Some California Schools Now Grading Students for 'Grit' & 'Sensitivity’

Rudy Takala | February 6, 2015 | 5:10pm EST
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Students attending Nicholas Elementary School, located in the Sacramento City Unified School District, will be graded on how much they "consider the well-being of others." (SCUSD)

( – In addition to evaluating students on their academic proficiency, at least two California school districts will also be grading them on their "grit" and "sensitivity."

In the San Juan Unified School District, which is located in Sacramento County, teachers in 11 elementary schools will begin grading students from kindergarten through the sixth grade on attributes such as “grit, gratitude, and sensitivity,” the Sacramento Bee reports.

All schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District will also begin grading “behaviors that support learning,” which include whether a student “makes respectful choices and considers the well-being of others.”

Students will receive grades for how often they exhibit these behavior traits, with an A for “almost always”; an O for “often”; an S for “sometimes”; or an R for “rarely.”

What constitutes “sensitive” or “respectful” choices? There is no state standard and the state is not directly mandating the new grading system, so that will be up to officials in local school districts to determine, said Pam Slater, a public information officer with the California Department of Education.

“Basically, the state, along with many other states, have new educational standards that define what children should be learning and when they should be learning it,” Slater stated in an email to

“Along with the new standards, districts must create new student report cards that reflect this. So this is a local issue and a local decision [emphasis in the original]. We at the state level play no role in this process.”

The new educational standards Slater refers to are Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which were adopted by the California State Board of Education (SBE) in 2010. According to the National Education Association’s CCSS guidebook, “The goal of the CCSS is to provide a clear, consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn.”

Though Slater stressed that the state does not take responsibility for district practices, she said it would not be surprising if a local school district cited state-mandated Common Core standards as a reason for grading students on non-academic attributes such as “sensitivity.”

“Whether this is germane to the standards would be something the district has studied and found relevant,” Slate added. “Apparently this particular school district decided to grade students on such things as grit and gratitude.”

Among other things, the Common Core standards suggest that schools should impart “21st century skills.” In part, those skills are defined as “learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts.”

Trent Allen, the senior director of community relations at the San Juan Unified School District, told that the new grades fall within that purview.

“The inclusion of grit and gratitude reflect local decisions aligned with our identified character trait education and 21st century skill sets,” Allen wrote in an email. But he did not respond when asked him to provide a written standard explaining how such grades were to be determined.

According to the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) exam conducted every two years, California’s fourth-graders  ranked 47th in the nation in both math and reading in 2013. Eighth-graders performed only slightly better, ranking 45th in math and 42nd in reading nationwide.

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