Remote learning has been hard for many students

This is a problem that I don’t think we’re prepared to deal with.

Students across Greater Houston failed classes at unprecendented rates in the first marking period, with some districts reporting nearly half of their middle and high schoolers received at least two F grades because they routinely missed classes or neglected assignments.

The percentage of students failing at least one class has doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in several of the region’s largest school districts, education administrators reported in recent days, a reflection of the massive upheaval caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If those trends keep up, districts expect to see a decline in graduation rates, an increase in summer school demand and a need for intensive support to accommodate students falling behind, among numerous other consequences.

“Our internal failure rates — not (standardized) tests, just our teachers teaching, grading, assessing kids — are like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Alief ISD Superintendent HD Chambers, who reported nearly half of his students failed at least one class to start the school year.

“I’ve told our teachers to use the same professional judgment you’ve always used, but I don’t want our standards lowered. We’re not creating these false narratives that you’re doing OK and let someone move on without being competent in the area we’re teaching.”

The failure rates illustrate the monumental challenge faced by students, families and school districts trying to navigate the pandemic while remaining engaged in learning.


Local education leaders are hopeful the performance trend reverses before the end of the first semester, when high school students’ grades become official for transcript purposes. They noted more students are returning to in-person classes or growing comfortable with completing work online.

If failure rates remain high, however, the impact could be long-lasting for students and districts.

Educators fear the pandemic will widen graduation and college acceptance disparities between children from lower-income and higher-income families. Districts in less affluent areas of Houston generally saw more students remain in online classes, where failing grades were more prevalent.

“We’re going to have to be mapping things out for how to use every minute of remediation, thinking about a two- to three-year span for getting kids back on course,” Aldine Chief Academic Officer Todd Davis said.

Districts could add summer school courses in the coming years to help students make up for failing grades, but the cost of those programs already worries some school leaders. Texas legislators and education officials have not pledged to allocate additional funding for summer school ahead of next year’s legislative session.

“Those extra courses that students normally take — for us, it’s called ‘credit recovery’ — that we pay for now, we would have to start charging for services,” Lathan said. “I know some school districts do it now, but based on our district, it’s hard to charge.”

Chambers, the Alief ISD superintendent, said high failure rates also could upend staffing schedules in some schools, requiring more sessions of courses that students must pass to graduate.

“We’re going to have to probably double staff algebra classes and all those freshman courses, because we’re going to have twice as many kids that failed or didn’t complete the course,” Chambers said.

I’ve left a lot out, so go read the whole thing. Maybe things will get a little better as more students acclimate to remote learning, and others go back to the classroom. But unless it more or less entirely reverses, we’re going to be left with the choice of spending a lot of money to get these kids back up to grade level, so they can graduate and hope to lead lives that aren’t economically compromised, or we can just let them fail and leave it to our kids and future selves to deal with the consequences. I know what I’d want to do, but I don’t know that I expect Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick to be with me. What is clear is that this is our choice. The Trib has more.

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3 Responses to Remote learning has been hard for many students

  1. blank says:

    Speaking from a postsecondary experience, remote learning really brings out extremes. Some students thrive in it with the flexible hours and modalities, while others really need the classroom to make any sort of progress. We had a terrible tragedy occur on campus earlier this semester, and faculty are now asked to look out for signs of poor mental health. That’s pretty hard to do when we’re teaching in front of a camera with a bunch of computer icons.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    The solution seems obvious. Leftists want to abandon STAAR testing, because it’s racist or something, so why not just do away with letter grades and even pass fail altogether? Every child gets a participation trophy and gets socially promoted.

    This will end the practice of failing school districts like North Forest from being bothered by the state. HISD can now spend all it’s time on racial infighting without worrying about that mean ol’ State of Texas bothering them about massive failure.

    Or, or, or….this might be crazy, but hear me out……just stop with all the bullshit and open all the schools. If someone is sick, have them stay at home. Sometimes, the old ways are best.

  3. Ross says:

    Bill, once again, you prove just how utterly clueless you are on education topics. Not all tests are bad, but the STAAR is. It is poorly designed, and doesn’t measure what it is supposed to measure. Because of that, teachers are forced by their administrators to teach the specific test topics, not the actual curriculum.

    As for not sending kids to school sick, that would be great, but some parents refuse to do that. Every high school in the greater Heights area is sending out notices almost every day that another student tested positive for Covid. There are parents, much like you, who don’t care one whit what happens to anyone else, as long as they don’t have to deal with their own child being stuck at home. It doesn’t help that some folks with Covid are not showing symptoms.

    Fortunately, my kid, a senior, is making all A’s in his Senior AP classes while learning at home. He’s one of the students that does just fine with remote learning.

    Bill, why do you want teachers to die?

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