Douglas County School District reporting 'significant' COVID slide

Grading scale altered as academics struggle amid pandemic


Principals in the Douglas County School District are reporting “a significant slide in student grades” this semester, according to a letter to the community from interim Superintendent Corey Wise.

That and other concerns led the district to alter its first-semester grading scale for district-run and alternative high schools, as well as high school “eLearning” students. eLearning is the completely virtual program made available to students who prefer that over hybrid learning.

“The key piece of this is as a district we try to be responsive to student needs,” Wise said while speaking to Colorado Community Media by phone. “We thought this would be the most beneficial way to support the impact COVID has had on students.”

Wise's letter to the community noted grades are particularly important to high school students applying for scholarships, college and other post-graduation plans and students are preparing for finals in a completely remote environment.

Asked how large the slide was, Wise said “I think when you say how big, that again goes back to the individual students and schools.”

“Systemically our grades are lower than they've been in the past,” he said.

The district began its school year with hybrid learning, where students attend a mix of in-person and virtual classes. Elementary students returned to full in-person learning on Oct. 19. All grades switched back to remote learning on Nov. 30 as COVID-19 cases surged across the state.

All the transitions came after the district had delayed the start of the school year for both hybrid and virtual students.

Once school was underway, mass quarantines posed more setbacks to consistent learning.

The disruption to schedules is but one issue likely contributing to the dip in grades, Wise said. The district is examining a number of issues facing its hybrid, eLearning and alternative systems.

The pandemic changed how teachers teach and how students learn, Wise said. Educators have to consider a child's home environment. They must decide what the right number of assignments is during the pandemic.

Some families may be able to access extra support through tutors, but others can't. Many community members are dealing with isolation. He urged the community to think about everything they are going through, then “magnify it with teenagers.”

“These are 14- through 18-year-olds trying to balance everything, sometimes on their own, sometimes with support,” he said.

Wise said students, teachers and parents are all working harder than ever during the crisis and the COVID slide is not for a lack of trying. The choice to change high school students' grading scale boiled down to balancing the needs of students, he said.

“Grades shouldn't be the motivation. Grades reflect the learning, and we're not sure that grades are accurately reflecting the learning (this semester),” he said.


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