Plano ISD trustees, staff to re-evaluate change in honors designation for high school music courses


Plano ISD staff are working to recommend a redesign of some high school music courses, which could reinstate honors-level designations for classes such as band and orchestra.

The change in honors designation for some 11th- and 12th-grade music classes would affect students graduating in 2023 and beyond. Those music courses no longer qualified for honors designations after the district created a new advanced course-evaluation tool as part of its yearslong effort to restructure how it ranks students based on their respective GPAs.

“As a point of clarity, the newly developed [course]evaluation tool does not prohibit music from having honors-level courses,” said Katrina Hasley, the PISD assistant superintendent for academic services. “The intent of the evaluation tool is to provide criteria, which must be included in existing honors classes as well as those that are being developed.”

District staff presented to the board March 19 an early update of their plans to potentially redesign those music courses and to review the advanced course-evaluation tool.

PISD parents and students have organized at previous board meetings to request the district reinstate honors designations for the 11th- and 12th-grade music courses. One group started an online petition that has gathered over 1,800 signatures.

Moving forward, the district’s fine arts department will study honors-level music courses in other districts and could potentially recommend a new design for those music courses in the fall.

“We don’t anticipate this being a long process,” said Lisa Thibodeaux, the PISD executive director for secondary academic services. “We have really great information already from other districts in the state and what they offer. That’s information we want to bring to these teachers and let them have a good look at that.”

District administrative staff will also review the recently updated honors designation evaluation tool, which came about as part of the district’s broader new class-ranking practice that trustees approved in June.

The new class-ranking practice will work like this: the district will report a cumulative GPA to be published on all students’ transcripts and a separate ranking GPA used solely to determine the top 10 percent of the district’s junior and senior classes. It will only affect students graduating in 2023 and beyond.

“I think the intent in trying to take away some honors classes in the district was to really have the kids focus on their core classes that were a part of the ranking GPA, and then them not be penalized with their GPA based on whatever elective classes they chose, fine arts happening to be one of those,” said Jeremy Kondrat, the PISD instrumental music coordinator, at a previous board meeting. “As a band director I share that fear, so I think that whatever step we are to take, I think we need to make sure we are handling it with care.”

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  1. As a parent totally disagree.
    My older one in the band, and it took a lot of time after school, in several occasions he went home after 9pm when the next day had major grade exams.
    College wouldn’t look much on band and orchestra unless you are going to major in music. As a matter of fact, 0% in my older kid’s graduating class study music in college. By the time my older one applied for college, he realized how much time he wasted for the school.
    ISD should focus on getting students who take AP subject classes to actually take the public AP exam. Plano ISD public AP exam participation has been below 40% for years while other ISD steadily increase to over 80%. This is one of the major reason elite college taking fewer Plano students, and excessive extracurricular activities played an important role in it. Rewarding these activities with “honor” won’t help the students.

    • Oliver Bennett Schlaffer

      While I can understand your comments about how much time is spent at school, I think that this issue is perhaps best understood based on a parent’s perspective on what “helps” students.

      If your perspective is that the principals of creativity, cooperation, focus, discipline, accountability, personal responsibility, leadership and excellence that are inevitable benefits to those who excel in music are a waste of time and not helpful to your child, than it is probably best that you just focus on tests.

      But, if your perspective is that college is not a magic place that can guarantee the success of a person who does not possess other important traits apart from being a left-brained test-taking academic robot, then you might say that not being academically penalized for taking music could be extremely helpful to a student.

      It all depends on your personal values of what is truly important in life.

      “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
      – Albert Einstein

    • Also as a parent, I respectfully disagree with your point of view. To spend time on music may not product tangible results right away as AP exams, the long term benefit instilled in a growing child is beyond measurement. If a person is taught to only focused on tangible result then what kind of world we wish our children to be in. From the “achievement “ point of view- PISD has solid elite University admission ratio this year, and almost all of them are in PISD music class. One close example, Vincent Huang, who won international gold medal and is going to MIT, also won all state Cello in his senior year. So the power of music education can never be underestimated, and that’s what contributed to the excellence of PISD education.

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Gavin Pugh
Gavin got his chops as a reporter when he was editor-in-chief of the Baylor Lariat. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Baylor University and has since come on board as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition. His beat includes transportation, Plano ISD and municipal government.
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