Figures from Grand County School District principals suggest that a majority of local students are completing most of their work right now despite school being held remotety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 10% to 17% of local students, however, have been mostly or totally disengaged since classes have gone virtual.
Grand County High School Principal Steve Hren said that high school teachers have been finding that the students most struggling online are the same students who had been struggling in the classroom before the pandemic.
“Those that have not been engaged at all is 10-15%,” Hren said of the high school students. “This is a little high, but not greatly different from when traditional school is in session.”
Hren went on to say there were some students struggling online who had not been struggling in the traditional setting, but that was “not the norm,” as many such students have been engaged. He estimated 65-70% of students were “actively engaged.” The remaining 15-25% are less active but still completing assignments.
“The online process takes more self-discipline than traditional schooling,” Hren said. “This is always the case. Students who take online courses during traditional school also have a low pass rate online.”
At the elementary level, a report last week from Taryn Kay, who just officially transitioned from being principal of Helen M. Knight Elementary to superintendent of the Grand County School District, showed that 62.5% of students schoolwide have been “completing most work” while 16.8% have been “doing little or nothing” since school has gone all-online.
Fourth grade had the highest engagement with 81.2% of students completing most work, 11.4% completing some work and 6.2% doing little or nothing.
Jill Tatton, the newly promoted principal of HMK, made the same observation that Hren made about students succeeding online if they have succeeded in the traditional setting. She said that there “could be several reasons” for the lack of participation at the elementary level.
“For those that are not participating, it could be that parents are struggling to help their students because they are working and leaving studying up to the students to accomplish school work,” Tatton said. “Students might also be in charge of other siblings and are watching/babysitting them and they don’t have time to study.”
Tatton said that the stress parents face amid the pandemic due to job loss could be another factor, alongside possible language barriers, and/or a lack of “coaching” from parents who are not able to provide it to students at home.
“We have reached out to the [Moab Valley Multicultural Center] for help with translations,” Tatton said. “We have teachers continuing to email or call parents; we have assigned para-professionals to various teachers to help contact students who have not done work; and the school has sent out a parent link message. The school and the teachers have offered a great deal of help.”
At the middle school, teachers are reporting “60-95% participation depending on subject area,” according to Principal Cari Caylor.
“Participation was better at first,” Caylor said in her report. “Teachers report that the work they are receiving is really well thought out. Often assignments are being turned in later than the deadline, but the quality of work is good or great.
How engagement is affecting grading
Caylor said that middle school students are being “held harmless” for now, meaning that incomplete or missing assignments are not being entered into the school’s grading system.
“We will continue to work on this process and discuss the concerns with students who might be falling behind or lack the skill set necessary to perform appropriately [in high school],” Caylor said.
At the high school, a more forgiving system of grading has been implemented that rewards students as long as they have been engaged in the online education process in their courses.
Students who have at least 65% engagement or work completed in a course will not receive a “D” or “F” in that course. If a student has completed at least 50% of the work in a course, they will receive a “P” for passing. If the student completes at least 35% of the work, they will be required to make up the missing work before the end of the next school year.
Students will receive a failing grade in classes required for graduation if they have completed less than 35% of the work. If the course is not required for graduation and they have completed less than 35% of the work, they will receive an “NG” for not graded.