Later this month the Bryan school board will consider whether final exams will be required in December for students taking high school credit courses in middle school and high school.
The discussion began during the school board’s workshop Monday at the request of campus administrators and teachers due to the timing of finals with state assessments, Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Barbara Ybarra told the board.
After the week of Nov. 29-Dec. 3, she said, there are only two full weeks of December in the semester with end of course exams and STAAR tests scheduled during both weeks. With the current schedule, she said, there could be students who would be testing every day in those final weeks of the semester.
While not every student will take a STAAR or end of course exam, she said, the state testing pulls teachers out of their classrooms so students not testing are not able to get instruction on those days.
The majority of students taking state testing in December are retesting or making up their test after missing the administration in the spring due to being an online learner; however, some are taking the tests for the first time, she said.
The overlap happened because the district was able to accommodate its in-person state testing through an online platform instead of using paper tests, which means they can administer the STAAR and EOC tests within a window of time instead of on a specific day. The district chose to move the state testing back in the window to give teachers and students more instructional time.
If the board approves the change at its Nov. 15 regular meeting, the students’ semester grades will be factored as an average of the semester’s three six-week periods.
Board member Fran Duane expressed concern over students who may have been relying on their final to help them pass the course.
Ybarra said students have two options to improve their grades throughout the semester.
Per the grading guidelines, she said, teachers must offer students a “reteach” opportunity and a chance to retest and be reassessed after each major grade. Students also can opt to use Edgenuity to recover grades for a particular six-week period in their core classes. Using this option, students can earn up to a 75 for a six-week period they had not passed.
Last year when finals were not administered due to the pandemic, she said, many teachers still had students take the final exam test in class and let the grade replace the student’s lowest major grade to help offset a poor performance earlier in the semester. They could choose to do the same this year.
There is still interest, she said, to have finals at the end of the spring semester when there is not as much overlap between class final exams and state testing.
Board member Ruthie Waller asked about the future of fall semester finals and if it is something that could become a permanent change so teachers could include that in their class syllabus instead of it changing after the semester has begun.
Ybarra said any more permanent decision would come only after convening a group of stakeholders to discuss the options.
Also during the workshop, the board approved an adjustment to the current district and Bryan Collegiate High School calendars to make Nov. 19 a full day of professional development for teachers and a full day off for students instead of an early-release day.
The change will not require any additional days to be added elsewhere in the calendar, she said.
At the elementary level, Ybarra said, the change helps accommodate teachers who have additional professional development requirements and intervention responsibilities this semester. Then, she said, high school teachers asked for the day to prepare for the “home stretch” before state testing.
With Thanksgiving break Nov. 22-26, she said, the day before a holiday historically has low attendance.
She said the AlphaBEST program will operate all day, and the district is reaching out to other local childcare entities.
Board Secretary Felicia Benford said the change addresses concerns parents on the district’s calendar committee had as they discussed the 2022-2023 calendar.