Livingston Parish high schoolers could potentially see their grades drop if they haven’t been regularly completing coursework amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, they’ll also be given “every opportunity” possible to make sure that doesn’t happen, according to Superintendent Joe Murphy.
Murphy made that announcement to a group of business leaders during a recorded roundtable discussion organized by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce, which uploaded the video to its Youtube channel last week.
During the discussion, the superintendent touched on a wide range of topics, such as pupil progression and retention, grading, graduation ceremonies, kindergarten registration, and summer school, all of which are being affected to some degree by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
To stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. John Bel Edwards shuttered all schools statewide on March 13 for a month before later extending that closure to the rest of the 2019-20 school year.
It has since forced school districts across the state to implement their own blended models of learning, which have included a variety of technological and traditional paper-packet resources for students to complete at home.
Murphy recalled the day Edwards first closed schools during last week’s video chat, saying the district received about “an hour’s notice” of the pending announcement before working to figure out what the rest of the semester would look like “in a hurry.”
“We’ve been figuring this out as we go,” Murphy said during the chat. “We’ve been watching these proclamations [from the governor’s office] come out day by day, and we’ve made adjustments as those proclamations have come out.”
One of the most difficult things to determine, according to Murphy, has been “what education and learning looks like at every grade level.” Students will miss a total of eight weeks of face-to-face instruction, meaning the district has had to find new ways to reach its 26,000 students in grades K-12.
While it’s easier for teachers to communicate at the high school level and deliver content via online platforms and other technological avenues, Murphy said that’s becomes much more difficult at the kindergarten, first grade or even sixth grade levels, where face-to-face instruction is much more vital.
“Learning looks different at those levels,” Murphy said.
So, too, does the grading.
The final grades for elementary and middle school students are being based on the first three of the four grading periods of the school year.
For each course in every grading period, a student receives four points for an “A,” three points for a “B,” two points for a “C,” one point for a “D,” and zero points for an “F.” The final grades for elementary and middle school students are then determined by totaling the grades from the first three grading periods (11-12 points for an “A,” 8-10 points for a “B,” 5-7 points for a “C,” 2-4 points for a “D,” and 0-1 points for an “F”).
In short, the final semester that has been rocked by the coronavirus won’t impact a student’s final grades in grades K-8.
That is not the same, however, for students in grades 9-12.
Though a student’s final semester grade can’t fall below a “D” if that’s where his or her grade stood on March 13, the day Edwards closed all schools, grades can still fall from an “A” to a “B” or from a “B” to a “C” or a “C” to a “D” if coursework is not regularly completed.
“Students could see their grades drop based upon the graded work provided after 3/13. In order for a grade to drop, the teacher must have documentation that they have been in regular contact with the student and parent to explain the fact their grade is dropping. These conversations should also involve the teacher offering to provide assignments and instruction in whatever form the student needs in order to participate.”
“We have to have some accountability on some of the things that we’re doing,” Murphy explained in the video chat. “If we have a child who has not participated in opportunities we’ve given them, there is a chance they could slip a grade. We felt like we had to have some accountability in it.”
Murphy stressed that a student’s grade could drop only if there has been “absolute documentation” from the school and the teacher “that we’ve reached out on a regular basis (at a minimum of a weekly basis) to try to engage that child in those activities that are being offered.”
According to the new grading procedures, “There should be ample documentation of contact with the student’s parent before zeroes are entered into the gradebook.”
The superintendent also said schools will offer students who haven’t participated in distance learning coursework the chance “to do a portfolio, a project, or something at the end to help their grade.”
For seniors, final grades will be recorded on May 11, while students in grades 9-11 must have outstanding work completed by May 29. Final report cards for all grade levels will be sent out on June 2.
“We’re trying to give every child every opportunity we can to better themselves moving forward,” Murphy said.