Montgomery County

More Montgomery County Students Seeing Failing Grades During Pandemic

The numbers show a widening achievement gap, with low-income, minority and special education students hit hardest

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Online learning is now the norm, and for some kids, so are lower grades.

A new report shows more students in Montgomery County, Maryland, have been getting failing grades since online learning began. The numbers show a widening achievement gap, with low-income, minority and special education students hit hardest.

This comes as the school system is delaying action on a plan to bring students back in-person. But some parents say distance learning isn’t working.

"My daughter seems to miss assignments on a fairly regular basis," said Andrew Ross of Germantown.

Ross said his daughter got mostly As last year. This year, she's getting straight Bs.

"I'm having to stay on top of my daughter all the time because it's so challenging to do online learning," Ross said. "It's hard to stay motivated."

They’re not alone. For some groups of students in Montgomery County, the failure rate is five and six times higher than last year.

Among low-income students, 5.5% of 8th graders failed English last year in the first quarter. This year, 36% of those same students failed.

The disparity is hitting especially hard for minorities.

For low-income Hispanic students, the number of 8th graders failing math last year in the first quarter was 6.8%. This year, for those same students, it's 43.9%.

"Online learning has plenty of limitations," said Fernando Montilla, a father of three.

Montilla, of Potomac, said his children's grades are OK this year, but only because he and his wife work from home and can help them. Montilla said his family may move back to Spain so their kids can attend school in-person.

He also said he feel bad for those students in Montgomery County who only speak Spanish. "They don't even speak English. So online instruction is not a solution for them," he said. "They cannot understand English, so they just don’t connect."

Montgomery County Public Schools declined comment Friday, but on Thursday, the school board did address the issues at a meeting.

Their solutions include:

  • changing the curriculum pace
  • reducing the number of graded assignments and tests
  • providing more flexibility on deadlines
  • giving a default 50% for missing assignments, instead of zeroes
  • tutoring and summer school

These options are all on the table as the school system faces an increasing achievement gap.

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