Local school districts reported heightened failure rates amid pandemic
BATON ROUGE - Even some of the top-ranked school districts in our area logged increased failure rates among K-12 students amid online learning forced by the pandemic.
Only East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana were transparent enough to release information to the WBRZ Investigative Unit. Ascension and Livingston Parish claimed those numbers were not maintained by the district office.
In East Baton Rouge, the number of students failing quintupled from the previous year. For example, seventh graders in 2019-2020 logged a failure rate of 88 students for EBR Schools. In 2020-2021, there were 448 seventh graders who failed.
EBR was the only school district to release tangible numbers that show there was a 2.5-percent increase in failures districtwide. West Baton Rouge reported less than a 5-percent change in failures from the previous year. West Feliciana Parish, an A-rated school district, had a 2-percent higher fail rate than the prior year.
"Coupled with the worry and the emotional damage the pandemic had on families all of that put together caused the drops that we saw this year," said Dr. Sharon Williams, chief of schools for EBR.
Those tracking the failing students said virtual learning was a struggle for everyone nationally.
"I think any district that is keeping the pulse on students is watching their data periodically, if not daily," West Feliciana Superintendent Hollis Milton said back in April.
Now, in one of the state's largest school districts, East Baton Rouge is offering tutoring for those who fell behind. However, school leaders believe it will take longer than a year to catch those students up.
"We are partnering with high quality tutoring programs that will help students to regain some of that academic loss as well," Dr. Williams said. "It's a multi-pronged approach, improving classroom instruction, principals, how to support teachers, and supplemental programs standardized across the system."
In EBR, the tutoring program is being recommended for students who failed. It's funded through federal COVID aid.
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