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Oxford School District approves changes to promotion and retention policy

With COVID-19 shutting down in-person instruction and closing all public school buildings for the remainder of the spring, school districts had to adjust their method for promoting students to the next grade.

The Oxford School District Board of Trustees approved changes to the district’s promotion and retention policy during their monthly meeting on Monday. The decision was made to align with changes the Mississippi Department of Education made following Governor Tate Reeves’ declaration of a state emergency earlier this month.

OSD superintendent Brian Harvey noted they will go back to the regular policies and graduation requirements when they are able to do so.

“What I wanted to do, or what I wanted to accomplish, in rewriting these policies is to make sure that our educational system still had a level of integrity to it, but also not to overburden our students, teachers and administrators along the way,” said assistant superintendent Bradley Roberson.

A change made to the district’s Pupil Enrollment, Promotion and Retention Policy was to promote all students through the eighth grade unless it is not in the best interest of the student. Those determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, according to policy.

There was not a change in the promotion and retention policy regarding students in 10th through 12th grades, due their requirements being based on Carnegie units. Graduation requirements remained mostly the same, requiring a student to earn at least 24 Carnegie units prior to graduating. The only change was allowing a student to be eligible to receive a diploma if they complete the minimum graduation requirements stated in the district’s current policy.

A line referencing students having to pass state assessment exams to graduate was removed, due to MDE waiving that requirement for the 2020 graduating class.

The Board moved that all students in 7th through 12th grades be exempt from second semester exams. A student’s second semester average will be determined by calculating their third and fourth quarter grades, each weighing 50 percent of their second semester average.

Another policy that had to be rewritten was the district’s grading system policy, due to students and teachers shifting to online distance learning midway through the spring semester. If a student is participating in online learning by completing the assignments posted by their teacher, their fourth quarter average will only be used if it improves the student’s second semester average and overall school year average. In the instance that a student is participating, but their fourth quarter average does not improve their grade, then student’s year average prior to the implementation of online learning will be used as the student’s second semester and school year averages.

“Our goal in this to make sure learning continues for our students, but to some extent without retribution,” Roberson said. “They have the opportunity to improve their grade without retribution. We also wanted to make sure that parents could still have the ability to see if their child was understanding the content, which is important.”

Online learning for OSD is scheduled to end on May 8, but there will be a remediation period for students who need it through May 21.