Higher percentage of KCS students enrolled online are failing, superintendent says

Education

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Nearly a quarter of students learning virtually in Knox County Schools are failing, according to the superintendent.

The nine week report cards were recently sent out, so the superintendent decided to do his own research. He shared the findings at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

“Because we’ve heard from principals that students are not doing as well in the virtual program as students who are learning in person, we did a quick look at grades,” Superintendent Bob Thomas said.

The Knox County School Board meeting on November 4, 2020.

He found that 21.5% of the students learning virtually had F grades. That’s twice as many as students learning in person. Of the students physically attending school he found 9.4% had F grades.

“Our research department did not do this,” he clarified. “This is just me looking at nine week grades taking, I think, 14 of our schools. I looked at six elementary schools, four middle schools, four high schools, again, in North, East, South, West, urban, suburban, rural, so just a cross section of schools.”

This comes just two days before parents must make a decision about whether their children attend in-person school next semester or virtual classes. The deadline to decide is Friday, Nov. 6. Parents who do not want any change made don’t have to do anything. The current structure will transfer to the next semester if no change request is made.

At that board meeting, the superintendent said there had been 4,400 requests to change so far. Of those, 3,700 requests were to send kids back to school for in-person learning. Seven-hundred were requests to keep a child home.

“Please keep in mind the students who have the greatest success in the virtual program are those who benefitted from a strong structure at home and also they are highly disciplined and self-motivated,” Thomas said.

This semester district leaders said just over 17,000 students had signed up for virtual learning. The numbers released Wednesday night would put about 14,000 students down as virtual learners next semester.

In a letter from the superintendent posted on Oct. 30 he said, “I would also like to point out that report cards for the current grading period were distributed today. Please take some time this weekend to review your child’s progress, particularly as you think about how your child will be receiving instruction next semester. Keep in mind that for scheduling purposes, the decision to be in-person or virtual will be for the entire semester.”

According to the Frequently Asked Questions PDF, students who learn virtually are expected to attend a normal school day. For Kindergarten students that means from 7:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. For students in first through fifth grades that would be 7:45 a.m to 2:45 p.m. Students in grades six through 12 are expected to attend virtually from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“Some of the classwork will be scheduled for regular meeting times through Microsoft Teams. These times will be scheduled to prevent students from having conflicts. Students will not be on the computer for the entire day. Teachers are planning instruction that blends online and independent practice and inquiry,” the page reads.

According to the document, teachers attended training courses over the summer. It indicates the courses covered the vision for blended and virtual learning practices, technology training for Canvas, Aspen, and Microsoft Teams, and the academic recovery plan.

“The proportion of Fs assigned in-person and virtual actually widened when compared to the grades assigned at the 4.5 week benchmark, so they’re keeping that in mind. Now, as I’ve said before, our virtual teachers are doing an outstanding job,” Thomas explained.

The board is expected to discuss the impact of virtual learning more at the next meeting. If you need to request a change for your child’s learning from in person to virtual or virtual to in person for next semester through Knox County Schools, click here.

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