Grades drop in pandemic-altered school year

Grades in the Nampa and West Ada school districts took a major hit during a school year ravaged by a worldwide pandemic.

Both districts started the 2020-2021 school year remotely teaching and learning, and over the past few months moved into some in-person learning. Neither district has returned to fully in-person as it was a year ago, before COVID-19.

Nampa and West Ada shared a sampling of grades with Idaho Education News and the results showed drops in performance from comparing the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year.

In Nampa’s Integrated Math 1 classes, the number of students who earned As fell from 12 percent to 8 percent while the number of Fs rose from 19 percent to 39 percent.

In Integrated Math 2,  the number of students who earned As went from 46 percent to 13 percent while the Fs increased from 4 percent to 31 percent. About 546 students took the course in 2020, compared to 214 students in 2019.

English language arts at Nampa High, which has a 4-1 grading system, also saw a drop in performance. The number of 4s dropped from 13 percent to 4 percent. The number of 1s went from 3 percent to 7 percent and the number of no evidence (NE) grades rose from 13 percent to 30 percent.

Not only was remote learning a disconnect for some students, also struggles in the classroom were exacerbated by both students and teachers missing class time due to quarantining. The district has had over 580 cases of COVID-19 and 1,600 students and staff members have had to quarantine.

“Getting through the content is sometimes more difficult because of quarantines,” said Nampa assistant superintendent Gregg Russell.

While Russell praised the work of substitute teachers, he acknowledged that students are not getting the same level of instruction when their regular teacher is quarantining for two weeks. Plus, students often had multiple substitutes while their teacher is out.

West Ada has seen similar results. In the August to December window, there was a 2.26 percent increase in Fs from 2019 to 2020 (from 3.34 percent to 5.6 percent). Chief Communication Officer Charalee Jackson said the amount of missing assignments went down as the school year progressed.

“Students became more familiar with remote learning, that changed for the positive,” she said.

The drop in grades was not universal. At Nampa’s Columbia High, some students flourished through remote learning. In Integrated Math 1, As increased from 9.3 percent in 2019 to 10 percent in 2020 while Bs increased from 14.8 percent to 22.1 percent. The number of Fs fell from 35.8 percent to 28.5 percent.

“It really broke the trend,” Russell said.

In ninth grade English language arts at Columbia High, the number of As held at 10 percent in both years while the number of Fs rose from 25.6 percent to 28.1 percent.

“Considering the challenges we’ve been in, I think those are remarkable scores,” Russell said.

Columbia has a Personalized-Mastery Learning program and Russell said he believes that students at Columbia were better suited for remote learning because PML teaches students to be more independent.

“It might be that they transitioned a little bit easier to a hybrid or online environment,” he said.

Idaho’s graduation rate rose in the spring of 2020, due in part to the state waiving many of the normal graduation requirements, including senior projects. But those graduation requirements are back this year.

While grades are down, Russell said he has not heard any concerns from school administrators about the graduating class of 2021.

“We are confident that the seniors will be alright,” he said.

 

Nik Streng

About Nik Streng

Nik Streng graduated with his bachelors degree in creative writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., in 2013 and graduated with his master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. 

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