Attala County School District will require failing virtual students to return to classroom for Spring semester.
Attala County School District students who are failing while doing virtual learning during the fall semester will be required to return to in-person education next semester following a vote of the district school board Monday night.
The vote followed a quarterly report of benchmark data of student performance presented by Superintendent Kyle Hammond.
In that report, Hammond showed that student scores at all four district schools have dropped significantly in almost all areas — by as much as 100 points at several of the schools — since comparative testing last spring.
If not brought back up, the superintendent said, three of the four schools — Ethel, McAdams and Long Creek — will earn an F this year, with Greenlee Elementary receiving a D rating.
“We knew coming into
this school year that we were going to be low,” Hammond said. “That is where we’re at right now. We have nowhere to go but up.”
The superintendent said that virtual students who normally struggled when attending in-person learning are struggling the most.
“Students were out of school for five months. Students who normally struggle, when they’re out for five months; they’re going to struggle even more,” he said, adding that many of these students who are now virtual learners are not completing any work at all. He also said that attempts to engage with the parents of these students have not been fruitful.
Board member Camille Riley-Smith questioned what parents can do to help and whether sending homework might give them tools to use with their children.
“This is kind of scary,” she said.
But Hammond said he does not feel sending more work home for virtual students is the answer.
“Sending more work home without instruction isn’t going to work. They need more than homework sent home. They need one-on-one, small-group instruction,” he said. “An online program is nowhere near as good as our teachers.”
Board member Vernita Rayford asked if returning struggling students to the classroom would guarantee those students would be able to pass. She also asked to see a comparison of performance of virtual and in-person students.
Hammond said there were no guarantees, but that at least if the students were in the building, teachers would have an opportunity to work with them, something that is not often the case with virtual learning.
“We need to make sure we’re doing our part,” he said, noting that not every teacher is performing up to par in their virtual education efforts. Between now and the end of the semester, he said, school principals are being charged with the responsibility to ensure that each of their virtual teachers is meeting standards.
At the same time, he said, teachers and administrators need to do everything they can to work with poor-performing or non-performing virtual students and their parents. There will be rules in place for how and how often school officials must attempt to contact to parents to try to get the students back on track.
“We also are trying to get parents and students to work with us, but some students are doing almost no work and we are turning them in for no attendance,” Hammond said.
Unless there is an underlying medical reason, the district voted to require all failing virtual students to return to the classroom for the spring semester.
“About five percent of the students are doing nothing,” Hammond said. “They are just not working with us and we are failing them by letting them stay at home.”