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Student grades frozen
Bobby cox mug
Director of Schools Bobby Cox

Many Warren County students already have their final grades. A sudden interruption in the school year has prompted changes by the Tennessee Board of Education to protect student grades from the coronavirus pandemic.

The board approved assigning grades based on a student’s performance as of March 20, when Gov. Bill Lee first announced that schools would close. That decision, among others, was made Thursday during a meeting to discuss COVID-19 emergency rules. 

Warren County Director of Schools Bobby Cox says a student’s grade cannot be lowered by their performance after that date, but it can be increased. 

“As far as grading goes, a student couldn’t receive a grade lower than what they had on March 20, but they could improve their grade with the work they did after March 20,” said Cox. 

Gov. Lee hasn’t closed schools for the remainder of the year. However, some districts elected to continue distance learning opportunities online after March 31 and that may negatively affect some students.

“Many students statewide do not have access to reliable internet service and they also might be taking on additional roles and responsibilities in their families while more students are home, so we did not want to penalize those students,” said Sara Morrison, executive director of the state board.

For high school seniors, the board approved lowering the graduation requirement from 22 to 20 credit hours. Those 20 credits include four in math, four in English, three in science, two in social studies and seven additional credit hours instead of nine.

Teacher evaluations to gauge their level of effectiveness will not be calculated this year, and end-of-year exams will also not be given to students. Tennessee lawmakers already dropped TNReady and end-of-course exam requirements during the expedited legislative session in March. The requirements to take the ACT or SAT will also be dropped this year.

Cox says the state board was fair in its decisions.

“I think it’s fair,” said Cox. “We all want to do what’s right by students. It’s not their fault the school year was interrupted. It’s also not the fault of education, teachers or administrators. These are challenging times for all of us.” 

The policies approved by the board on Thursday will be sent to the state attorney general’s office and will go into effect immediately for 180 days.