Posted on September 18, 2023

Portland Public Schools Considers Grading Changes to Reduce Bias in Classrooms

Thomas Shults, KGW, September 1, 2023

Portland Public Schools is considering adopting new ‘equitable grading practices’, which would change how teachers grade students.

A handout from the school district said historical data shows racial disparities in students’ pass/fail rate.

The handout also instructs teachers to not assign zeros to assignments that are handed in late, or are missing. It also states that for students caught cheating, they are to face disciplinary action instead of having their grade be penalized.

District administrators said these changes and others would make classrooms more fair and reduce bias.

“What it’s doing is, it’s assessing mastery and accuracy,” PPS’ Chief Academic Officer Kimberlee Armstrong said.

Armstrong said zeros given for missing or late assignments usually throw off the entire grading scale. The handout also instructs teachers to not give less than a 50% grade for any work that is incomplete, late or does not meet expectations. Late work would not be penalized.


In the new grading system, students would not be scored for participation and effort because administrators said these can be scored with bias. Homework and group grades would also not be graded.


“It’s about fairness, it’s about reducing bias, it’s about considering the diverse backgrounds and needs of students,” Armstrong said.