Carroll County students more than five times as likely to receive failing grades during first quarter

Carroll County Public Schools students were more than five times as likely to receive a failing grade during the first quarter as they were a year ago.

Jason Anderson, the chief academic, equity and accountability officer, presented data to the Carroll County Board of Education during its Wednesday night meeting showing that approximately 6,000 more failing letter grades, or F’s, were given out during the quarter that ended Nov. 11 compared with the first quarter from the 2019-20 school year.


And nearly 11,000 fewer A’s were earned.

School board members cited online rather than in-person learning as a possible reason for the decline in academic performance.


Board member Patricia Dorsey said the data tells a story she and fellow BOE members have been hearing — that a lot of students have not found success with the virtual platform.

“But when we see data like this right in front us, I mean, there’s no question that our kids are certainly suffering,” she said.

Anderson, who provided data to the Times showing that CCPS students received 7,586 F’s during the first quarter compared with 1,382 F’s in the first quarter of 2019, said the numbers in the tables presented to the board represent the number of grades given rather than the number of students.

“Not that that makes everything better,” he said during the meeting.

As an example, Anderson said via email that if Carrolltowne Elementary had 10 F’s for the first quarter, that could mean two or three students received all the failing grades in multiple subjects and not necessarily that 10 students were failing.

Close to 3,000 more F’s were given to middle school students during the first quarter and the number of A’s that were given dropped by 7,000 between school years. East Middle had 557 more F’s, Northwest had 412 more and North Carroll had 344 more.

The first quarter F’s for Manchester Valley High School jumped by 718, the F’s at Westminster High increased by 546 and Winters Mill rose by 440.

At the elementary school level, Mechanicsville had zero students with F’s during the 2019-2020 school year but had 20 failing grades this year. Similarly, Linton Springs had one failing grade during the previous 2019 first quarter and 20 more F’s were given during this year’s first quarter. Cranberry Station’s failing grades increased by 96 while Friendship Valley jumped by 60.

Anderson told members they invited 940 students for tutoring on the elementary level and 69% took advantage. Over 2,000 kids in middle school were offered tutoring but only 16% accepted. And of the 650 students in high school who were offered tutoring, 38% took advantage.

Anderson also said students in the program English as a Second Language were impacted the most by failing grades.

Board member Donna Sivigny called the data “disheartening,” “striking” and “valuable.”

“This is the reason why we’ve been pushing so hard to try to get kids in person, in the classroom as much as possible,” she said. “It completely backs up everything we’ve been trying to do.


Board member Marsha Herbert said while she monitored her granddaughter’s online class, she saw third graders “clicking off their computers” during class. She added academic recovery will be a focal point for the board in the coming months.

Herbert said she is concerned about eligibility for sports.

Cindy McCabe, chief of schools, said the board made the decision to have academic eligibility and attendance factored in regarding sports and other extracurricular activities, based on second quarter grades. Students will need at least a 2.0 and zero F’s. However, she noted the second quarter has historically been more rigorous than the first.

Winter sports are scheduled to start on Monday. Michael Duffy, supervisor of athletics, said the season will have phases. Phase one starts Dec. 14 and ends Dec. 19. Athletes will have conditioning, skill evaluation and team selection during that time.

“Parents can expect tryouts to look like typical tryouts,” he said.

Phase two, which starts Dec. 21 and ends Jan. 4, will be practice and internal scrimmages. And phase three, from Jan. 5 to Feb. 12, will be “interscholastic” competition. Students are expected to, when possible, provide their own equipment and spectators will not be allowed.

The board will meet again Jan. 4 to decide whether to send students back to hybrid learning on Jan. 7.

Sivigny noted state and national leaders who agree about the importance of in-person learning as well as other states that are opening or are attempting to open schools. She also mentioned the grade deterioration before saying “I think that all factors into our upcoming decisions.”

Board member Tara Battaglia said there have been conversations on social media alleging that the board does not listen to health experts when making their decisions.

“We are listening, we are looking, we are reading,” she said. “It is important that everyone keeps their eyes open.”

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, ex-officio BOE member, said he had to mention that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in-person learning is a “high-risk activity” and state leaders also said students should return in limited numbers, though numbers of students was not specified.

Earlier in the meeting, Herbert was voted to be the president of the board, having previously served as vice president, after a nomination by former president Sivigny. Ken Kiler was voted as vice president after a nomination by Herbert.

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