Letter from Superintendent Wells on AB 104: Retention, Pass/Fail Grades, and Graduation Requirement Changes


Dear AUSD Community,


I have some important information for you regarding a few specific aspects of the upcoming school year. AUSD wants to make sure our students are given every opportunity to get back on track after a difficult year, and we are putting in place multiple supports at every level of instruction. More information about these resources will be shared with you in the coming weeks. However, Governor Newsom recently signed a bill (AB 104) which codifies measures designed to help students in the areas of student retention, poor grades, and graduation requirements. Some of these mandates may affect student’s return to school, or their next steps beyond AUSD, so you need to know about them right away. 


Student retention

For students who received D or F letter grades for more than half of their classes during the 2020-2021 school year, parents may request a discussion with school staff regarding having their child repeat the school year. The consultation must occur within 30 days of a written request to the school principal via email. Although research has found little benefit and significant risks from retention, the unusual circumstances of this past school year has brought attention to this topic, and parents have the right to initiate this discussion with school staff. AUSD will notify parents within 10 days after a retention meeting, of our determination of whether retention is in their student’s best interests. 


Grading options

All students who were in high school (9th–12th grade) during the 2020–2021 school year will be allowed to change D and F letter grades for courses taken in the 2020–2021 school year to a “Pass” or “No Pass” on their transcript. For your consideration, the California Department of Education has posted a list of the colleges and universities that will accept pass/no pass grades. All requests for this change must be made in writing by the parent, legal guardian, or adult student through this form on or before August 17, 2021.


There are several details to consider regarding asking for a grade change to Pass/No Pass. Some post-secondary institutions, especially those in other states, may not accept a Pass or No Pass grade in lieu of a letter grade for admission purposes. The deadline of August 17 for submitting a grade change request is absolute and immutable. The bill creating this law explicitly prohibits school agencies from accepting grade change applications after the deadline. Written confirmation that the grade change request has been received will be sent to the student and their parent/guardian(s) within fifteen calendar days of receipt of the request.


Graduation requirements 

AUSD proudly maintains graduation requirements that far exceed the minimum standards required by the State of California. Our graduation requirements more closely reflect (although they are not equivalent to) admission requirements for California State University and University of California. Because of the serious disruptions to school in the 2020-2021 school year, AB 104 waives all credit requirements above the state’s minimum for students who were high school juniors or seniors in 2020-21. 


AUSD is actively reaching out now to all students who were seniors last year but did not have the credits to graduate to inform them of this development. Students in the 2022 graduating class can also graduate with fewer credits than what has been required previously. Seniors should consult with their academic counselor as soon as possible if they have questions regarding this new law and their current schedule. (See the Counseling Dept. webpage for contact information.)  You may also view the state minimum graduation requirements here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/hs/hsgrmin.asp.


Fifth year

Students who were high school juniors or seniors during the 2019-2020 school year also have the option to enroll in a fifth year of instruction.


Final Thoughts

These mandates from the State of California are a few of the tools AUSD will be utilizing this year to help students who have been adversely affected by the COVID pandemic. We look forward to this coming year where we will make a concerted effort to use multiple supports to assist every student to achieve their fullest potential. 


Stay hopeful and encouraged,

Frank Wells, Ed.D.

Frank Wells, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Albany Unified School District