Wake County Schools

Absences, failing grades up since Wake students have been learning online

Posted November 18, 2020 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2020 8:19 p.m. EST

— About 25 percent of middle and high school students in the Wake County Public School System failed at least one class during remote learning, according to district statistics.

A year ago, the failure rate was only 10 percent among those students.

District administrators are still studying the issue to determine the cause, but they said Tuesday that it could simply be a result of lower attendance for online classes. During the first quarter of the school year, 8.8 percent of students had four or more absences, compared with 5.8 percent during the first quarter of the 2019-20 school year.

Kristen Beller, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said many factors could play into the numbers, such as a student’s access to technology, how well they learn in a virtual environment and the support students are getting.

"It is very difficult for us to make the same effective connections that we normally would that would provide students with the support they would normally need," Beller said. "[That's] not to say people are not trying. We are all trying; it is just harder this year.

"With the pandemic, everyone is stretched a bit thinner," she added. "What that means is, even if we are emailing each other, even if we are talking to each other, sometimes we are not connecting in the way we normally would be."

Amy Smith, who has two children in high school, called remote learning "a real struggle."

"My freshman was a straight-A student – all straight A’s through middle school – and now she is getting C’s and B’s," Smith said.

Parent Dave Willers said he sees the same problem with his two high-schoolers.

"I think there are some areas where they are struggling," Willers said. "I think some of that gets lost in translation."

Virtual learning doesn't suit all students, Smith said, and fewer of her children's classmates are showing up.

“There are kids in her classes that aren’t in attendance, and the teacher says, 'Has anyone heard from this student?'” she said.

In addition to their children's grades now, parents said they worry that, when the students graduate, they will be at a disadvantage to students around the country who have been learning in person all along.

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