Teachers’ tips for distance learning as data reveals more local students failing classes

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) —The Kern County Superintendent of Schools released information Tuesday on the decline in students’ grades during the fall 2020 semester.

The data — which covers the Kern High School District, Bakersfield City School District and the Panama Buena-Vista Union School District — shows a 14% increase in the number of students with failing grades in comparison to the previous fall semester.

The information from the three districts mentioned represents 45% of the K-12 students in Kern County. Unfortunately, a jump was seen in the percentage of students receiving F’s for the 2020 fall semester, with 18% of students failing compared to just 7% in the 2019 fall semester.

Additionally, certain student groups — including those who are socio-economically disadvantaged, (SED), English Language Learners (EL), students with disabilities and students who are both SET and EL — are seeing more of a disadvantage compared to other students.

Panama Buena-Vista saw the smallest increase of students receiving D’s or F’s at 13% while the Bakersfield City School District saw the highest increase of students receiving failing grades with 17%.

One mom and teacher for Highland High School said communication is key when it comes to ensuring students success, but there are many programs available for families online to help their children succeed, even if they were having a hard time and failed a class during the fall.

“I think we have kids who are thriving in this environment, so kudos to those kiddos,” said Meaghan Barber-Smith. “But then we have kids that really need that one on one, that teacher, whoever on campus to kind of keep them on track and guide them, so I think those rates were to be expected. Definitely not acceptable at all, but I know almost all the school districts locally are working on plans on trying to recoup some of that learning loss,”

Mrs. Barber-Smith mentioned that within the Kern High School District, the different school sites are offering something along the lines of makeup courses. Kids can make up their credits and prove their mastery of a subject virtually, either on the weekend, after school or even through evening courses.

“Giving them an additional opportunity to show that mastery, cause at the end of the day that’s what really matters, is can they walk away and really show us what they’ve learned,” she said. “So giving them additional opportunities, so kids really need to take advantage of that and parents definitely encourage their kids to take advantage of that as well.”

Barber-Smith stressed that open lines of communication between parents, students and teachers is a must.

The main reason educators suspect the increase in the failing percentage is because virtual school is essentially new territory for everyone involved. BCSD has transitioned one employee from being their education technology specialist to being their virtual learning coordinator.

“Right now, I am working with teachers, students, families to get them the tools they need and the support they need to use those tools to make learning fun, engaging, and productive as we navigate this ever-shifting environment,” said Rayshell Fambrough, virtual learning coordinator for the district.

Fambrough’s advice to families when managing virtual school is this:

“Really maintain and secure your lines of communication with parents, take breaks and have intense bursts of time where you are attending to your academics, and finally just take care of yourself. Know that you are worth it, you are important…and give yourself a little bit of freedom to play and a little bit of forgiveness if you are not 1000% successful,” Fambrough said.

Both women emphasize that at the end of the day, schools want to see their students succeed one way or another and they are here to help with that.

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