First Report Cards Go Out for Kids Learning Online, Show Worrying Trend of Failure and Truancy

Remote learning gets an F if the first wave of Texas report cards is any indication.

Overall, more students are failing at least one class as many turn assignments in late, if at all, and tune out virtual lessons, according to the Texas Tribune.

“Districts have reported losing track of thousands of students, including some of their most vulnerable, who haven’t logged into virtual classes or responded to phone calls and door knocks. According to state leaders, schools that are open for in-person instruction have seen higher levels of enrollment than those with only virtual education,” the Texas Tribune said.

The report estimated that about 3 million of the 5.5 million students in Texas public schools are not in their real-life classrooms.

According to KVUE-TV, Austin Independent School District has seen a 70 percent increase in students failing.

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The Hays Consolidated Independent School District in Kyle, Texas said failures are up 30 percent there.

For some educators, the answer is to lower standards.

Principal Cathryn Mitchell, of Austin’s Gorzycki Middle School, sent an email earlier this month that said in one course alone, 25 percent of the students were failing at least one class.

More than 200 students were failing more than one course.

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The principal ascribed the issue to problems learning how to use technology, lack of access to technology and Wi-Fi, and anxiety.

Staff were told to exhaust “all measures to assist the student before failing them,” such as one-on-one help or parent conferences by email, phone or Zoom.

When all else fails, “we would ask that you gift the student with a 70,” she wrote.

Students with grades below 70 face sanctions in Texas that can bar them from playing sports or participating in extra-curricular activities.

“We know that some students are taking advantage of the situation or have procrastinated to get themselves into this position. There is no question about that,” Mitchell wrote. “But we also know that we have asked a great deal of them these first five weeks. … This will not be the norm every six-weeks.”

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Austin is not alone.

Hays school district officials are allowing students to turn work in late without any penalty, and students who received bad grades in the first marking period can take those tests over again.

Austin parent Rosemary Wynn said she discovered her eighth-grade son never opened emails for his teachers, although he did open one from the school’s football coach.

As the pile of emails went up, his grades went down, she said.

“Children don’t know how to read email. That is not part of their repertoire,” she said. “I haven’t had a single teacher reach out to say, ‘your kids’ grades this, your kids’ grades that.’ I think the whole way this is set up is a recipe for disaster.”

One commentator said that schools’ initial fear of potential infection is now being replaced by the pressure to perform.

“Districts are starting to feel some real internal pressure as educators,” said Joy Baskin, legal services director at the Texas Association of School Boards. “If they feel that there’s enough momentum around getting everyone back, I think that’s their preference.”

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