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Update: Grading, GPA and Continued Compensation (4/7/2020)

Online learning is underway in FBISD, and I am proud of all the good things I am hearing. I am also concerned by stories I am hearing about parents and guardians feeling overwhelmed and broken down by expectations to facilitate learning for the children in their home. During the past few days, I have heard from several parents who are struggling to understand and fulfill expectations related to online learning. Many of you are also doing your normal job or perhaps struggling with economic uncertainty while “crisis schooling” your children. All this put together makes for a high pressure situation.

 

It is essential that you take of your own well-being and your family’s well-being as your top priority. Your FBISD family does NOT want to increase the pressure you feel or create stress in your home.

 

This morning, I met with campus and district leaders to remind them that our students need us right now. They are feeling isolated and alone, and their online connection with teachers and peers is a lifeline to normalcy that helps them get through each day. Our most important job right now is to simply engage students in a way that supports their social emotional needs while supporting their continued academic progress – read that again – teaching the curriculum is important, but it is secondary to sustaining positive, supportive relationships with our students during this time of uncertainty.

 

This applies to parents, too. It is critical that you tend to the social emotional needs of your family – the mental health of each family member. I do not want school to become a source of conflict and stress in your household. In the end, when we are able to reopen our schools, we will be prepared to help close any learning gaps that emerge during this unprecedented time.

 

For the past two weeks, I have reminded you that we are going for good, not perfect. Do what you can and don’t sweat the rest. Many children will thrive in this environment. They will push for more and more, and they will be able to complete everything asked of them. Others will struggle and barely complete the minimum expected. And parents are in the same boat – some thriving, some struggling. And it’s all okay.

 

Our students, families and staff are navigating through a lot of uncertainty, and I could not be more proud of the way that we are all joining together to support our students during this trying time. Though we recognize there are still many unknowns ahead, I want to thank the FBISD Board of Trustees for making our District needs a priority by participating in a special called Board Meeting last night to address a few important “hot topics.”

 

Many staff members and families have been anxiously awaiting word on what grading will look like for the rest of the year, and staff members want to know whether they will still be getting paid while our schools and facilities remain closed to the public. The answer to that is “yes,” and I will share more about staff compensation a bit later in this message. But first, I want to address grades.

 

Grading and GPA

Last night, the Board took action that suspends the District’s current grading procedures, replacing numerical grades in the final nine-week grading period with either “Met Standard” or “Did Not Meet Standard.” A design team made up of a cross section of campus and District staff considered several options before making this recommendation, ultimately determining that this is the best way to ensure that we are reporting on the academic performance of students in a way that honors our unique circumstance while supporting their progress and helping to identify learning needs over time.

 

In the coming days, our teachers and campus administrators will be provided with resources and clear standards so that they can determine whether a student is demonstrating proficiency in key areas that are tied to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). This is important, because we want to support students who may need accelerated instruction or other future supports as they approach the next academic year.

 

This “Met Standard” and “Did Not Meet Standard” will only be used for the final grading period of the school year. In the coming days, teachers will begin closing out the third grading period that wrapped up prior to Spring Break, and parents and students can expect grades for this period to be posted by April 22. This date has been pushed back slightly, and we will also modify the future schedule for progress reports during the current grading cycle.

 

The following is a summary of how grading and GPA calculations will be handled. Since this is a lot of information, and parents and students will have questions, we posted an FAQ on the District website.

  • Elementary/Middle School: At the elementary and middle school level, the final grading period will not be used to determine the final average calculation. This means the average from the first three grading periods will be used to determine final averages, and the final grading period’s “Met Standard/Did Not Meet Standard” will be used as an indicator to determine student readiness for promotion and/or retention. Remember, right now, our focus is on supporting students in a time of crisis. We want students to learn and grow so that they are prepared for what’s next, without fear and penalties. 
  • High School: At the high school level, and for high school courses taken at the middle school level, first semester grades have already been posted to transcripts, as is customary. Grades from the third grading period, which will be posted later this month, will count as the second semester grade, and students will not take a final exam for the spring semester. I REPEAT… NO SPRING EXAMS.  Information from the final grading period, the “Met Standard” or the “Did Not Meet Standard” will be used to identify students who will be offered a summer accelerated plan, or support during the 2020-21 academic year.
  • GPA Calculations: Because GPA is customarily provided for graduating seniors after the third grading period, there will be no changes to the way GPA is calculated for the Class of 2020, and seniors can expect to learn their class rank shortly after final grades are posted on April 22. Because current 9th, 10th, and 11th graders will not receive a percentage grade for the final grading period this year, the average from the second semester (grades from the third period) will be used in future GPA calculations. This is important, so that all cohorts will retain a level playing field in the future. 

 

Staff Compensation

The Board of Trustees also approved two resolutions that will affect our staff. First, they authorized me to continue compensating staff while our district facilities and campuses remain closed to the public and we deliver instruction online.

 

Most of our staff members are working remotely, but not everyone can do that due to the nature of their jobs, and the current state of our District. The Board action at last night’s meeting means all staff will continue to be paid through the end of the current school year or contract term. This is an especially important measure to help retain staff though this time of uncertainty; we will need all hands on deck when the District returns to full operation. Staff attrition will harm our ability to provide expected levels of service to our students and community.

 

The Board also authorized us to provide additional compensation for certain non-exempt employees who are providing essential services during the closure. We know that there are many, many uncertainties that our community is facing, and it is our intent to reassure employees that their paychecks are intact.

 

Teacher Appraisal

In other action, the Board allowed FBISD to waive the state’s teacher appraisal system for the current year, because observations will not be able to take place for all staff. Our principals will continue to monitor instruction so that our teachers can continue to grow, and teachers can still expect summative evaluations for this purpose. However, there will not be long-term effects on their teaching career.

 

In closing, I want to once again express my pride and gratitude to our entire FBISD community. We are all dealing with the unexpected, and doing the best we can. And that is all we can ask of our staff, families, and our students.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles Dupre