Dripping Springs ISD trustees discuss grade point average configuration, grading policy at April agenda review

A photo of Dripping Springs High School
DSISD Superintendent Todd Washburn proposed omitting the current semester from grade point average calculations. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

DSISD Superintendent Todd Washburn proposed omitting the current semester from grade point average calculations. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Following the recent announcement that Dripping Springs ISD schools will continue virtual learning through the end of the semester, Superintendent Todd Washburn recommended trustees adopt a policy not to include the current semester when factoring students’ grade point averages at an April 20 agenda review meeting. While the board of trustees held off on a vote until next week’s regular board meeting, trustees expressed support for Washburn’s proposal.

DSISD already announced April 9 schools would use a pass/incomplete grading system as virtual learning persists. Washburn also announced in a letter to students and parents that numerical feedback would be given to students as well so they could gauge their progress and success.

The pass/incomplete system, according to Washburn, is designed to account for inequities between student resources and stresses during the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.

As interim Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Innovation Joe Burns said at the board’s April 20 meeting, some students have limited access to the internet at home, even accessing WiFi from school parking lots.

However, some students have expressed disappointment that their grades will not be factored into their GPAs, including one student who wrote into the board requesting an opt-in system for weighted grading this semester.

“My grades reflected my hard work throughout the first part of the semester and I was on track to have the highest grades yet in my high school experience. In fact, they were higher than my cumulative GPA up to that point, and would have significantly raised my cumulative GPA,” the student wrote to the board of trustees in an email. “I don’t wish my hard work to be done in vain.”

Washburn said it would be difficult to implement an opt-in system, because it might not account for discrepancies in resources for students vying for spots in the top 10% of the class of 2020 this year, which would qualify them for automatic admission into state-funded universities in Texas, per state law. While quantifying GPA for those students, a consistent policy needs to be in place, Washburn said.

Washburn also noted that a number of other districts had made the decision to omit this semester’s grades from GPA configurations, and that major universities in Texas and nationally had said they would not count this semester’s grades against students when making college admissions decisions.

“One of the things we are exploring, though, to help support students if they’re going for scholarships and things is looking at an alternative grade point average that could be reported, and they could submit that for a scholarship, but we can’t have multiple ways to determine class rank,” Washburn said.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.