Falling grades at schools in Akron, Summit County amid COVID-19

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AKRON, Ohio — School district leaders around the state have long worried how students would be affected by remote learning. The early results aren’t positive.

“This should be an alarm for us,” said Dr. Ellen McWilliams-Woods, Chief Academic Officer for Akron Public Schools in a board meeting last week. “We have 21 or 22 percent of our students failing in math right now – these are seniors.”

While seniors’ grades are a major concern for McWilliams-Woods, the state of the entire student body has shown negative results based on early data released at the Dec. 14th meeting.

As a whole, the district has seen a significant increase in the number of F’s by students in both English Language Arts, Math and Career Education. The percentage of students receiving an F in language arts has increased from 10.5% last year to 17.2% this year. In math, the percentage has gone from 12.4% to 20.3%.

English and math of greater importance to seniors who run the risk of missing graduation as those course credits are required for graduation.

“When I see these increased F’s, it tells me we’re on this path, at least right now, where we’re going to have even more students not earning credits that will hurt their graduation,” said McWilliams-Woods. “We’ve nearly doubled the percentage of students failing math.”

Parents in the district are also dealing with the struggles of virtual learning at home.

“Remote learning with 4 boys has been a challenge,” said Nikki Taylor, a parent of students in Akron’s remote learning program. “The first quarter of school when we got report cards, our 8th grader’s grades drastically changed – and not for the better.”

As a stay-at-home mom, she is hands-on with her children and their classwork. But she says the mental toll of virtual learning and the pandemic also plays a role in the work kids are willing to put in.

“The social aspect — that’s just killing us,” said Taylor. “Everybody is struggling in some way with this.”

School district administrators are aware of the issues parents face and have been working to implement a program to bring the most at-risk students back into the classroom for extra help through a program called remote plus. But the program has, so far, not received approval from the school board that has been reluctant to approve students return to the classroom amid increased coronavirus cases.

A call to the school board president wasn’t returned in time for this story.

During the meeting, McWilliams-Woods emphasized the importance of providing wrap around services for students who are most in need.

“This is a red flag that we have right now,” she said to board members. “We’ve got to keep giving support to the students. And that’s why we were so adamant about remote plus.” She acknowledged the program should commence immediately when it’s safe.

Taylor too feels a return to the classroom is what’s best for students in Akron and other school districts that have also reported declining grades in the first portion of the year. It’s a problem across summit county, the state, and the country. What’s worse, preliminary data in Akron shows the numbers aren’t declining as students approach the end of the second grading period come January 15th.

“I feel like our kids, they’re falling through the cracks. I feel like they’re not a priority,” said Taylor.

“I just feel like everything needs to be considered in getting these kids back to school, not just COVID numbers.”

Editor’s Note: The below story aired on August 31, 2020


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Marya Vinget

Marya Vinget is a freelance writer who works for may content writing agencies and for personal blog owners. She loves to write about everything from Tech to entertainment, You can hire her for the versatile writing attitude.