All 16 of the school districts completely or partially within Dane County have waived or loosened at least two academic standards to help seniors graduate at a time when schools have been shut down since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Information from the districts and the state Department of Public Instruction also shows that the poorer and more diverse a district’s student body, the more likely the district’s leadership sought graduation requirement waivers from the state and lowered other standards.
The Wisconsin State Journal asked the districts to report whether they had:
• Changed grading standards after schools shut down;
• Reduced the number of credits needed to graduate;
• Sought waivers of the state’s civics exam, minimum instructional hours and educator effectiveness requirements;
• Made any other changes to help seniors graduate.
Every district had loosened requirements in at least two areas, and two districts — Middleton-Cross Plains and Sun Prairie — had loosened them in six, including waiving the requirement that students complete a certain number of community service hours to graduate.
The county’s largest district, Madison, reported reducing the number of credits needed to graduate from 22 to the state minimum of 15, moving to a pass/fail grading system and getting state waivers for the civics test and minimum number of instructional hours.
DPI had made clear at the beginning of school shutdowns that it would not seek to deny waivers of the civics, minimum instructional hours and educator effectiveness requirements. Some districts did not need waivers for the civics exam because it had already been administered by the time the schools were closed.
Linn Posey-Maddox, an associate professor of educational policy studies at UW-Madison, said the pandemic exacerbates existing racial inequities in education