As the 2019-20 school year wraps up, Principals are faced with a new set of considerations in light of the current circumstances. MASSP has fielded a number of questions recently as districts are finishing instruction for the year. So let's take a minute to review some end-of-year issues you may be facing and what the current rules are in light of the many executive orders and other guidance currently in place.

Failing Grades

It is possible that you have students ending the year with failing grades in one or more subjects. But EO 2020-65 provides that districts "must not penalize a pupil for the pupil’s inability to fully participate" [Article II(1)(a)] in distance learning under a COL plan. So can you fail or retain a student who has the capability of participating in the continuity of learning plan but does not participate? It depends on the circumstances. Consider the following:

  • If the student is a senior, the EO says that "Districts must provide a pupil in grade 12 who was failing a course as of March 11, 2020 an opportunity to the extent feasible to demonstrate learning in the subject matter of the course and receive credit for the course, as determined by the district." [Article V(2)] Have you done that?
  • Remember also that an "inability to fully participate" because of COVID-19 can take a lot of forms, not just a lack of internet or a suitable device. Make sure you are considering the student's individual circumstances and act with caution when determining their ability to participate.  The focus should be on compassion over compliance.

At the end of the day, the EO stipulates that "Decisions regarding the awarding of credit, the issuance of grades, and the use of pass or fail designations will be made at the district level by districts with due recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic." [Article II(14)] But we would urge you to consider issuing an incomplete and giving the student the opportunity to make up missed work when in-person instruction resumes as an alternative to a failing grade and/or retention.

Educator Evaluations

EO 2020-65 requires districts to provide a final teacher evaluation with a rating for any teacher who has an individualized development plan (IDP) based on the data that are available. This is going to look different in different districts depending on what student growth and observation data you have available, but at a minimum your district should ensure that all of the following are met:

  • A teacher’s annual year-end performance evaluation must be determined based on the teacher’s performance at least through March 13, 2020, though the district may account for the teacher’s performance after March 13, 2020 through the end of the 2019–2020 school year, including efforts made by the teacher to prepare and provide remote student instruction.
  • These performance evaluations must give no consideration to criteria requiring data or other information unavailable as a result of the pandemic.

One possible implication of this could be that if you are unable to calculate a student growth score for the teacher for this year and have no prior-year data, you may not be able to include student growth in the teacher's evaluation.

If necessary or appropriate, districts may waive or extend the timelines in a teacher's IDP goals if the data required to evaluate that IDP goal are unavailable as a result of the pandemic.

See MASSP's more detailed article on Finalizing Evaluations for the 2019-20 School Year for a deeper dive on educator evaluation issues for this school year. Plus, MDE has an FAQ specifically on educator evaluation that goes into more detail if you need it.

Defining The End of the School Year

There is some conflict between the language of EOs 2020-110 and 2020-115 and that of EO 2020-65. Specifically, there is disagreement about whether an individual district’s school year ends on the last instructional day or June 30. This matters because, per MASB's legal counsel, current limitations by EO 2020-65 on who may enter school property and for what purposes remain in effect until the EO expires, which happens at the end of the 2019-20 school year. In other words, the definition of the end of the school year impacts when students are allowed on property to clean out lockers, when you could schedule a graduation ceremony on the football field, or when school sports and extracurricular activities may resume.

MASB is advising districts that the end of the school year can be considered the last day of instruction for most purposes. But some school attorneys are advising their districts consider June 30 as the last day of school since that is the end of the school fiscal year and the date the Supreme Court has determined should be used when determining things like non-renewal deadlines for staff. As such, schools should check with their local legal counsel before moving forward.

Graduation and End-of-Year Ceremonies

EO 2020-110 and EO 2020-115 reopened significant parts of the state's economy and created new opportunities for social gatherings. This has many schools wondering if and when they may be able to hold some form of graduation and/or awards ceremony for their outgoing senior class. The bottom line is that for most districts, the limitations still in place will make in-person ceremonies difficult. But for some districts, particularly smaller districts and districts in northern Michigan and the upper peninsula, you may be able to have graduation after all. See MASSP's more detailed article for specifics and be sure to read the discussion in this article about defining the end of the school year.
 
We've also gotten questions about the possibility for a summer prom or other similar social event for students. In this case, remember that under the current orders, nothing has changed the requirements for social distancing and mask wearing. So unless the rules change or the students in your district have invented a new form of dancing that is basically the opposite of every teen dance trend since the Victorian era, prom is probably not in the cards.

Locker Clean Out and Materials Return

Under EO 2020-10, students may enter school property for non-instructional purposes such as cleaning out lockers, returning materials, and the like provided schools ensure proper social distancing. But EO 2020-65 specifically limits who can enter school property and students aren't on the list. Be sure to read our discussion below about defining the end of the school year for full details, but the short version is that you can move forward with these end of year housekeeping activities, but only after the 2019-20 school year ends.

Summer Sports

Under EO 2020-10, outdoor athletic practices and training sessions may resume subject to social distancing, participation limits, and MHSAA guidelines after the end of the 2019-20 school year. But we know there has been some disagreement about exactly when the end of the school year is. MHSAA guidelines say you can resume athletics after the last day of practice while some attorneys are saying to wait until after June 30. The issue is that EO 2020-65 specifically limits who can enter school property for what purposes during the school year and students participating in outdoor athletic practices aren't on the list. So be sure to read our discussion below about defining the end of the school year before letting your coaches schedule practice.