Officials with the Adair County School District have noticed a situation happening with their students and virtual learning. The latest version of online learning has been going on for a couple of weeks and teachers have registered several students not turning in their assignments.
Thus, those students are failing their classes, and some attempts to contact those students to provide help and support are going unanswered.
“There is definitely a problem,” said Troy Young, principal at Adair County High School. “There are two areas of thought here. You have one student that doesn’t turn anything in, and one that turns in blank assignments. Our failure rate right now is up because students aren’t doing what they need to do for some reason.”
The Nov. 30 progress report for Adair County High School shows 385 students failing 726 courses. That compares to last year’s numbers of 309 students failing 527 courses. The grades at the end of the first nine weeks listed 226 students failing 413 courses, compared to 171 students failing 251 courses in last year’s first nine weeks.
“I know that sometimes students don’t have a computer, or they don’t have internet access,” Young said, “but they still have the opportunity to come in for small groups. There are different hot spots around the county. Teachers are going above and beyond in trying to change the way they teach to accommodate students that aren’t doing what they need to do. It is an issue.”
Young said teachers reach out to students through email and over the phone. They send messages online and even make personal visits when necessary.
“We’re trying to eliminate any excuses the students may have. A student almost has to try to fail because our teachers are giving them every opportunity, every avenue to pass (and be successful).”
Some parents are speaking out in frustration, however, some reporting that even with teachers offering all the assistance they can, the obstacles are just too great.
“I don’t think the teachers are at fault in any way,” Ashley Adamson told the Community Voice. “They have been great and offered so many solutions and were willing to work with us. The problem is that this plan was not designed to allow all students to be successful. I understood the learning style my kids needed and I was concerned from the beginning with virtual learning, especially given some of the classes they would be taking.”
Adamson posted her concern on social media and other parents joined in to share their personal experiences. For Adamson, who has a Masters degree, the technology issues and learning curve to navigate Google classroom were just the beginning.
“Add in any connection issues and my kids would become frustrated and completely check out. Upon learning of virtual learning that were excited to stay home and do school; a few weeks into the school year they were done and ready for in-class learning,” she said.
Adamson has been in constant communication with teachers and together they developed a plan that included in-person and online tutoring. She also admits that her children are like most children, they have to be motivated by an adult to get their school work complete.
“My kids are kids, they haven’t always had the self discipline to get up each morning and get school done. It’s taken quite a bit of prompting on my end to make sure things were getting completed,” she said.
Adamson said some classes were easier than others, but with some classes it’s difficult to understand what needs to be completed. There is also a delay in grades and they would often learn days later that something wasn’t submitted correctly or had to be redone.
“Add in the additional class work that had been assigned and they would become quite overwhelmed,” Adamson said.
Children learn differently and for some, virtual learning is a challenge.
“Kids ‘check out’ after sitting behind a computer screen for hours,” she said. “Even with parents right there with them it’s difficult and a challenge to make sure they are grasping the concepts. Some of these things they are learning are vastly different than the way we were taught and sometimes I don’t know how to help them. Add in parents with a full time job and additional kiddos, sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.”
Because of the way the last school year ended due to the pandemic, Adamson said she believes in some cases children started behind this school year and getting caught up through virtual learning has been impossible.
Adamson said her children have not been perfect and have even been lazy at times, but the issue is more complex than just a lack of effort on the part of the students and their parents.
“This is not a plan that would benefit all students and allow them to be successful,” she said.
Young said teachers may need to change their mindset and understand there is no way to cover everything (virtually). He said they may have to focus on the main things the students need to know to get the class credit.
“This whole process,” Young said, “is something our people are not used to.”
There are discussions, Young said, about possible changes to the school day should classes go back to in-person learning on Jan. 4. One idea earning some discussion is a three-period school day. That would include 90-minute classes beginning at 7:45 a.m. One additional period would include a “Power Hour” type of focus to help students work on any academic issues they have each day.
“We don’t have the answers right now; we’re just trying to figure some things out,” Young said.
By Sharon Burton and Scott Wilson