Bay Area students fall behind with distance learning

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Many students across the Bay Area are falling behind with distance learning during the pandemic.

As the first round of progress reports are being sent out, districts are reporting spikes in failing grades.

As students remain at home, stuck on screens, and out of their classrooms, grades are falling at alarming rates. School districts across the Bay Area are hearing from their students and an overwhelming majority say distractions at home are getting in the way.

Meanwhile, anxious feelings about their future are also hitting North Bay students. 

Bay Area school districts are reporting large increases in failing grades as students continue distance learning.

Sequoia Union High School District in Redwood City is one of them.

Alan Sarver, a trustee of the school district, says students with more than one failing grade nearly doubled this fall to 29% compared to 19.7% in 2019.

“There’s a reason why schools exist in the form that they are and the old world of brick-and-mortar has a lot of value to it. We’ve invested a lot over the years in making that work as effectively as possible,” Sarver said.

Mt. Diablo Unified School District in Contra Costa County also saw a similar spike.

Over in Sonoma County, school officials held a special meeting on Thursday, and in October after reporting 37% of students across its 10 districts with high schools had at least one failing grade. That’s compared to 27% over the same time period last year.

“I’m really concerned for kids. I think what we see from that data from the Youth Truth survey is that there are legitimate mental health issues and real anxiety and worry about their futures and in a lot of ways we had to build this plane in the air when it comes to distance learning and so we have a system that’s clearly not perfect. It’s not working and yet we have to hold students accountable somehow and some of that accountability just isn’t fair for kids. It’s their futures who will ultimately be high-jacked,” Chris Vanden Heuvel said.

Superintendent of Healdsburg Unified School District, Chris Venden Heuvel, says the number of high school students in his district with a D or F nearly doubled to 39% this year.

In addition to the challenges of learning at home, he says students there were hit especially hard with simultaneous wildfires this year.

Now, he and others are brainstorming new ways to grade students.

“What are other people doing? What are some bright spots that people have seen? There’s one high school that just did three periods a semester so they do a year worth in a semester for three classes and then another year’s worth in a second semester and they haven’t experienced the grade drop,” Vanden Heuvel said.

Educators say a large part of the problem with distance learning is also zoom fatigue, they say it’s harder to get students to focus on their screen while at home.

Several school districts here in the Bay Area are hoping to solve that problem and implement changes in the coming weeks.

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