District Chief Academic Officer Wes Cunningham sent out a letter April 14 to FISD families laying out changes to grading and progress reporting to align with the delivery of eLearning.
eLearning will continue through the 2019-20 school year as FISD schools remain closed following an April 17 action by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Cunningham said the district had been preparing to make long-term adjustments before Abbott’s announcement.
“We planned early on for the contingency that this eLearning closure may last a little longer than we may have initially thought,” he said.
The first week of eLearning was for review and allowed a period of adjustment for the new learning format, Cunningham said. The final nine-week grading period began March 23, at which point the new grading amendments went into effect.
Grading and progress reporting adjustments include the following.
- All grades are weighted equally. At the secondary level, there are no major or minor grade distinctions.
- Students can improve their grades on graded assignments to show mastery of knowledge, skills or concepts.
- Semester averages and applicable GPA will be calculated by taking the average of the third and fourth nine-week periods.
- Parents will receive a progress report at the ends of the period's fourth and seventh weeks.
- Students with a failing grade after progress reporting and the end of the fourth marking period will be reviewed for the risk of retention or remediation.
- eLearning performance will not be a cause for retention, failing grades or loss of credit. Retention or credit recovery will be considered based on previous failing grades or refusal to participate in eLearning.
- With STAAR and STAAR end-of-course tests being canceled for this school year, students in fifth and eighth grades will not be retained based on lack of STAAR results.
- The STAAR end-of-course test requirement has been waived for students who attain credit with their class average in the end-of-course tested courses of English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology and U.S. History.
While some nearby school districts, like Richardson ISD, have implemented a pass-fail system, Cunningham said grading offers a quantifiable record of learning over time and creates consistency for students.
“We settled on the idea that we would still continue to provide feedback to students utilizing, among other methods, grades,” he said. “Our students and families are used to receiving feedback from their teachers through grades and other positive methods of feedback.”
While Cunningham said there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, grading may help students who may need to bounce back from an unsuccessful previous grading period.
“We zeroed in on what we consider to be essential standards, knowledge and skills and concepts that students need to be successful in the next step, whether that’s a next grade or they’re going into the next course or their passion,” he said.
Grades received during eLearning will not negatively impact students, Cunningham said. Students will continue to have support through virtual tutorials and to have the ability to redo assignments as necessary, he said.
“If the grades are not where the student and the teacher needs [them] to be, students [will] have every opportunity to reassess and make certain that they have a chance to master that concept,” Cunningham said. “It’s not a matter of when the student gets it; it’s that the student gets it. We’re able to really tie onto that through eLearning.”
While eLearning will not be a cause for failing grades or retention, refusal to participate in eLearning could.
Cunningham said FISD’s student services department, along with other district leadership, has plans in place to identify why a student may not be participating and to help get them what they need.
“We’re continuing learning in Frisco ISD,” Cunningham said. “That’s why I want to make sure that parents understand that this is not an opt-out thing. This is not an optional opportunity for students. We want to make certain that they have every chance to participate in learning.”