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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many United States brick-and-mortar schools in Spring 2020 rapidly transitioned to emergency remote learning. School leaders grappled with how grades ought to fit within the many unknowns of K-12 remote education. In some cases, schools modified their grading scales to give students greater flexibility to pass courses, and in other situations, schools offered incomplete grades in lieu of failures. During this time, state departments of education (DOEs) provided a variety of guidance documents to their school districts. The purpose of this study was to explore the components of state DOE grading guidance during the Spring 2020 school shutdown, along with the patterns of guidance across states. The researchers applied a grounded theory approach to systematically explore the equivalent of 1,444 pages of documents from 48 state DOE guidelines. The document analysis resulted in three primary categories that influenced state DOE grading guidance: guiding principles, student advancement, and determining grades. The researchers conclude by presenting and discussing a three-category model for emergency remote learning grading guidelines for K-12 schools. In the event of another pandemic temporarily affecting the delivery of education to students, policymakers may use this model as a starting point for future recommendations.
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