State Watch

F’s nearly double amid remote learning in Virginia’s largest school system

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Remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic is having a deleterious effect on grades, according to study done on Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), Virginia’s largest school system.

Comparing data from last year to this year, the percentage of F’s earned by middle and high school students jumped from 6 percent to 11 percent, with middle schoolers showing a 300 percent spike in F’s and their older peers in high school reporting a 50 percent increase.

The grades of students with disabilities, The Washington Post notes in a Tuesday report, were especially affected, with an 111 percent increase in F’s, accounting for nearly a fifth of all their grades. Students who speak English as a second language saw their percentage of F’s increase by 106 percent, making up over a third of their earned grades.

When broken down by race, Hispanic students appeared to have been impacted the most, with their percentage of earned F’s rising from 13 percent to 25 percent. Asian students saw their F’s rise from 2 percent to 4 percent, white students by 3 percent to 5 percent, and Black students from 8 percent to 13 percent.

“We are working on identifying these students by name and by need and are working on specific interventions to support them right now and as we phase back in person,” said FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand. Brabrand said that FCPS had instated “catch-up days” and extended its first-quarter grading period to help struggling students.

As the Post reports, FCPS is considered one of the best school divisions in the country, and the data collected from it seem to confirm what education experts have predicted: children who cared about school before the pandemic will continue to do well while students who already lacked the resources to remain academically engaged would fall further behind their peers.

FCPS scrapped plans last week to send kindergartners back to physical classrooms, citing rising coronavirus cases as exceeding “the threshold to expand our in-person learning.” A letter from Virginia teachers organizations representing more than 12,000 educators asked Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to return the state to phase two of its reopening.

“It continues to be clear that Northern Virginia is past the point of safe metrics for in-person learning in our school buildings. Everyone, including educators, wants our schools to be back to normal, but by opening when it’s not safe to do so, we increase the likelihood that normal will never come,” the letter says.

Tags Coronavirus English as a foreign or second language Fairfax County Public Schools Northern Virginia online schools Remote learning Scott Brabrand The Washington Post Virginia

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