Students’ failure rates increased with COVID

By GUY BUSBY guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 3/19/21

DAPHNE – As students switched to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak, public school failure rates more than doubled, education officials said.

With 91 percent of students back in …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Students’ failure rates increased with COVID

Posted

DAPHNE – As students switched to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak, public school failure rates more than doubled, education officials said.

With 91 percent of students back in standard brick-and-mortar schools, those rates should improve, Renee Carter, dean of academics for the Baldwin County Board of Education, said Tuesday.

“We have seen a rise in failures at the end of the semester. That did not surprise us. We knew that we would. That is why we opened our schools in Baldwin County,” Carter said.

Chasity Riddick, school system spokeswoman, said the failure rate for 2020 was about 2.5 percent. In 2021, that rate rose to 5.7 percent. Carter said 2.5 percent was about average for recent years.

Riddick said some schools are already showing improvements.

“In our brick and mortar schools, we saw failing numbers improve” Riddick said. “At Fairhope High School, they went down as far as the failing numbers. At Central Baldwin (Middle School), the number of A's went up significantly. Elberta High as well. So we have a little bit of it all. Sure, our numbers went up as far as failing grades, but we had just as many successes, especially in our brick and mortar schools.”

When schools closed at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic one year ago, all students moved to distance learning. About 8,000 were enrolled in the Baldwin County Virtual School, Riddick said. During the pandemic, the usual entrance guidelines for Virtual School were dropped. The school, which had been limited to seventh through 12 grade, was also expanded to include elementary grades.

In the Virtual School system students do all classes online throughout their time in school. Before the pandemic, students had to have a grade point average of at least 2.0, less than six unexcused absences and a good disciplinary record to be accepted into the program, according to earlier reports. Students also had to test at their grade level.

Carter said some students were not prepared for the demands of virtual school.

“We knew kids would struggle in virtual unless they met the guidelines of virtual,” Carter said. “We knew they would struggle and that's why we opened our doors and we're excited that 91 percent of our students are back in brick and mortar where they need to be.”

About 3,000 students are still enrolled in the Virtual School program, Riddick said.

Enrollment applications are being taken for Virtual School in the 2021-22 academic year through April 30.

Carter said Virtual School requirements will be in effect for the upcoming year.

“They're in the application process,” Carter said. “The application process is open now. You can apply, but it does not mean that you will qualify.”

Riddick said educators will not know how many students will be in the Virtual School program next year until the application period is complete. She said more students are expected than the 350 in previous years, but not the 7,000 or 8,000 who enrolled last year.

She said some of the additional teachers assigned to Virtual School will be transferred to brick and mortar schools, but the final assignments will depend on enrollment after the application period.

Carter said educators are working to get students back up to their pre-COVID learning levels.

“We have interventions in place,” Carter said. “We’ve put them in classes to help them make up those credits. We certainly didn't wait until summer to do all of that, but we certainly do have good summer programs planned. We are now working on plans on what we can do to close those gaps. We are doing assessments now to see where the strugglers are.”

Carter said educators often deal with children lagging behind.

“All kids are not on grade level and it's very hard to say it's because of COVID,” she said.” There's a chance they were not on grade level before COVID hit. What we do is we view it as children with needs. We don't do it because of COVID. We do like we do every summer. Children that have need we're going to work on what we need to do to help them to grow.”