About three-quarters of the school year is over. Even though kids around the D.C. region are starting to go back into classrooms a bit, it likely won’t be enough to make up for the negative impact distance learning has had on some students.

Miranda Turner, an Arlington Public Schools parent who is now running for the school board, said this is concerning.

“The root cause I think is really that it’s virtual versus in person. Anybody who has been working from home a lot realizes there’s a reason why we do things in person. It’s more effective to speak face to face even from a safe distance, you get that human connection, you get the facial expressions. You are engaged more. Through a screen, it’s so much easier to zone out, to turn off your camera, which I know a lot of kids are doing – my son does it to – to just sit back and not really feel like you’re in the presence of somebody else and getting the kind of buy-in and instruction that you’re used to and need in order to absorb the material,” said Turner.

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One year after schools closed, 6th and 9th graders returned to the classroom in Arlington on Tuesday, March 9th. By next week, all middle and high school students will be back.

Data from Arlington Public Schools shows 51% of those students are failing at least one class and their average GPA dropped about 4%. The report reveals sixth graders have been hit the hardest due to virtual learning. The number of students failing at least one class increased 118% and their average GPA dropped about 6%.

“Sixth graders are new to middle school, 9th graders are new to high school. And I think that it’s a really difficult transition anyway, made much more so by virtual and I think APS is acknowledging that by starting those kids today back in hybrid before the rest of high school goes in and that’s a really good thing. The more in-person instruction, the sooner, the better for all of these kids so they can get back to it academically and get that structure in order to succeed,” said Turner.

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Here is what Arlington Public Schools is doing to fix the problem:

• Teachers will now provide one-on-one support for students who are experiencing difficulties during office hours.

• Counselors will reach out to parents if their student isn’t attending class in person or online or aren’t performing well.

• Arlington Public Schools is also allowing teachers to extend deadlines so students who are having trouble with the assignment have extra time to complete it.

The rise in failing grades is happening all across the DMV. Just last week, FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts reported Prince George’s County Public Schools data shows twice as many students are failing compared to last year.

Across the board, English-learners, Black, and Hispanic students are hit the hardest.

Ashley Callen, an Arlington Public Schools Parent, is glad students are heading back into the classroom but said they are still going to be behind.

“The county should’ve seen this train wreck coming, the county should’ve opened schools in September, they should’ve been creative,” said Callen. “There are children where both parents are working, no one is home all day, they’re completely checked out I have no doubt about that.”

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Dr. Joshua Starr, the former Montgomery County superintendent, said this school year is unlike any other so it is hard to compare to past years.

“This shines a light on the idea and questions of value of grades in and of itself. What are they measuring, do they measuring what we think they’re measuring, are they related to the standard?,” said Starr.

The United States Department of Education recently sent a letter to states saying schools have to administer standardized tests to understand the impact of the pandemic on students. However, Starr doesn’t think the exam needs to be taken.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I do not understand why anybody is giving a standardized test this year. They’re just kind of rigid adherence to believe that these tests mean anything. They don’t mean much during the best of times. They certainly don’t mean anything during the pandemic,” said Starr.


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