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Students could raise failed grades, repeat current school year under bills in Legislature

Two bills that would give parents and high school students more options to respond to lost learning and bad grades during the pandemic are making their way through the Legislature and would take effect as soon as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed them — assuming they get to his desk.

Assembly Bill (AB) 104 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would allow parents to apply to hold their children back a year in 2021-22 and set up a process for parents, a teacher of record and the school to decide if retention is in the student’s best interest socially and academically. The bill also would:

  • Give high school students the opportunity to change grades in 2020-21 to pass/no pass with no negative effect on their GPA average;
  • Exempt juniors and seniors in 2020-21 from local graduation requirements that exceed the minimum number of credits required by the state for a diploma;
  • Enable juniors and seniors to complete the coursework required for graduation, including the option of returning for a fifth year of instruction.

Senate Bill 545 by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, would require districts to use the $4.6 billion in state Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants, approved in March, to address students’ academic struggles over the past year by:

  • Offering credit recovery for courses that students failed;
  • Offering students the ability to raise grades in courses where they got Ds or Fs;
  • Informing parents about research on the effects of having students repeat a school year and about effective forms of academic support and interventions.

AB 104 was passed unanimously by the Assembly and heads to the Senate. SB 545 awaits action by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will determine if the bill moves to the Assembly. As “urgent” legislation that would take effect immediately, in time for the next school year, both bills would require passage by a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. In his revised budget, which will be released by May 14, Newsom may propose his own ideas on how to enable students to raise grades, retake courses or repeat a grade to compensate for the harm of Covid-19.