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.”