Following postponed action during the April 15 meeting, Lake Travis ISD trustees revisited the district’s grading modifications for remote learning, ultimately passing a resolution delegating authority to Superintendent Brad Lancaster to adjust the current grading system in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delay was due to a disagreement on the decision to score students differently at the middle school level than at the high school level.
According to district information, if a middle school student shows proficiency and achieves a score of at least 70, that student will earn a 100 grade in that core subject. However, a high school student that scores at least a 70 will receive their earned grade.
Multiple board members, including trustee Bob Dorsett, expressed concern, noting this choice may encourage middle school students to lose motivation in their work.
Trustees met virtually April 21 for a special called meeting to review the updated guidelines, which reflected the trustee’s initial concerns. The modifications include a decision to score students at the middle school level the same way as those in high school.
The new guidelines read: “As is customary, students will be able to earn a passing grade between 70 and 100 for any assignment.”
All students will be able to submit corrections for any assignment that garners a score below 70. If corrections are not completed, then that student will receive an incomplete or failing grade until the work is completed in the summer school session.
The guidelines also provide details regarding high school transcripts, prompting a number of students and family members to submit public comments to the board.
According to the guidelines, final transcripts will be updated with student’s earned grades and credits. Spring semester grades will be entered on the transcript normally, allowing colleges to evaluate them according to its admission requirements. However, weighted grade-point averages will not be recalculated for the final class ranking; therefore, students will not see their weighted GPA reflected on their transcripts.
A junior at Lake Travis High School wrote to the board asking members to reconsider the decision not to include the spring semester grades within the GPA calculations.
“My peers and I were extremely determined to improve our grades this semester in the hope of moving in the ranks and prepare ourselves for college applications,” the student wrote.
However, LTISD parent Charlene Reagan thanked the district for this decision, writing: “I would like to voice for my support for the idea of using our high school students’ first three semester grades to calculate their 2019-20 GPA.”
Reagan said granting a letter grade for the fourth semester will allow students to see the benefits of their hard work while providing students struggling with the current circumstances with some needed relief.
Gordon Butler, the principal of Lake Travis High School, weighed in on this decision, explaining the current proposal reflects a "hold harmless" approach.
“I don’t want to discount the hard work that went into the third quarter,” Butler said, adding the district has actually seen high-performing students achieve lower scores in the third quarter.
Butler added he believes the current proposal, which was a collaborative effort within the district, effectively protects students. He also noted little movement in a student’s GPA actually occurs in the final semester.
“There’s not a lot of movement in GPA once you get to the junior year,” Butler said. “You may flip a point or two here or there, but by and large we can determine who the top 10% are going to be at the beginning of junior year.”
Following the discussion, the board unanimously approved the resolution, providing Lancaster with the authority to implement the modified grading system.