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Pasco schools adopt rules for students’ final grades

Board chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin calls the temporary change ‘common sense.’

With semester finals and state exams canceled, Pasco County school district officials this spring found their usual grading policies suddenly outdated.

In response, the School Board has amended its student progression plan so that teachers will know how to calculate grades as the year winds to a close.

The changes leave some key decisions more directly in teachers’ hands than they had been in recent years.

Most specifically, third graders who would have faced retention based on their state reading test result no longer have that score to hold them back. Instead, the amended rule leaves the retention decision to the discretion of teachers in consultation with parents and school leaders, based on classroom performance and related measures.

The last time the state gave schools more leeway on third-grade retention, in 2015 amid a transition between tests, Pasco saw a dramatic decrease in the number of children who were held back. There has been some expectation the same thing will happen again this year.

Pasco’s progression plan updates also strip from secondary grading formulas the value that finals and end-of-course exams would have counted. Instead, the district will count each quarter as 50 percent of the semester grade.

Unlike Hillsborough County, which makes decisions based on letter grades, Pasco will use the percentage score a student received for each quarter in determining the final marks. So in Pasco, a student who earned a 90 percent A in quarter three and a 82 percent B in quarter four would get an overall B because of the 86 average. That same student would get an overall A in Hillsborough County.

The district also suspended honor roll recognitions for the second semester, instead encouraging “unique ways to recognize students for engagement during distance learning.”

Related: Final grades are due soon. How lenient or tough should teachers be right now?

The School Board adopted these changes, which apply to the 2019-20 school year only, at its May 19 meeting with little conversation.

Chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin called the amendments “straightforward and common sense.”

“It was not anything controversial,” she said. “It was just to align with the fact that we didn’t have all these tests.”

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