Clear Creek ISD imposes grades-based restrictions on virtual learning

New guidance from the Texas Education Agency allows districts to require virtual learners who are failing classes or who have three or more unexcused absences to return to school in person. (Courtesy Canva)
New guidance from the Texas Education Agency allows districts to require virtual learners who are failing classes or who have three or more unexcused absences to return to school in person. (Courtesy Canva)

New guidance from the Texas Education Agency allows districts to require virtual learners who are failing classes or who have three or more unexcused absences to return to school in person. (Courtesy Canva)

Clear Creek ISD trustees and district leaders discussed changes to virtual learning for the 2020-21 school year during a Nov. 16 board meeting.

In response to the Texas Education Agency’s revised guidance released Nov. 5, the district will implement procedures to restrict virtual learning via Clear Connections as necessary based on student performance. Elementary and secondary students who have averages below 70 in two or more courses—or the equivalent for elementary learners—will be mandated to return to in-person instruction based on the new guidelines.

District leaders said at the meeting about a quarter of CCISD’s students are learning virtually during the second nine weeks of the year. TEA guidelines allow districts to enforce a mandate on in-person instruction for academically struggling students and those with consistent attendance issues.

The criteria for a mandate to return in person at Friendswood ISD includes an attendance component. CCISD leaders ultimately felt academic performance was a stronger indicator than attendance of a student’s success learning remotely, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Karen Engle said.

“We decided attendance didn’t need to be a factor,” Engle said at the meeting. “Let’s go with academics this time; let's go with grades.”


Students determined to be performing below the threshold, both during the first nine weeks and during the second nine weeks as indicated on progress reports, will be asked to return to brick-and-mortar education. Evaluation of students at the elementary level will involve nearly the same process as it does for secondary students, examining reading and math as the core content areas and assessing learning progressions along the same timeline, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Holly Hughes said.

Families will be contacted, with transition meetings completed as requested, by Dec. 4. Transition meetings can be held for parents to give the district a more complete picture of the struggles a remote learner may be facing.

If the student’s parent does not respond to the notification by Dec. 4, the district will proceed with transitioning the student to in-person learning. Parents can apply for exemptions to the mandate for medical and nonmedical reasons. A committee will assess the situation once the appeal is filed; the committee should include a campus administrator, school nurse and counselor, officials said Nov. 16.

Despite fluctuating numbers of in-person learners, the district has kept classroom ratios at 22:1 or lower, according to information presented at the meeting.

“Every single day, we are bringing more children back to brick-and-mortar,” Hughes said, adding that the staff is doing everything possible to transition students back to in-person learning when they are ready versus waiting for a new grading period.

By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.

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