• October 20, 2019

Exam exemptions expanded to all high school students - Odessa American: News

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Exam exemptions expanded to all high school students

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Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 4:30 pm

Students at all Ector County ISD high schools may earn exemptions from spring final exams if they meet certain standards during the school year.

The policy was previously open to seniors, but this year it is available from freshmen up.

Seniors are eligible to be exempt from all exams; juniors are allowed up to four exemptions; sophomores are allowed up to three exemptions; and freshmen are allowed up to two, the policy states.

Absences are being counted from Aug. 19 — the start of school — through May 21.

Specific guidelines to qualify are:

  • Course average of 90–100 with no more than four absences (excused and unexcused).
  • Course average of 85–89 with no more than three absences (excused and unexcused).
  • Course average of 80–84 with no more than two absences (excused and unexcused).
  • Each course is independent. Attendance and grade requirements must be met for course or courses a student is requesting an exam. 
  • Students must be in attendance on the day of the final exam or they forfeit their exemption.
  • Students must meet the campus requirements related to submission deadlines and verification procedures for securing their exemptions.
  • Students are encouraged to monitor their attendance throughout the school year.

Absences that don’t count against attendance for exemption are:

  • Religious holy days; school-related or extracurricular activities; college visits up to two days only.

Students must take an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam to be exempt from a teacher’s final exam.

If a student does not sit for the AP/IB exam, they must take the teacher’s final exam for the class.  If a student does take the AP/IB exam then they must still meet all the same grade, attendance and discipline requirements that are in effect for non-AP classes.

No final exam exemptions allowed for online or dual credit courses, the policy said.

Executive Director of Secondary Education Roberto Cedillo said when parents call to excuse their child, that’s an excused absence. An unexcused absence is when nobody calls, he said.

“The only exemptions to the attendance roll are extracurricular activities, like if they’re gone for football, basketball, baseball, band, choir, college visits and then any religious holy days. It’s been in place. Have we used it? Not necessarily, and we modified … some of the criteria. I think before it was only allowed up for seniors. We’ve pushed it out for all four classifications,” Cedillo said.  

He added that there was a regulation in place from previous years and it has been adjusted.

“We just basically took that idea and adjusted it and are working to communicate effectively to kids. It gives students an incentive to demonstrate some effort, not only in their coursework but by showing up every day. It’s an incentive to reward the students that have performed to an exceptional level throughout the whole school year (in) attendance course work,” Cedillo said.

When students are in school daily, working hard, they’re proving themselves.

They might not receive a 90, but if they get an 82, for example, they could be exempted from a final exam.

The policy is tied in with a push toward improving overall attendance throughout ECISD.

“It does help the attendance overall for the district, but the goal is to enhance student drive and commitment and reward those kids that have shown a strong effort every day,” Cedillo said. “There are some things in this final exam exemption that are out of our control, like dual credit courses, things like that that are tied to college credit, college hours.”

He added that students who meet the exemption still have the opportunity to take the final exam if they want to see if they can improve their overall grade.

“… One thing I’ve learned about working in the high schools is that when students want it, they will work for it. With that being said, it builds character that can be used in college, the workforce, military. …,” Cedillo said.

If a student is sick for a long period of time and doesn’t get exempted, Cedillo said it’s still a life lesson.

“It’s not a punishment,” he said. “The bottom line with things like this is when students know about it and work for it, it builds character. It can build character for the future. That’s our goal ultimately is to get students ready for life after high school.”

Cedillo said every high school principal was involved in putting the policy together. He added that it was a recommendation that came from them.

Cedillo said the policy, like others, will be evaluated at the end of the year to see if it should continue or needs to change. 

Permian High School Principal Danny Gex said he has seen exam exemption policies done a lot of different ways. He added that he sent several different proposals to Cedillo and Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Howard last year and shared them with Odessa High School Principal Mauricio Marquez.

“I’ve seen exemptions given in the fall and the spring for … freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. We’ve had several different discussions about what type of exemptions do we want to provide our kids. The whole idea of exemptions is to encourage good attendance and reward students for doing well in class and coming to school. The current one, I think it’s great that we’re incorporating exemptions for all the kids. I think it should be a reward for all the kids; all the kids go to school here; all of them, if they’re doing well, should be rewarded for that,” Gex said.

He added that he thinks the previous exemption policy was for students who got a 95 or above.

“I don’t think there’s many students that can score a 95 or above in a class over a six weeks period of time. I speak on many years of experience as an assistant principal. I’ve seen it done a lot of different ways in Katy and Spring Branch in Houston. I sent several different proposals in; we talked about it. I think a lot of people had a lot of different discussions — pros and cons — against opening it up for all our students, but again, it’s a reward and it’s a positive,” Gex said.

“So many times we don’t have opportunities to reward good kids and I think this is a great opportunity to do that. Students that are making 80 or above, I think when you expand that you’re expanding your reward system which is a great thing to do for our students,” he added.

Gex noted that the exemptions are per period. If you miss first and second period for a certain amount of time, you could still gain exemptions for period three, four, five and six. If a student has an orthodontist appointment, they should try to book it over the holidays or when there is a teacher in-service day (student holiday).

Hannah Gore, a 17-year-old senior and Student Senate president, and Landon Satterwhite, an 18-year-old senior and executive board member, said they think the policy is a good idea.

“It gives us good motivation to show up and actually work instead of just goofing off since it is senior year. That is a lot of people’s mind sets,” Satterwhite said.  

Gore added that it should help make students not want to miss school as much.

“It will probably make them have a better attitude to being here and make them more excited to want to come so they don’t have to take the test because everyone always dreads taking the finals, so I feel like if we had that opportunity to not have to take it people will take that,” Gore said.


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