Distance learning statistics indicate slightly fewer Northfield Middle School and High School students failed classes during last spring’s distance learning period than the year prior.

According to numbers presented during an Aug. 24 School Board meeting, 174 Northfield Middle School students received a total of 325 failing grades during the fourth quarter of the 2018-19 school year. In comparison, at the end of distance learning, 123 middle schoolers received a total of 297 failing grades.

At the High School, 63 students received at least one F at the end of distance learning, compared to 117 at the end of the first semester of the 2019-20 school year.

However, Director of Instructional Services Hope Langston said those differences can’t be reasonably compared due to the grading shift enacted at the Middle School and High School to accommodate the change from in-person to distance learning.

After distance learning began in March to combat the spread of COVID-19, Northfield Middle School moved to a pass/fail system. The fourth-quarter pass/fail rate was also lowered from 60% to 50%. At the High School, As and Bs were calculated, while Cs and Ds counted as a P for passing. Students could also earn a passing grade by attending at least 50% of live Zoom sessions, completing 50% of graded assignments, and anyone who participated in formalized assistance was also helped to earn credit.

To Langston, Middle School students especially seemed to struggle to stay on track compared to older students. She added some who initially struggled with an in-person format became more proficient while distance learning, and others continued to struggle.

This year, Langston said the grading formulas at the Middle School and High School will return to normal as administrators shift their focus to educating families on the grading system. That topic will be a point of conversation when school staff meets with families the week of Sept. 8-11 before school starts Sept. 14 in a hybrid learning format.

Goals

According to district data, students who received free and reduced-price meals or take special education courses remained disproportionately represented in failing classes during distance learning.

To combat those persistent gaps, High School Principal Joel Leer said all students need to have equity of access. Leer noted the High School is expanding the use of the online education platform Odysseyware for students engaging in only distance learning and focusing on hiring more diverse staff.

According to administrators, distance learning showed they needed to be more consistent in using the Schoology and Skyward digital platforms so students and parents can better predict where assignments are posted, how they are organized and what they mean.

While Northfield High School has traditionally held parent-teacher conferences every quarter, Leer hopes to engage parents more frequently to update them on how their students are doing beyond just an academic perspective.

Leer said Northfield High School is aiming for college-ready composite benchmark scores for high school seniors who receive free or reduced-price lunches to increase from 35% to 60%. The High School is also aiming for all staff to provide two positive phone calls, emails or notes from staff members to students and their families this year.

Also, Leer noted another goal is for 95% of High School students and 87% of NHS students identified for intervention to pass their classes this year.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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