COVID-19, Education, News

State Board of Education makes changes to graduation requirements for class of 2020

Students prepare to receive diplomas at a recent Durham Public Schools’ graduation.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s doubtful high school seniors will don caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies this spring.

But the State Board of Education (SBE) has made earning a diploma easier by adopting policy  adjustments Friday relaxing graduation requirements.

Under the adjustments, districts and school systems can’t require seniors to earn more than 22 credits to graduate. Some districts require more than the state’s 22-credit minimum to earn a diploma.

“We are focusing on the minimum 22 State Board of Education requirements,” said Sneha Shah Coltrane, the state’s director of advanced learning and gifted education. “If there is availability and the school is able to do that [provide more than the minimum] and the senior is able to do other requirements, wonderful. However, for graduation purposes, we want to ensure that we are focused on the 22 [minimum requirement] to leap these students forward to their incredible futures.”

Seniors won’t have to fret over grades, either, particularly if they did well in the fall. Those grades will count toward GPAs.

Grades for spring courses will be pass or withdraw if students were failing a course on March 13, the last day students attended North Carolina schools before they were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Districts must provide remote learning opportunities to help students failing a course earn a “pass” designation.

In addition to remote learning, students may also meet graduation requirements through the N.C. Virtual Public School, a credit recovery program or by passing a locally developed assessment based on course material covered through March 13.

Evaluating students in grades K-11

The board also issued guidance for grading students engaged in remote learning.

Teachers may only evaluate students in grades K-5 or assign grades to students in grades 6-11 if there is equitable access to technology, consistent communication between teachers and students and evidence that students are learning.

SBE member Olivia Oxendine asked for clarity about when teachers can assign grades based on remote learning activities in grades K-5.

“If a classroom teacher determines that one or two students are having extraordinary challenges taking part in online instruction … would that constitute the teacher’s decision not to assign grades?” Oxendine asked.

Coltrane responded: “Yes, for a simple answer. The idea that there is no permanent comparison done among the students when equity is not there.”

School funding flexibility 

The SBE approved a formula to divvy up $50 million in funding flexibility approved by Gov. Roy Cooper this week.

Under the formula, $25 million will be distributed to districts or schools based on enrollment. The other $25 million will be based a district’s or school’s low-wealth status or number of poor students enrolled.

The funding is intended to help districts serve students during the COVID-19 crisis. Money may be spent on school nutrition, school-and community-based childcare, cleaning and sanitizing schools and buses, protective equipment and remote learning opportunities.

The $50 million is comprised of unused funds from the current and previous school year and the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund.

Emergency leave policy  

The SBE also adopted an emergency leave policy to allow districts to continue to pay and provide benefits to workers who cannot work remotely, who cannot work due to childcare or eldercare needs.

The policy provides up to 168 hours of paid leave between April 1 through April 30.


  1. Margie Childress

    March 30, 2020 at 6:44 am

    Thank you for the updates. We will get through this together. Have faith.

  2. David Frempong

    March 30, 2020 at 9:03 am

    I think this is a great move!
    This pandemic is traumatizing enough for everyone especially for our students who have never heard of or seen something of this nature.

    We wouldn’t want to add to their trauma by ‘making graduation difficult’ for them.

    The ongoing effects of COVID-19 is depressing enough. Some of our students may have lost family members and battling with mental/emotional strength whilst many others may be struggling to focus on their studies because their families may have experienced job losses and the home is not as it used to be just some few weeks ago.

    Some of the kids may be struggling with technology and getting aquainted with the idea of remote learning just as much as their teachers who are still getting used to the whole transition.

    Indeed, COVID-19 is a common enemy we are all faced with at the moment but its effects are different for every teacher, family and for every child. These effects amongst others place us on different platforms.

    I stand to be corrected in saying that most teachers and students alike are not at their best at the moment as we’re all trying to find our feet in navigating through this sudden transition and therefore I believe it’s somewhat ‘unfair’ grading students.
    I totally agree that there is no permanent comparison done among students when equity is not there.

  3. Alina Ortega

    March 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    We are living in a time that everything has changed and I am glad to see that they have made an exception for the seniors and for all students. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Spanish Flu in 1920. and that is a 100 years ago. I am proud to say that all teachers have collaborated together to make it through and are pushing forward to do our best. I hope that our students and parents appreciate that we are all in this together and we must stick together in order to make it through these trying times.

  4. kim

    March 30, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    I totally agree with not grading students through this world wide devastation. Students’ families and love ones are affected in different ways and it’s only fair if we focus on that only. Students’ are not able to digest this pandemic and their health and mental health is all they have left. Its more than we could imagine and we all need to continue to do the best we have and not push grading. We all are going through this together some more than others. High school graduates should not be penalized for something that we have no control over and it is still taking lies as we speak. Our students’ health and longevity means more than grades at the moment. Students family crisis may make it difficult for students to have resources like internet or a tablet for all their siblings to use. Students may not be able to get on zoom, skype or phone conferences with teachers and that is not fair to them. They should not have to worry about things that are not in their control. It’s hard enough watching my son have to stress over get through these daily assignments and watch his mom connected to a computer all day. It’s important that we not add more to students at this moment because each student is fighting a battle already.

  5. Linda Chambers

    March 31, 2020 at 3:44 am

    I have a Exchange student that had to leave, his school has completed their required course work for the year, he hadn’t completed his course work here. I think that if a student is passing up to the point of the offending event they should be allow to pass the grades thy have

  6. vanessa perez

    March 31, 2020 at 5:29 am

    As a senior graduating this spring, this is amazing news! I’m so thankful

  7. Linda Carrillo

    March 31, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    While I agree that no grades should be given this semester I disagree with the fact that if not all students have the same opportunities at home for online distance learning no grade should be given…. because there is no equity even when kids are in school!
    So if they’re going to say because there’s no equity they don’t get grades then they should make that the way it is when they’re in school too because I have kids who don’t get support at home and who have to take care of seven younger kids and have no food in the house and then I have other kids who are oan only child who have every single thing they want and all the support they could possibly need and I have to grade them based on the same criteria and that’s not equitable…….

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