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Second quarter failing grades triple compared with last year for Carroll County Public Schools students

The number of Carroll County Public Schools students who received at least one failing grade in the second quarter increased by nearly 400 compared with the first quarter and more than tripled compared with the second quarter of last year.

CCPS provided the Times with a breakdown of second quarter grades and the data showed the number of F’s increased, more A’s were given in some rigorous courses than in the previous school year and fully virtual learners outperformed hybrid students.

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“There is no doubt that we have a contingent number of students that are struggling,” Jason Anderson, the school system’s chief academic, equity and accountability officer, said in an interview.

He said they know the issue is disengagement and students not attending their online classes. CCPS has been in virtual or hybrid mode, during which students can attend classes in-person twice a week, during the entire school year because of COVID-19.

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But he also said there are students who are doing “exceptionally well.”

Jason Anderson
Jason Anderson (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times / Carroll County Times)

The second quarter ran from Nov. 12 through Jan. 29. During that time, 3,313 students received at least one F, according to the CCPS data, while 2,939 students received at least one F during the first quarter. Last school year, 952 students received at least one F during the second quarter.

Approximately 96 elementary students, 343 middle school students and 374 high school students had four or more F’s.

During the first quarter, Sept. 8 to Nov. 11, students were more than five times as likely to receive a failing grade as they were a year ago, with approximately 6,000 more failing letter grades, or F’s, given out compared with the first quarter from the 2019-20 school year. The increase in failing grades in the first quarter was often cited as a reason to return students to the classroom, which the school board did, under a hybrid model, during the first week of January. The board recently voted to allow students to attend in-person classes for at least four days a week by early spring.

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Krystal Knauth, a teacher at Mount Airy Middle School, said during the Feb. 10 Board of Education meeting that changes to grading and student attendance are issues she has with the school system. She said teachers have been told to accept late work without penalty and that it will not motivate students who are already failing to compete assignments.

“I know you are concerned with not wanting to our students to fail, but are you concerned with whether we are failing our students?” she asked.

Knauth said the increase in failing grades in the first quarter was due to attendance. She said many students are not going to class and many that are logged in aren’t really there. She also noted there was no disciplinary action for students who fail to attend.

“There are a lot of things you can force us to do, but it is not possible to teach students who are not there,” she said.

Anderson said no grading policy has changed but “expectations have been adjusted to meet the hybrid learning model.” For example, late work penalties have been waived and some teachers award 45-50% credit to students who have incomplete assignments.

After reviewing feedback from teachers, parents and students, he said staff “basically created strategies that would support our students in making sure we are placing students in positions to be successful.” He said they are not watering down anything and know that the adjustments will not last forever. However, they do not want to penalize students who may be dealing with spotty internet or other factors that make virtual and hybrid learning difficult.

There were 1,612 F’s given to students who receive free and reduce meals, a program that has more than 5,300 students. There were 646 Fs give out to students in special education, a program with nearly 3,000 students. And 101 Fs were were given to students in the English as a Second Language program, which serves 342 students.

Despite the F’s, there were many A’s given to students in the second quarter and some classes had more A’s during the second quarter of this school year compared with last year.

For example, 1,145 A’s were given in high school English level eight during the second quarter. That’s 75 more given than the previous year. The AP English class also had more A’s as well as level eight math, AP math, AP social studies and more.

Level nine is the most difficult coursework and most times AP classes. Level eight can be an honors class and level six can be academic level.

The data showed that virtual students almost always outperformed students in hybrid learning. There were only a handful of classes, like AP Math and Foundations of Tech, where hybrid students received more A’s than virtual students.

About 61% of the students who received at least one F during the second quarter were hybrid learners.

Gary Foote, a teacher at South Carroll High School, said close to 300 students at the school made straight A honor roll during the fall semester of this school year, and many of those students made the list for the first time.

He said fewer disruptions, more individual attention, more opportunities to work independently and more access to technology are some of the reasons why students said they enjoy working from home. He suggested the school come up with its own model to continue accommodating virtual learning and asked how it can be made possible without doubling employee workload.

“I think there are students that do exceptionally well in hybrid,” Anderson said. “And I think there are students who are not doing well.”

He said the same for virtual learning.

Anderson said later that there will be about 6,000 students invited to tutoring, whether that be through credit recovery, summer enrichment or compensatory services for special education students.

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