In response to the 1/10/2012 post, “A Reader Asks… STAAR, EOC and Final Grades,” A LYSer answered:

SC,

This is a complicated issue with no simple answer. When I say no simple answer, I mean every solution has a potential trap. Remember back in 2008-2009 when TEA tried to come up with a standardized GPA system for the state? Districts howled and went to the attorney general, who ruled TEA had no authority to mingle into the affairs of GPA. Now the legislature has put their feet into the GPA quicksand, but offered no guidance in statute. And guess what, TEA is also silent on the issue. Given their 2008 experience with the GPA and grading, I can’t say I blame them.

There are two basic questions you have to ask. First, how will we include the 15% EOC scores into the final grade? You have two starting points: an average, or a “bin” approach.

The average is simply taking an EOC raw score and converting it to a percentage. For example, if the EOC test has 50 questions and the student gets 25 questions right, that could be considered a 50, a failing score. Of course the EOC is a standardized test, so 25 questions may be deemed passing by TEA, yet you just assigned a failing score. Of course you could always normalize or “curve” the scores in some fashion, but that brings it’s own new level of complexity. If you use the average method with or without any type of curve, understand that the TEA passing standards are likely to change for years to come, meaning you will have to continuously adjust your calculation system. Not fun, in my opinion.

The next approach is a “bin” approach. TEA will assign three broad classifications to the EOC: Advanced Academic Performance, Satisfactory Academic Performance, and Unsatisfactory Academic Performance. For all students earning Advanced, a score of 100 is entered as the EOC grade and that becomes 15% of the final course grade. Satisfactory may be a 90, and Unsatisfactory could be assigned a 69. The actual numbers here are just examples, the idea is a single score is assigned based on the level of performance, not a calculated percentage. This method is immune to changing state standards. The down side is, if a student gets 100% of all questions right yet another student misses 1 question, these students are assigned the same grade as they both scored Advanced. This is not a problem for me, but some kids, and parents, play the GPA game to the hilt. We will address that in a moment.

Keep in mind that whether using the average or the bin approach, you have to determine if you will use partial credit. That is, if a student passes semester 1 with an 80, but fails semester two with a 50, do you give 1/2 credit? If you do, this will effect how you calculate the final course grade. Remember the law says the EOC must count 15% of the FINAL course grade. The law is silent on the issue of semester grades. I intend to use partial credit, so each semester grade will stand alone, and then a final grade will be calculated, using the bin approach for me. In my method credit will be awarded by semester, so the final grade has NO impact on credit. You will need to look at policy EI (LOCAL) to make sure it is consistent with partial credit practices.

Second, once you determine how you will deal with the 15% issue, you have to address the issue of GPA. This one is simple: Yes or No. That is, will you include the EOC score in the GPA calculation, Yes, or No. I have contacted several attorneys who have all assured me there is no requirement in law to include EOC scores in GPA. TEA says EOC “should” be reflected in GPA, but again, the attorneys have assured me TEA has no authority on the issue, which seems consistent with the 2008 GPA debacle, which is why I brought it up. I am going with NO, EOC will not be used in GPA calculations. Saying no gets around the problem I mentioned using the bin approach where two students get a different number of test questions correct yet are assigned the same grade. Parent squabble averted.

So for me, I am using a bin approach with scores of 100, 90 and 69 assigned for the three levels. Credit and GPA will be calculated based upon semester grades, not the final course grade. Using this method the final course grade is of no meaning or consequence and only the semester grades have any impact on the student at all. It fits the letter of the law, if not the intent.

Keep in mind you will need to look at EIC (LOCAL) and EI (LOCAL). You don’t have to mention the details of how credit and GPA are calculated in policy. Policy can just flesh out the general idea and refer the public to the student handbook in order to find the details of calculation. This has obvious advantages.

I chose the method of bin and No to GPA because I truly see a no win in this for schools. Parents are going to soon figure out that the GPA and credit situation is inconsistent across the state. Literally millions of dollars ride on these issues in college admission and scholarships, and I am quite sure this EOC/GPA scenario has the potential to explode in the State’s face. Giving a monkey a hand grenade is not good for the monkey and will probably not be good for anyone in the vicinity. Not that I am drawing any similarities between the legislature and monkeys. I like monkeys.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

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