Student struggles evident amid distance learning, increased intervention strategies outlined
Kern County Superintendent of Schools
February 27, 2021
Distance learning has been a reality for students across California since last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the full impact of physical school closures on student outcomes is yet to be fully realized, preliminary data show that schools across the state and nation are seeing a decrease in academic performance across all student groups. Today, the Kern Integrated Data System (KiDS) and Kern County’s three largest school districts released data that illustrates this trend locally.
Across the Kern High School District, Bakersfield City School District and Panama Buena-Vista Union School District — representing 45 percent of the K-12 students in Kern County — the percentage of students in grades 6-12 who received Ds or Fs during the fall 2020 semester increased by 14 percent compared to fall 2019.
Data show that certain student groups are seeing an even sharper decline in academic achievement.
• Socio-economically disadvantaged (SED): +17 percent
• English Language Learners (EL): +19 percent
• Students with Disabilities: +16 percent
• Students who are both SED & EL: +22 percent
This local data, coupled with ongoing national research, illustrates that the unprecedented number of low grades across the nation can be attributed to shortcomings associated with distance learning. These challenges run the gamut and are largely factors outside a student’s or teacher’s control. Examples include teachers and students adapting to a new learning modality, technology challenges, sporadic attendance, disengagement, limited adult support at home and teachers finding it difficult to establish safe, trusting virtual classroom environments, to name a few.
“I applaud our students and parents for continuing to focus on education and their resilience throughout this pandemic,” said Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Barlow. “The data is not surprising. It’s a result of our unfortunate current reality and one that educators across the county have been working so hard to mitigate.”
In his current budget proposal, Gov. Newsom has targeted $4.6 billion in state funding for extended learning opportunities. Additionally, more federal relief funds are likely.
This will allow schools to implement learning loss mitigation strategies like:
• Acceleration Academies (extended school days, weekend school, more robust summer school options, etc.)
• Intensive tutoring opportunities
• Informal and diagnostic assessments to determine learning loss
In addition to direct interventions, school officials also acknowledge the need to provide some leeway to help students cope in this unprecedented school year. Such strategies include:
• Providing more opportunity for extra credit assignments
• Extending assignment deadlines
• Allowing exams to be retaken for a better grade
• Easing overall grading policies
“School districts are trying to find balance,” Barlow added. “We have a natural desire to extend grace to students and families that are adapting to a multitude of challenges. Students should not be penalized due to factors that are out of their control. However, we must keep students motivated, provide rigorous and engaging content, and ensure accountability of everyone in the education system.”
About Kern Integrated Data System (KiDS)
KiDS is a powerful, and secure, student data warehouse that brings data sources together into a single system that delivers powerful real-time insights and creates a path to positive student growth and outcomes. KiDS is an integral part of the Kern Education Pledge — a collaboration between Kern County’s 47 public school districts, charter schools and partners in higher education — that ensures the success of all students.