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'Lack of engagement' | High failure rates reported among virtual learners during coronavirus pandemic

In Brazosport ISD, 25% of virtual learners failed two or more classes this year, which is three times higher than the rate of students who returned to campus.

HOUSTON, Texas — Brazosport ISD serves Lake Jackson, Freeport, Clute and five other southeast Texas cities. More than 4,000 of the district’s approximately 12,000 students learned remotely during the first nine weeks of school.

Brazosport ISD  Superintendent Danny Massey said too many of the students learning remotely failed classes already this year.

"We had 25% of our virtual learners fail two or more classes,” Massey said.

Massey said the number is three times higher than the failure rate among students who’ve returned to physical campuses.

"We know that they do a lot better when they're at school," Massey said. "The students are failing at home because it’s a lack of engagement.”

Massey believes many students have succeeded while learning remotely thanks, in large part, to their teachers. But others don’t have structured environments at home or parents willing or able to assist.

"We see that’s a common trend throughout the state," Massey said. "The virtual learners at home are not doing as well as the kids at school.”

We checked with a number of other Houston area districts, including HISD, which haven’t ended their first grading periods or collected enough data to comment.

But Cy-Fair ISD, Texas’s third-largest district, expects to be on par with those around the state.

“Our campus administrators have been monitoring failures and have been reaching out to students and parents," a district spokesperson said. "Tutoring support is available for our students both during school and after school.”

Klein ISD teacher Kelsey Amaya, who spoke with us this week about her online tutorial videos, has noticed the dis-engagement first hand.

“I think the instruction and what the kids are learning is being hindered by parents interrupting the lesson or kids coming into a Zoom 45 minutes late and asking the teacher what they missed,” Amaya said.

Massey said an extremely low COVID-19 positivity rate within Brazosport ISD means more and more students are coming back to schools and he hopes grades will rise as well.

"We need them back," Massey said. "They do much better at school.”

Our sister station in Austin reported that failure rates among Austin ISD students are up 70% compared to last year.

Of course, making sure students have the tools they need to participate in remote learning is another issue.

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