With remote learning, more CMS students failing at least one course this fall

CMS has plan as students’ grades suffer during pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — About 14.4% of students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools -- that’s 37,665 students -- were failing at least one course or subject this fall. That’s nearly twice the number of students who were failing in the first quarter of last year (18,887 students, 7.1%).

“I think it’s a struggle,” one parent told Channel 9. “I think as a parent you want to see all kids succeed, especially yours. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong in this situation, we’re all making sacrifices.”

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Parents Channel 9 spoke with were honest about the difficulties right now when seeing the numbers.

“It’s been a learning curve, to say the least,” one father said. “I know my kids usually don’t struggle a lot, have had some struggles with the accountability. Time management has been the biggest for us while I’m working from home and trying to manage that. Beyond that, it’s the emotional toll.”

“As a working parent and having the kids at home doing their school work, me working as well, it’s very difficult,” another parent said.

However, knowing her child is home safe outweighs the grading concerns.

“We just have to take it on a daily basis and do the best we can, and be hopeful that CMS is understanding with parents and students,” she said.

On the numbers, a district representative said, “The first quarter grades report is the beginning, not the end, of evaluating the remote learning experience. The report makes evident gaps in students’ understanding of key concepts. CMS’ teaching and learning practices must adapt to the new realities brought about by the ongoing pandemic.”

With remote learning not going away, what is this district doing to turn this around? The district provided reporter Elsa Gillis with the following strategies:

Redefining Use of Available Time

  • Using SEL time to teach executive functioning skills (e.g., organization, time management, goal-setting, etc.).
  • Re-looping/re-teaching sessions for identified students.
  • Engaging students in one-on-one check-ins to assess work completion, identify barriers, and develop plans for improvement.
  • Teachers remaining on Zoom during asynchronous times to provide help, and/or to have students make up tests/or take retests.
  • Creating flex/remediation periods to help students catch up on work.

Standardizing Canvas for Students Across Classes

  • Providing an assignment list on course/class homepages with due dates and links to assignments.
  • Ensuring modules are labeled with dates to help students and parents find the daily work if absent.
  • Utilizing teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) to review Canvas courses to identify the assignments that will be required for completion, grading, or feedback. Likewise, using PLCs to determine the number of assignments to ensure students are not overwhelmed, and using assignments to measure students’ mastery versus compliance.
  • Using PLCs to decide which homework grades are collected for completion, and which assignments count as formal or informal grades.

Adjusting School Grading/Grade Reporting Policies (CMS grading plan no longer has the provision for lowest grade being a 50 if work was attempted)

  • Creating school-based policies that reflect no grades below a 50 to be recorded (like previous grading plans).
  • Using contracts to enable students to engage in “credit recovery” and show mastery on work from the previous quarter. Utilizing contract results in an adjusted Q1 grade.
  • Standardizing late work policies across the school to ensure they do not unnecessarily punish and/or discourage students from doing assignments that could enable teachers to see their level of mastery. (e.g., 15-point maximum loss for submitting late work versus 10 points off per day).
  • Allowing students to submit work outside of Canvas (e.g., photos, telephone calls, Zoom conferences, email).
  • Allowing students a window in Q2 to improve work/ and assessments from Q1 to achieve a maximum score on retests (students must attend tutorial sessions prior to retesting).

Proactively Communicating with Families

  • Scheduling parent conferences for students with Fs at mid-quarter.
  • Sending notices by mail to parents of students who failed a course or subject in Q1, and continue to fail in Q2.
  • Contacting parents every two weeks to keep them informed of students not completing work.
  • Sending weekly Connect 5 messages to alert parents if students are failing a course.
  • Utilizing digital tools like Parent Square to provide timely communication when students don’t complete work.
  • Using counselors to provide parent contact/parent meetings to help them understand and navigate Canvas.

CMS said, “The above strategies are being supported by learning community staff and Equity Superintendents, though school staff play the primary role in selecting and implementing course failure reduction efforts.”

Thousands of CMS students return to full-remote learning