AISD incorporates a pass/incomplete system into online learning

The+Austin+Independent+School+District+%28AISD%29+board+hosted+an+online+meeting+Monday%2C+April+6+to+discuss+the+future+of+AISD+students+while+learning+online.+The+AISD+board+decided+the+Spring+semester+of+the+2020+school+year+will+not+be+used+as+a+part+of+future+GPA+or+rank+calculations.

Faith Lawrence

The Austin Independent School District (AISD) board hosted an online meeting Monday, April 6 to discuss the future of AISD students while learning online. The AISD board decided the Spring semester of the 2020 school year will not be used as a part of future GPA or rank calculations.

By Faith Lawrence and Cade Spencer

*An update from The Dispatch Editors: Although resolutions 8.1A, 8.1B, 8.2, and 8.3 were passed during the AISD Board meeting on Monday, March 7, the district is currently drafting an official announcement that will explain all of the changes instated by the resolutions and their impact on Bowie students. No exact date has been given for the release of the announcement; however, it is expected to come later this week.

Austin Independent School District (AISD) hosted a board meeting on Monday, April 6 to finalize graduation requirements, grading policies, and Grade Point Average (GPA) calculations for the remainder of the Spring semester. As declared in resolution 8.2, the Spring semester of the 2020 school year will not be used as a part of future GPA or rank calculations.

According to the resolution, students will not be graded on their work, but teachers will continue to assign tasks to students through the end of the school year. 

“If you do not have access to the internet, if you’re special needs, or an English language learner, you may need extra support, and it will affect your GPA if you don’t have those supports or accommodations,” Associate Superintendent of High Schools Craig Shapiro said. “So therefore that was the reasoning that we recommended going forward with locking the grades in at the end of the third six weeks to avoid the possibility of an unfair advantage that could come from a lack of access to support.”

In place of the traditional pass/fail system, the district will be adopting a system of pass/incomplete, and any student whose second semester is labeled as incomplete will be allowed to participate in summer programs to earn a passing credit. 

“Many times a common phrase used is pass or fail, but this is not pass or fail,” Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz said. “This is pass or incomplete, and it gives opportunities for students to demonstrate their levels of proficiency.”

While students will not be receiving any more grades, completion of assignments will be strongly recommended by teachers. Students working full-time jobs will not be expected to complete all assignments, but teachers will be able to contact students who are not completing an appropriate amount of work for their classes to better understand their current situation. 

“I’m worried about staying on top of everything and making sure I finish everything,” sophomore Camilla Cooper said. “So grades being taken away would greatly alleviate much of the stress and pressure put on students and allow them to focus on learning at their own pace and not due dates, which is extremely helpful.”

As explained in the resolution, when a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior from the 2019-2020 school year graduates, they will have only seven semesters of classes calculated into their GPA instead of the traditional eight semesters.

“I just want all AISD parents to know that what this district has pulled off in the past three weeks is unprecedented and monumental, and we are on our way to a new normal,” AISD Board Trustee Yasmine Wagner said. “We really have the student’s best interest at heart.”

Students in dual credit classes will continue receiving grades from colleges as long as their college program is still active but will not receive grades in their high school course. Students in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs such as Culinary Arts and Cosmetology will still have opportunities to receive their certification for their program as well.

“I believe that OnRamps will still be having a college grade that counts for our credit, so it will be interesting to be getting a college grade only and not a high school grade,” junior Liam Spencer said. “It kinda feels like being in college early, it’s fun.”

The final resolution stated that class rankings for high school seniors will stay the same from when they were calculated at the end of the Fall semester.

“I don’t necessarily like the new system for class ranks but I understand why they had to do it like this,” senior Halle Krogstad said. “For me personally, I know I worked really hard and wanted to see my improvement with ranks but at the same time, the majority of [seniors] have decided where we want to go to college or what we want to do so I don’t think this will affect us much.”

Students in AISD schools began online learning on April 6. While campuses will remain physically closed for the remainder of the school year, students can access resources at AISD’s Learning-At-Home website

“Although I would prefer physically attending a class, I think that online school is still a good alternative,” sophomore Yuri Lee said. “I like how online school allows me to continue learning at my own pace which is beneficial to my education.”

AISD will find a way to provide a device with an internet connection to all students in need, allowing them to participate in online learning. Additionally, the AISD board has been working to create multiple busses equipped with internet access to be stationed at various apartment complexes in the city, serving students of all grade levels. A list of bus schedules will be available on the AISD website sometime next week.

“If you do the math we have about 30,000 computers to deliver to students,” Transformation Officer Kevin Schwartz said. “I think we can estimate about four weeks, we will be done with elementary schools by the end of next week and expect to start with elementary schools before then. We have had some problems with delivery so those times are not certain. The computers are not being delivered by campus but by necessity based on socio-economic differences.”

Following the death of Patricia Hernandez, an AISD food service worker at Casis Elementary School who worked for the district for 10 years, AISD Board President Geronimo Rodriguez called for a moment of silence at the beginning of the April 6 board meeting. Hernandez reportedly died of complications after testing positive for COVID-19.

“Pati was a valued member of our Casis Elementary School community for ten years and she served the district since 2002,” Casis Elementary School Principal Samuel Tinnon wrote in a letter to the Casis community. “During this time, she was considered a loyal, faithful, and hardworking individual–who found great joy in serving the students of our school and district. While we are not physically together, please know that AISD is prepared to meet the needs of all staff and students who may need support because of this news.”

AISD Board Trustee Ann Teich suggested during the board meeting that families focus on emotional needs first and learning second while quarantined. 

“You are saving lives by staying home, practicing social distancing, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and wearing a cloth mask,” Rodriguez said. “There are still many hurdles for teachers, students and families to transition to online distance learning, and we will all work through them together. Austin School District will meet all of the big challenges with a focus on equity and inclusion, particularly for historically under resourced students and their families. We are a human centric organization.”

Other resolutions passed by the board last night include: 

Resolution – Educator and Administrator Appraisal Waiver due to COVID-19

Resolutions – (A) Extending COVID-19 Emergency Authorizations and (B) Easements and Restrictive Covenants.

Additional reporting by Arushi Sharma, Lauren Joy, Sammie Thompson and Anna Holme.

This story was originally published on The Dispatch on April 7, 2020.