Marble Falls Independent School District released data Friday, Feb. 5, showing a rise in failing students across all campuses. MFISD Superintendent Chris Allen said this was anticipated.
While the elementary school level saw a marginal increase in failures of one percentage point from 7 percent to 8 percent, the high school failure rate jumped 10 percentage points from 14 percent to 24 percent, and the middle school failure rate jumped 15 percentage points from 12 percent to 27 percent.
“I thought the numbers would be far worse,” Allen said. “Statewide, there’s an average of around 30 percent (increase in failure rates), which we’re under. In addition to that, one of the things that we’ve been saying for a period of time is that the remote learning situation is a temporary solution to a very difficult-to-solve problem.”
For this school year, 684 students, 16.9 percent, are failing out of 4,046 total enrolled in the district. In 2019-20, with a higher total enrollment of 4,300, failing students numbered 437, or 10.16 percent of all students across the district.
“We’ve done a number of things to try and mirror or replicate the support for remote learners that we would for in-person learners, but what remote learning does not do is allow for those sort of iterative, unscripted, unplanned conversations that occur between students and teachers every day that keep them on track,” Allen said.
Those conversations, he added, could be as simple as teachers or peers reminding students of projects or quizzes that are due in the coming days in the hallway. That encouragement and reminders are important for some students.
In addition to that, campuses have a number of structures that keep students on track in general that don’t exist in remote instruction, Allen said.
“They don’t have the routines that keep them focused and on track,” Allen said. “It is exceptionally easy to be distracted by other concerns when you’re at home rather than sitting in the in-school environment. Some of those distractions may be trite, others may be very important.”
These distractions might be high school kids serving as child care for their siblings or trying to work jobs during the day to offset some of the economic impact in their homes caused by the pandemic.
“Although those concerns are exceptionally meaningful and we want to be sensitive to those, we know that for many of our students to do their very best, they need to be learning in person,” Allen said.
To solve this, Allen wants students to have as much support as they can, including providing remote tutorials via Zoom or, if they’re struggling for access, to provide WiFi hotspots.
Apart from that, Allen wants to see students who are struggling return to the classroom.
“We’re doing that in a way that’s very sensitive to the needs of families,” he said. “We are reaching out to some of our families and saying, ‘Look, they need to come back to school or they’re not going to be successful academically.’”