High school students, unhappy with pandemic-affected grades, have a few days to change them

Five students study at a table in a Scripps Ranch High tutoring program in 2016
After a year when most public schools were closed during the pandemic and students were learning online, a new education law allows high school students to apply to switch their letter grades to a pass/no pass designation.
(Nancee E. Lewis/ Union-Tribune)

State law gives students 15 days to ask to change letter grades to “pass/no pass”


High school families now have a chance to change last school year’s letter grades to “pass” or “no pass” grades — an opportunity meant to show grace to students who struggled during the pandemic and school closures.

The deadline to take advantage of that chance is approaching.

A new state law, Assembly Bill 104, allows high school students to request grade changes during a 15-day window.

The law requires that school districts and charter schools post a grade change request form on their websites and notify families of the grade change option by Aug. 2. Students have 15 days after that to submit a change request form, which their school must accept.

The deadlines for when these forms are due vary by district. The deadline for students in San Diego Unified and Sweetwater Union High school districts to submit a grade change request form is Aug. 16, according to the office of state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who authored AB 104.

Other San Diego County school districts have deadlines ranging from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20.

Students don’t have to give a reason for wanting to change their grade, according to the state education department’s website.

“Pass” grades do not affect a student’s GPA and ensures the coursework still counts towards a student’s graduation requirements, Gonzalez’ office said.

School districts reported surges in D’s and F’s during last school year, as students struggled with distance learning and teachers struggled to find all their students and get them to participate.

“For my three kids who spent the last school year in ‘Zoom school,’ I saw how difficult it was for them to adjust to distance learning,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Struggling in school during this difficult time shouldn’t jeopardize a student’s GPA, or risk their chances of being admitted to college and qualify for financial aid.”

Both the California State University and University of California systems are accepting pass or no pass grades for classes taken from spring 2020 to summer 2021.

Some private and out-of-state colleges and universities may choose to require letter grades. At least 13 private institutions have said they will accept pass or no pass grades in lieu of letter grades through the 2023-2024 school year, according to the state education department.