Lowered standards, penalized high achievers are CCISD’s COVID-19 response

Everybody, everybody, let's get into it Get stupid Get it started

Updated 4/10/20: Dickinson ISD has a better policy. For high school, it counts the third 9 week period, and if students get higher marks during the fourth 9 weeks, that is averaged in to the final semester grade. CCISD can easily copy and paste this policy. All they have to do is literally select “copy” and then “paste”, then change any mention of “Dickinson” to “Clear Creek” using Find and Replace in Word. You’re welcome, CCISD. And thank you to the concerned reader who provided this information!

Just when you think CCISD can’t lower its standards any more, along comes the coronavirus pandemic. As Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, said in 2008, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

CCISD appears to have taken Mr. Emanuel’s words to heart, to the detriment of 42,000 students. On April 6, 2020, in a 6-1 vote, the CCISD Board of Trustees voted to:

  1. Remove letter/number grades from transcripts for the second half of the school year and replace them with a pass/fail system;
  2. Lower the standard for passing from a 70 to a 60;
  3. Not use any of this for calculating class ranking or GPA.

CCISD, through its mostly feckless Board of Trustees, has been working diligently to lower standards for students, cheapening the value of their education, and punish high-achieving students. Let’s take a look at how this happens.

The Ebell recommendations

If you watch the Board meeting video, you’ll see who was responsible for these recommendations. That’s right! It’s none other than Dr. Steven Ebell. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know that he managed to run the Gonzales ISD right into the ground, and he’s hell-bent on doing that to CCISD, too.

How low can you go?

Let’s start with how CCISD lowered the grading standards for students. Normally, they’d have to get a 70 or above to pass a class. However, CCISD decided to lower that to a 60 for the remainder of the term. The reasoning is that students may not be able to access lessons regularly.

That. Is. Bovine excrement.

At the intermediate and high school levels, all CCISD students are issued devices, either laptops or tablets, to access ItsLearning and the other online tools used by the district. When school districts announced closures, local internet service providers announced that they would be offering free services. Students can also go to their nearest CCISD school and log in to the network there. It’s not ideal, but a student determined to get their work done will get it done – and pass with a 70.

“Oh, but we don’t know what they’re going through at home!”

No, we don’t, but how is that different than during the regular school year? What this essentially does is not require students to master the material. They just kinda sorta have to do the work, and they get their participation medal and cookie.

And then what happens in the 2020-2021 school year, when these kids who “passed” with a 60 are now faced with new material that builds upon the lessons they’re supposed to be learning? They flounder, of course – and fail – unless CCISD is using this as a foot in the door to permanently lower grading standards.

Bending the rules to suppress the voice of reason

Only one Trustee actually tried to stop this train wreck: Scott Bowen. At the 1:22:-ish mark in the video, Mr. Bowen gives an impassioned speech in support of an amendment he made to remove this. “I don’t think it is compassionate to lower our standards,” he said.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, Mr. Bowen’s amendment did not require a second, as a reader so astutely pointed out. But why was Leila Sarmecanic, the District’s attorney and not the Parliamentarian (that falls into the hands of Trustee Page Rander, who was positively silent during this exchange), making a ruling? She’s a lawyer, not a Parliamentarian, and she can wipe that smug smirk off her face.

“We use Robert’s Rules as a guide,” Dr. Laura DuPont, the Board president, admonished him. That pretty much sums up CCISD’s attitude (and the Six’s attitude toward Mr. Bowen, who is the only one on that entire Board looking out for the best interests of the students, families, and taxpayers in the District). Bend the rules when it suits you, especially if it means suppressing common sense. Scold the voice of reason like you’d scold a child who ate the cake meant for company.

Pass/fail is a CCISD #fail

But let’s dig into the meat of the latest train wreck of a Board decision: pass/fail. Without talking to parents or students, without considering the impact that this could have on high-achieving students, the Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to accept these recommendations.

During the live stream on April 8, the response was overwhelmingly negative. Parents and students alike are worried about how this will affect class rankings and GPAs. (Also to no one’s surprise, CCISD had “technical difficulties” and had to start the live stream 15 minutes late.)

Those watching the live stream expressed dismay that students are not being given a choice to use their number/letter grades instead of pass/fail. They pointed out that this just removes the motivation to work hard, because all you have to do is pass. Students who were depending on the second half of the year to improve their GPAs are now out of luck.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of this is the impact to the high school juniors. As many of us remember, the second semester of our junior year was critical when it came to college admissions. We needed good grades, and we studied our tails off to bring up our GPAs and have something to show admissions officers.

That’s now gone.

Hoping for a change (dot-org)

Students took to Change.org to beg the District to reconsider. One petition, started by a Hannah Kuecker, asks the District to at least let the students keep their third 9-week period grades. (That’s right! The hard work they did before spring break, when the grading period ended, isn’t going to count!)

Someone named Lisa Matus started another petition to ask that CCISD repeal this decision. She advocates for the logical solution: letting students choose how they want to be graded.

Lest you say they can’t do this, that’s not the case. Students are still getting numerical grades on their assignments, but their transcripts will not reflect that.

The bottom line: No high-performing school district should remove the motivation to excel or lower its standards. There is absolutely no excuse for not getting work done, and this is just another way that CCISD is working to dumb down the children of the district.

If you disagree with this decision, e-mail Dr. Greg Smith and the entire Board of Trustees. Make your voice heard!

And at election time, remember the names of those who have been voting to lower standards, and the year you can vote them out:

  • Arturo Sanchez, 2020
  • Win Weber (who can’t even be bothered to show her face during virtual board meetings), 2020
  • Jennifer Broddle, 2021
  • Page Rander, 2021
  • Jay Cunningham, 2021
  • Laura DuPont, 2022

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