Some Long Beach Unified School District parents and teachers are pushing back against the district’s recent announcement that no grades will be issued for the spring semester, opting instead for credit/no credit.

The group has organized via a petition and social media, and are requesting that the district include a grading option so that students who wish to receive grades can do so.

Over 1,000 people have signed the petition started by Millikan sophomore Riley Cantrell.

“I have always wanted to get straight A’s,” Cantrell wrote in the petition. “If the credit/no credit system is used, all of my hard work, dedication, and perseverance will be for nothing.”

The decision to go credit/no credit was made by current LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser, and approved by the LBUSD Board of Education.

Steinhauser said the school district can’t guarantee that all of its roughly 70,000 students have the same at-home access to quality internet connections and other resources that are required for interacting with the district’s home learning program.

“For me it’s all about equity,” said Steinhauser. “I have to be the father of 24,000 high school kids and 70,000 kids all together. This is a good lesson in leadership where everybody hates you and it’s OK. I’m not here to be liked.”

Steinhauser said the decision was made after input from the University of California and Cal State University systems gave assurances that students would not be punished for having a semester of credit/no credit on their applications, and said private schools including Harvard have also made similar assurances.

But parents point out that the Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts in Torrance and Los Alamitos have allowed families to opt-in to grades for the semester, and worry that their students will be left behind in the college admissions process.

Kim Erkman, the Parent Teacher Students Association president at Wilson High, said it’s a touchy subject.  and has a junior at the school. Erkman, who’s been a volunteer in the LBUSD for 13 years, emphasized that she’s speaking on behalf of her family and not the school’s PTSA.

“I worry about the competitive part,” said Erkman, who has a junior at Wilson and stressed that she’s not speaking for the association but only herself. “If a university is looking at two shining applications and they have to decide between them, are they going to take a student with a full transcript for three years, or do they weigh two and a half years of grades differently? Sophomores and juniors are losing AP and honors-weighted grades that can raise their GPA.”

Jeff Price, the Parent Teacher Association secretary for the California State PTA, echoed Erkman’s comments, also emphasizing that his thoughts were his own and not the position of the PTA.

“Kids have to be superheroes to get into some of these schools,” he said. “The entire process is competitive—I don’t like that it is necessarily, but with GPAs and test scores and rankings it’s the way the system is built and unfortunately we have to deal with that.”

Price has a student attending Lakewood High and pointed out that if a student received a C in the fall semester in a math class, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to raise that grade in the spring, something parents have heard college admissions officers like to see.

The question that Erkman, Price, and others have had for the district is why could the LAUSD or other districts have the opt-in for grades, but not the LBUSD.

“It comes back to the ethos of the district,” said Steinhauser. “We’ve tried to look at every decision through an equity perspective. Every district is different; on the flip side we pay to give the SAT and PSAT to everyone and not every district does that. When we opened AP classes up to everyone I got a ton of hate from parents and even staff that we were watering it down. The bottom line is our college rates are going up and our kids go to the most competitive colleges in the nation.”

Steinhauser said the decision was made with the support of the district’s Board of Education and employees, including the “vast majority” of teachers. He said he’s heard personally from 35 parents and students who’d like him to add an opt-in grade option, as well as from several people who are glad the district made the decision they did.

“I understand their issue, but I have to do what’s for the greater good,” he said. “They’re not being harmed in the college admissions process—we are moving forward, we don’t have any plans to change it. If we added an opt-in policy in Long Beach it would be chaos now.”