academic skills necessary for future studies like in high school. But other research shows possible student disengagement and achievement-loss as a result of this option.

So when meeting with your teachers, make sure to discuss both the academic and social outcomes of retaking your grade level. And find out about the academic and other supplemental resources offered by the school.

Altered Graduation Requirements

For those who didn’t complete California state requirements to graduate due to setbacks during the pandemic, it’s recommended to opt towards coursework credit recovery before continuing on to a fifth year of high school. So check with school officials on what opportunities are provided.

Regardless of the alternative, these options soon expire —  with many schools beginning to reopen for the upcoming year. Make sure to contact your school administration for more information on how AB 104 applies to you.

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