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Rise in failing grades across California a cause for concern

Posted at 7:00 PM, Dec 10, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — An early report card on student grades during the pandemic shows cause for concern, as the number of D's and F's are up at schools across California.

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and some parents are just done with distance learning.

"Best case scenario I'd like to get my child back in a classroom," Amanda McLean says. Her five-year-old daughter is a student at L R Green Elementary School in Escondido. "There is very minimal interaction with children and teachers in the classroom and yet our children are thriving far better in that setting than they are in zoom."

Early grade reports from some secondary schools across the state seem to back up that statement.

In November, the Vista Unified School District released its six-week progress report for all of its high schools.

The number of F's up more than 200% from last year.

In late October, the Carlsbad Unified School District released an eight-week progress report and a similar finding, F grades increased by more than 300%.

At one of the largest high school districts in the state, Sweetwater Union High School District D's and F's are also up. District data shows the most impacted are English learner students and students that are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

"The pandemic is illuminating for us how these traditional practices are so inapplicable and so unhelpful and actually punishing students for things outside their control like a pandemic," Joe Feldman, the head of Crescendo Education Group, said.

Feldman said he believes districts need to change the way they grade students, starting with removing the environmental factors students can't control.

"And then what they have to do is they have to think about, are we able to deliver the instruction in the way that we want and are we able to really accurately assess what students know," Feldman said.

Some districts say they released early progress report data as a proactive step to help students with support and intervention immediately.

In San Luis Obispo County, Rick Mayfield, the director of learning and achievement for San Luis Coastal Unified School District, said he's concerned about the data he's seeing.

"Comparing last year's data in full pre-COVID to this year's data during distance learning we're very concerned about what we're seeing," Mayfield said.

Preliminary data shows a five to 15% increase in D's and F's depending on the school.

Mayfield says educators need to find a balance between rigorous learning and understanding they are in the middle of a pandemic.

"It's not an option for any district to just say ya well there's nothing we can do about the pandemic and let's just move forward. We're developing a robust learning recovery plan to get kids back up to speed," Mayfield said.

The state's second-largest school district, San Diego Unified, says it has not released grade data yet.