CCISD board approves policy changes for grading while students learn at home

By BRITTANY FHOLER 

Cove Leader-Press 

 

The Copperas Cove Independent School District board of trustees held a regular meeting, with the help of Zoom to comply with social distancing, Monday afternoon, where they approved changes to local policies as recommended by the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Association of School Boards. 

The most notable change is for grading and student progress reports, as well as GPA calculation, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. 

The policy change follows recommendations made by TEA. Current policy states that progress reports should be issued during the third week of each grading period, and report cards issued every six weeks. CCISD Superintendent Joe Burns said that progress reports will still be issued, but the grades will be modified. 

 “We can share with you that based on the information we have gathered and we are privy to that there is not anyone that we know of that is continuing to grade kids on a numeric way or an A, B, C,” Burns said. 

TEA has recommended that school districts give students an Incomplete, Pass or Fail rather than a percentage or letter grade. 

Burns said that the district is still seeing packets picked up by parents, but sometimes those packets aren’t picked up until Friday and thus can’t be turned in by that evening. 

“What we’ve said is, we’re going to be understanding, we’re going to be compassionate about this because it’s nobody’s fault where we are today, and we’re doing the very best that we can,” Burns said. 

If students have not made any effort online via Schoology or picked up packets to complete work, they will receive an Incomplete and school staff will be reaching out to those students.0 

There are staff on every campus reaching out to every student on a weekly basis, Burns said. 

“There are some challenges that happen especially when you get to advanced courses,” Burns added. “Math is one of them where we have some parents who are saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t fully understand that, we don’t really know how to do that,’ so we’re asking them and helping them reach out to teachers through email and telephone calls or dialogue through Schoology to try to help with that. Math is not one of those subjects that for kids, for a number of kids, that is really doing good through distance learning. Some kids need the practical application, in front of the teacher with immediate feedback, and so we understand that.”

 

Struggling students and CCHS graduation/grade promotion 

Burns said some have asked about students who were struggling during the first semester and they are concerned about moving to the next grade, or graduating at the end of this school year.

The district will also have individual graduation committees (IGC) to meet with each graduating senior and their parent/guardian to talk about graduation, if the student is in danger of not graduating. The same will happen for students in danger of not promoting to the next grade.  

Presently, there are 24 students participating in the IGC process. IGCs were first enacted with SB 149 in 2015 to allow students the option to graduate even though they have not passed all of their end-of-course exams. A student who fails the EOC assessment graduation requirements for no more than two, out of the number he is required to take, may receive a Texas high school diploma if the student has qualified to graduate by means of an IGC determination.

The students’ grades are currently being entered as either Incomplete, Mastered or Met Standard and Not Yet Mastered or Not Yet Met Standard, “so we will look at the predominance of Met Standard, of that M, over all other grades, and our thought is if the majority of a kid’s grade is an M…if they were on track to promote or graduate, why wouldn’t that kid be allowed to promote or graduate?” Burns said. 

“The kids are having an easier time of this I, M and Not Yet Met Standard than the parents are,” Burns added. 

Parents seem to be the ones who want a letter grade and a numerical grade, Burns explained. 

Burns said that it is not fair to assign a letter or number grade to a student when the teacher can’t verify who actually did the work. 

“Second of all, every kid does not have equitable access to the same kind of resources that every other kid does, and so you try to create a level playing field for kids to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity,” Burns said. “That’s the goal of public education is that kids have every opportunity to succeed.”

There are some parents in the district who don’t have a cell phone, television or internet, so the district is mailing packets to families or neighbors are picking up packets for their neighbors. 

“It’s not a pretty puppy. It’s an ugly mutt,” Burns said about the online schooling/distance learning effort. “If everybody had access to the internet, and we could put out everything through the internet and everybody had a device and all those things, it’d be great, but I will tell you a smart phone is not a great way to do homework in Schoology.”

 

CCISD offering WiFi hotspots on campus 

The district has begun offering internet hotspots in the campus parking lots to try to help meet the need.   

 “It is a challenging time for everybody, and that’s why we are recommending that we suspend parts of these policies only for the remainder of this school year to get to a point where everybody can have a fair shake,” Burns said. 

Grade Point Averages will be calculated using grades from the 4th six weeks, which were the last grades put in before schools closed prior to spring break. Students’ final grades will be assigned based on work through the 4th six weeks plus the work done during the distance learning while students are at home. 

“Our goal is by the time we finish this year to be able to give every kid an M or an NYM, to not have any incompletes up there unless something odd just happens,” Burns said. 

Students taking Dual Credit Courses will still get their college credit based on how well they do in the course, and they will still get credit for completing the course using the new scale of I, NYM, or M, but they will not get credit under the numerical gradebook “because a lot of those classes did not start as online courses, and some of them have flipped and those courses are significantly different when they’re a flipped online course than they were when they were set up we had kids going to CTC and participating,” Burns explained. 

Another challenge is for the students who were taking vocational classes, like welding or culinary arts, who have moved from a hands-on based lesson to online work, he added. 

The board also approved a resolution authorizing a temporary modification of the district’s Educator Appraisal Process. Without staff on campus, it is not possible for principals to do a formal appraisal of the teachers, Burns said. 

The resolution authorizes Burns to waive or modify any components of the Educator Appraisal process that the district is not able to comply with due to the school closure. 

Burns shared that an additional challenge the district is facing is losing teachers who are unable to get their District of Innovation Certificates renewed. 

“We’re going to see some resignations from very good people, but they can’t get their DOI exemption renewed because TEA has stopped all State Board for Educator Certification testing, so if someone was waiting just to take their test to become certified, they can’t test right now,” Burns said. 

These teachers have fulfilled their DOI obligation, but the district cannot hire them without a test. TEA has not announced whether there would be online testing available, Burns added.

 Burns said that Monday morning, he had received several resignations from teachers who were unable to renew their DOI exemption.

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