District leaders addressed one of the biggest question marks regarding how the grading of assignments would be handled throughout the ongoing period of campus closures and online instruction last week, outlining a process for the rest of the 2019-’20 school year during their March 30 meeting.
WPISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Caloss introduced the item stating, “Basically, like every other school district in the state, we are going to have to make some changes to our grading policies based on our distance learning. We’ve got some things that we think are going to be as fair as possible to all of our students.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Barbie McMath took the reins on further discussion explaining, “What we are talking about doing is adjusting our grading policies for this time period (throughout the remainder of the 2019-’20 school year), and then going back to our normal policy after that...We are trying to come up with the best case scenario for all of our kids.
“One of those things is that we normally have a set number of grades every nine weeks, and they are weighted as either tests or as daily work. The weighting on those depends on what type of course you are in. We want to do away with that, and basically follow the guidelines that we have given our teachers which is approximately two assignments per week that would all be weighted equally.”
McMath outlined the challenge facing the district regarding grades centered on three main questions: “What do we do about GPAs? What do we do about class rank calculations? Do we look at moving to pass/fail or do we still give a numerical grade?”
After lengthy discussion, both behind the scenes among administrators and by board members March 30, district leaders opted to implement a plan where students currently enrolled in classes from kindergarten through 8th grade would essentially be moved to a pass/fail system without a grade whereby teachers continue to assign work on a weekly basis and provide feedback.
“We know that we are going to have some kids that are possibly failing a core subject for either the semester or the year, and we want to give those kids an opportunity to address that... We want to provide some opportunities there.”
In order to shepherd kids from failing to passing and onto the next grade level, teachers will assign a special project or projects to 5th-8th grade students in danger of failing that would need to be completed in addition to the current weekly assignments that children already need to complete.
Advancement for students struggling in the kindergarten through 4th grade levels would be handled in a discussion involving the parent/guardian, teacher and campus administrator.
“We want that [the child’s advancement to the next grade level] to be a conversation between the parent, teacher and administrator on that campus. Most of the kids that we would consider retaining at those age levels have already had conversations with those parents. Those conversations were taking place already, so we feel comfortable with being able to do that through a parent-teacher conference.”
McMath went on to address students taking high school coursework stating, “Typically, the way our GPAs work is that we average semesters. We take first semester, second semester and come up with a yearly average. That is what takes place for all the years that they are in high school. We don’t want kids to be negatively impacted because they are not sitting in a classroom. How do we go about doing that? Hopefully we have come up with a solution for doing that.
“Passing is still going to be a 70 like it has always been. However, to receive credit, there are a couple things that a kid will have to do. The kid will have to have a passing yearly average to receive credit, but they could have failed the first semester and passed the second semester and get half a credit. Here’s what we are putting forth: We will continue to take grades for high school courses whether they are in high school or 8th grade and we would do their average for both GPA and class rank based on the higher of the two. If the kid made an 80 in the third nine weeks and a 90 in the fourth nine weeks, we would use that 90 and they would get an 85 for their final grade. Let’s say a kid made an 80 in the third nine weeks and a 70 in the fourth nine weeks, then we are going to carry over their grade from the third nine weeks and use that for their semester grade. Kids will have the opportunity to improve, but they are not going to see their GPA drop because they are at home.”
McMath acknowledged that the impact could be felt more acutely at the junior levels since most seniors interested in attending college or applying scholarships have already done so based on their current rankings, but added that the students were still largely in control of their own final grade.