Austin ISD Board Passes New Rules on Grading and Graduation
Special AISD meeting installs modifications to adapt to coronavirus
By Beth Sullivan,
1:18PM, Tue. Apr. 7, 2020
After the first day of virtual learning for Austin Independent School District came to a close, AISD’s Board of Trustees voted on significant changes to graduation requirements and grading for the spring semester.
In a special meeting that stretched just past midnight on Monday, April 6, the board addressed how the district will modify grading as classes switch to online and classrooms close indefinitely amid coronavirus precautions.
The biggest change: Instead of a letter grade, students will now receive either a “pass” or “incomplete” for this semester’s courses. For high school seniors specifically, class rank will be based on the fall semester average (at the end of the 2019-20 school year’s third six-week grading period). This means class rank has already been calculated for this school year.
Likewise, GPA calculations for all high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will not include the current semester; a freshman who graduates in four years will have a total GPA based on seven – not eight – semesters. Lisa Goodnow, AISD’s associate superintendent of academics and social and emotional learning, took care to emphasize the new pass/incomplete grading system is not the same as pass/fail. “That incomplete is not necessarily going to tell a student that they’re retained. We will accelerate, and move forward, and take the students where they are.” However, she suggested that process wouldn’t be seamless: “There will be some catch-up. There’s just going to have to be.”
The board also unanimously voted to extend emergency authorizations in response to COVID-19. The resolution allows the district to keep paying staff while campuses are closed, in addition to granting outgoing Superintendent Paul Cruz the authority to continue to apply for further missed instructional day waivers and low attendance day waivers from the Texas Education Agency, extending the measures approved by the board in March. A third resolution granted Cruz the authority to seek waivers for teachers and administrators’ annual evaluation requirements during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a statement issued following the board’s executive session, AISD Board President Geronimo Rodriguez assured, “The public school mission may have changed, but our AISD missions and values to educate every child have not.” He acknowledged, “This is day one of virtual learning. There are still many hurdles for students, teachers and families to transition to online distance learning and we will all work through them together.”