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Failure rates among students are way up, COVID-19 is to blame

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BATON ROUGE - In the state's second largest school district, some grades are seeing failure rates triple what they were one year ago according to data the WBRZ Investigative Unit has been tracking.

We began asking area school districts months ago for their failure rates among students after the first semester. Only East Baton Rouge and West Feliciana Parish were transparent enough to share their numbers.

The rest of our area's school districts declined to share those numbers or did not respond to our requests. Those districts not being transparent were Ascension, Livingston, Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Central and Zachary.

In East Baton Rouge, the school district reported the following:

Student F Report

2019-2020 total grades recorded

Percentage of F's recorded for the term

2020-2021

Percentage of F's recorded for the semester

Elementary

91,516

2.05%

103,735

3.79%

Middle

51,959

3.19%

60,133

9.4%

High

62,362

7.54%

47,429

14.83%

Director of Communications, Taylor Gast, released the following statement.

"Due to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System is working to address the higher than usual failure percentages across the district. Adapting to the virtual-learning environment presented new challenges. As we make adjustments to virtual learning, we are continuously creating new methods to minimize learning gaps, address absenteeism, and reengage with struggling students."

In West Feliciana Parish, failure rates are typically at 10% following the first semester. Currently, Superintendent Hollis Milton said the failure rate is at 12%. West Feliciana is one of the few 'A' school districts in the area.

"In our jobs we have to diagnose and prescribe, just like the medical community," Milton said. "When you look at learning loss, is it in reading? Is it in math? Science? Social Studies? Then, you build a prescription. Is it more intervention? After-school tutoring? What can we do during the summer time?"

Milton said all school districts keep records of their kids' failure rates. It's the only way to see where they need to improve. He added that virtual learning was struggle not just locally but nationally too.

"Virtual for us was a struggle," Milton said. "It was a struggle nationally and anyone looking at it, it does not work as well as in-person. But I do think the efforts of our teachers to provide ways to connect and keep relationships with parents and students has worked better than most."

It's important to note that just because a student had an 'F' in a course during the end of the first semester does not mean they will fail the year.

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