HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Some local school districts are seeing more than 100% increase in the number of students who got at least one "F" in the first grading period.
Christina Quintero's 5- and 7-year-old children are online students at Port of Houston Elementary School this year.
"At the end of the day, we're ready to pull our hair out, " Quintero said.
Her son is in special education classes and has had very little speech therapy. Her daughter is performing way below her usual standards, and struggled to take a recent standardized test.
"She didn't do really good because she had anxiety due to the whole COVID-19 thing, and a lot of it. The test itself wasn't set up for a first-grader and parents had to assist and do it virtually. It was chaotic," said Quintero.
The Quintero family isn't alone. We submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to several Houston-area school districts to see how distance learning and other pandemic-caused changes are impacting your child's academic performance.
Here's what we found:
2019-2020 change in students who have at least one "F" in first grading period:
2019 2020 Change
- 2019: 13.6%
- 2020: 19.7%
- Change: 45%
Fort Bend ISD
- 2019: 10,185
- 2020: 16,248
- Change: 60%
Spring Branch ISD
- 2019: 4,991
- 2020: 8,335
- Change: 67%
- 2019: 8,172
- 2020: 13,997
- Change: 71%
- 2019: 11,418
- 2020: 25,390
- Change: 122%
- 2019: 1,332
- 2020: 3,610
- Change: 171%
Comparing the first grading period last year to the same time this year, in Alvin ISD there has been a 45% increase in the number of students who got at least one "F." The district could only give us the percentage of their students rather than the raw numbers. In Fort Bend ISD, there was a 60% increase in the number of students failing, there was a 67% increase in Spring Branch ISD, 71% in Katy ISD, 122% increase in Aldine ISD, and 17% spike in failures in Pearland. These are heartbreaking numbers driven mostly by off-campus learners.
Fort Bend Superintendent Charles Dupre said he's disappointed by the figures in his district but not surprised.
"I will say, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't worse, because I've talked to leaders all over the states who have a much higher percentage of failure rates than we do," said Dupre.
Texas school leaders are considering a variety of changes such as lowering academic standards, increasing synchronized-in-real-time instruction for online learners, and adding more online tutorials. These are just to name a few options. The Texas Education Agency is also giving districts the leeway to order students back to campus. Spring Branch ISD officials said they're considering that. Angleton school officials said earlier this month they'll do that, barring a student has a medical excuse, since 40% of their online students have an "F."
Superintendent Phil Edwards added, "We decided if you have failed a class for the semester in January, that we would no longer provide you online instruction."
In Fort Bend, they're taking the opposite approach, said Dupre. "Basically what it's saying is that, if you won't bring them to school we're not going to serve and we're not going to do that in Fort Bend ISD."
District administrators have hard choices to make: Do they dilute the grades and the level of competence and mastery they represent or push through children who didn't learn the material? Or is it feasible to hold back hundreds of children?
Parents are caught in the middle and a mom is pleading, "Please don't give up on our students. Please don't give up on our kids. We need to work together. And to the districts, we need them to give more support to our teachers and for our students."