Students and Staff Share Their Feelings About the Enforcement of the LVA Citizenship Policy


Photo of Citizenship Rubric from LVA website.

The LVA Citizenship policy was recently enforced, utilizing the same rubric as last year inspired by the “LVA Way.” Teachers are now required to use the rubric more strictly when grading citizenship and have been given a tool in order to track citizenship more closely.

Violet Gude, Reporter

Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (LVA) Principal Scott Walker recently enforced the school’s citizenship policy in response to a lack of communication over the standing policy. After its enforcement, there have been some controversial responses from both students and staff. Walker addresses the response and provides an explanation for the confusion and mixed feelings about the rubric. 

The policy is based on a rubric that grades in five categories: Attendance, Family & Community, Character, Positive Attitude, and Achievement. It is the same as last year, but its enforcement requires that teachers use the rubric when grading students’ citizenship, while in the past the rubric was not followed as strictly. Teachers have also been given a new tool to track citizenship more closely. The school’s policy is unique to any other school in the district and was created by Walker. He says he inspired the policy from the values presented in “The LVA Way,” the school’s five main values that students are encouraged to follow. 

Walker explains that he felt a need for enforcement in order to provide consistency; some teachers followed the rubric, others did not, and there was a need for one set rule in order to ensure fairness. “The district also expected there to be a document. [The staff] had to come up with some way that we were going to track citizenship and make it more concrete rather than just how the teacher felt,” Walker said. 

The start of this enforcement began this past quarter and Walker plans to monitor the effect it has on academics, attendance, and overall behavior. It is set to stay for this semester as its effectiveness is being measured. Teacher Melanie Ust and sophomore Thalia Olivares share their thoughts on the policy and its enforcement. 

Teacher Melanie Ust highly respects and values the policy, but also sees areas that the rubric could improve in. “I think it’s important to have a fair policy because we do need to hold students accountable for specific behaviors,” Ust said. “I’m for the citizenship policy as a whole, but I think the wording needs to be changed.”

Sophomore Thalia Olivares has concerns about the policy as well and feels it now lacks the personal sense it once had, which she felt was more beneficial. “It’s a very fixed policy and it doesn’t leave room for improvement,” Thalia said. She recounts a past experience with a teacher who had the students grade themselves and discuss it with the teacher to find the students’ specific areas of improvement. She found this more personal discussion to be more effective for her own progress.

A large portion of the controversial response to the policy centers around the Attendance category on the rubric. “It was hard to get kids to come to school on a regular basis, a lot of absences, and so we needed to find a way to motivate them to come back because once you lose credit for a class, you have to then retake it and we didn’t want kids not to graduate,” Walker said.

Coming out of a pandemic, absence has been on the rise and the idea was for the policy to encourage better attendance. However, every student has a different situation, so it raises challenges and unfairness for some students whose attendance is out of their control. Ust explains that she has had students attending school even when sick, which has the students performing at a lower level, and also possibly spreading sickness to teachers and students.“If students have a medical excuse, I don’t think that should be held against them.” Ust said.

Another area of concern is the measurement of Achievement by late and missing assignments. When students have frequent late or missing assignments it sets them behind in their class and also poses problems for teachers when grading. Especially in relation to the 100% summative and 0% formative rule that went into effect this year as well. With that being said, each class is different along with each student’s personal circumstances which can make it difficult to fit under one set of guidelines for everyone to follow. 

Walker argues that they are worked into the policy in order to prepare for expected deadlines in the workplace and ensure that students are prepared for, and actively participating in their classes. “If you’re not keeping up with the work and you’re not prepared for the new day’s lesson, “It’s hard to be effective,” Walker said. 

As a student, Thalia recounts times when there were things going on at home and her teachers were understanding and able to take her situation into account to better assist her. “I feel like I could keep on track very well, I could easily turn things in and it was more available for teachers to fix and edit things as we needed them to be, instead of the exact rubric where you can’t make any changes,” Thalia said.

Ust also points out that the guidelines in the rubric may be efficient for some classes, but not others, making it unfair and ineffective. “I feel like certain classes have way more assignments than other classes, so it’s hard to be equitable when it’s based on a specific number of missing assignments,” Ust said. 

Walker admits that even he knows the policy is not perfect. He says he is open to constructive feedback on the policy and that it is subject to change if it is found that it is needed.