Student grades in De Pere change with pandemic
By Ben Rodgers
DE PERE – Students in the De Pere school district will not have a choice on what grades they receive during the pandemic, but the change won’t hurt GPAs.
Nick Joseph, De Pere High School principal, told the school board at its Monday, May 4, meeting any grades for high school students that would improve their GPA will be a traditional letter grade, but grades that would lower it would either be a pass or no pass/COVID-19.
“Our struggle was equity,” Joseph said. “What’s fair in this time period? There’s no ideal solution, but I’m comfortable with where we landed on this.”
Shelly Thomas, director of curriculum, said this approach benefits students directly by removing the choice other districts have opted for.
“This will be applied unilaterally for the kids,” Thomas said. “I know sometimes the parents could request a letter grade or a pass/fail. This way we’re not reliant on a parent requesting or not requesting.”
Second semester grades at De Pere High School will also be calculated all at once, so students with GPAs which border letter grade thresholds won’t be impacted.
Middle and elementary school students will earn narratives on how well they performed in regards to essential learning concepts, said Adam Kraemer, De Pere Middle School principal.
“The teachers have identified what the essential standards are we want our students to learn at this time,” Kraemer said. “Teachers will address that accordingly, if they meet the standards.”
School administrators said it’s a difficult situation because students could be using outside resources to complete online tests, or parents could be helping.
“Just like Nick and Adam, we struggled with the amount of independence at the elementary level,” said Mark Kirst, principal at Susie C. Altmayer Elementary School. “We didn’t know if the parents were right behind them helping them through the whole thing. We didn’t want to grade the parents, so we went with a narrative format as well.”
Superintendent Ben Villarruel said there will be another discussion in the future in regards to academic eligibility for student athletes.
In other news, the board heard from Kirby Kulas, human resource manager on exit surveys, which are now being completed anonymously by some employees who leave the district.
This school year the district has nine retirements, compared to four the previous school year.
“Our turnover rate has crept up, but I think it’s truly more about a free-agent environment,” Kulas said. “Comparatively, we are a really good place in terms of having a very low turnover. We’ve had very good retention of our employees.”
Employee workload was one thing board member Bob Mathews noticed on the survey results.
“Teaching has become a less solitary endeavor,” Thomas said. “So there’s more expectations for collaboration and agreement on curriculum and essential standards we’re going to focus on. While that collaboration eases the workload in the long run, that can feel different on different staff.”
Finally, the board held its annual reorganization.
David Youngquist was reelected president, and salaries will remain the same as last school year for board members: $3,600 for the president, $3,400 for other officers, and $3,200 for all other board members.
The board also named The Press Times as the official newspaper of the school district.
Since March 2014, the Green Bay Press Gazette has been the official paper, but Villarruel said things have changed.
“(The Press Times) has better coverage of the district and local community, where the Green Bay Press Gazette really has nothing,” he said. “It doesn’t cover any local governments in the area.”