Data reveals failure rates for Charleston County students during pandemic

Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 5:52 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Nearly 3,000 more Charleston County students received at least one “F” on their report card during the first nine weeks compared to last school year, according to new data from the Charleston County School District.

Officials called the increase concerning, but not “totally unexpected.” CCSD Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher said many of the failing students are struggling to adapt to online learning.

“We know that there is a huge benefit for students being in class with their teacher every day, and the data show that the online students had a larger increase in the number of failing grades than in-person students,” Belcher said in a statement.

Overall, 7739 K-12 students, including those enrolled in the district’s charter schools, were failing at least one class by the end of the first quarter of the current school year compared to 4,756 during the same time period of the 2019-2020 school year. That’s over 16 percent of the total student population in Charleston County schools.

The district also confirmed 4,069 of those struggling students were enrolled in in-person learning, while 3,661 were enrolled in remote learning, and 9 students’ learning pathways were “unspecified.”

“Schools are constantly working to provide assistance for struggling students, whether they are having trouble with turning in work assignments or having problems with technology,” Belcher said. “This is an example of why CCSD school and district staff are working so hard to create safe conditions where more students can return to school in-person for daily interaction with a classroom teacher. The interaction between teachers and students, as well as student-to-student interaction in a classroom, makes a huge difference in the quality of learning that occurs.”

The Director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, Jody Stalling, said most students are not struggling to understand what they are being taught. Instead, many students are not turning work in, not attempting assignments, and are not engaged in the learning process.

“Teachers are telling us they are seeing students who don’t log in, they don’t come to class, they’re not engaged. And sometimes even if you see their face on screen or hear their voice on screen, they’re actually listening to other things on their computer,” Stalling said. “I don’t like people casting blame on teachers, and I don’t like casting blame on parents. Nobody likes to blame students. I just think it’s a bad situation, and we are all just trying to do the best we can, so the sooner we can get out of it the better.”

Stalling said the pandemic has also had an impact on students who are enrolled in face to face instruction.

“I think we had a big hangover at the beginning of the year,” Stalling said. “I found and all of my colleagues found that it took a long time for kids to really get in a rhythm of things. And it took a number of weeks before they really understood…gosh this is for real again. I’m going to have to study again, I’m going to have to do my homework again.”

Stalling said he has seen improvement from students over the last few weeks, which could mean this trend won’t continue through the rest of the school year.

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