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TCSS students struggling to pass virtual classes

Virtual instruction is not working for many students in the Troup County School System, and the proof is in the numbers.

Due to the high number of virtual students failing classes, Callaway Principal Jonathan Laney, Troup Principal Nikki Watts and LaGrange Principal Alton White approached the Troup County School Board Thursday with a solution to help struggling students.

“We are very concerned about a population of our students, a vast majority of them are virtual,” White said. “They have been very disengaged and are failing miserably — 30s, 20s, 40s — lower averages — who really if they come back in January, the possibility of them pulling that grade up to a 70 and showing mastery is almost impossible.”

White said for whatever reason, these students are not interested in school.

“We’ve made phone calls, we’ve sent emails, we’ve done home visits and for whatever reason we have a population that is completely disengaged,” he said.

Although the board approved a year-long grading schedule earlier this year, the three principals said it’s almost impossible for these students to catch up, even with a whole semester left in the school year.

“If put them back in class they are going to end the year with seven Fs,” White said.

Instead, they will give those students half-credit Fs, meaning they’ll start over with a clean slate in January with a chance to earn half credits in the second semester.

If their schedule allows, students will also be placed in a studies strategy class, so they can hopefully earn back a half credit from the first semester as well. White said a lot depends on whether students need to catch up in a non-sequential course, such as English or social studies, or a sequential course, such as math.

“Ideally at the end of the year, they will have mastered that part A during that studies strategy class and pass part B, and they would’ve gotten that credit,” White said. “If that doesn’t happen, we hope they are far enough along in that part A that we can get them caught up over summer school.”

The numbers show just how many students are failing at the three high schools.

At Callaway High School, all 850 students were failing 1008 courses last year after the first 13.5 weeks. This year 25 percent of students in the school — all virtual — are failing 1,245 courses.

“25 percent of my children were failing 200 more courses than 100 percent of my children were last year,” Laney said. “The data suggests we have to do something extraordinary.”

The numbers weren’t much better at LaGrange High or Troup High.

White said Troup had 1500 courses failed through 13.5 weeks and LaGrange had 1,690. Callaway has 1663 total courses failed through 13.5 weeks, with more than 75 percent of those failures being virtual students.

“We knew this was going to be a problem in September, and that’s why we changed for a change in the policy,” said Board Chairman Kirk Hancock, noting the change to a year-long grading system. 

The failing issue isn’t immune to Troup County either, as school systems across the country are reporting higher failure rates. Hancock, who was at his last meeting at board chairman, said virtual instruction isn’t working nationwide and will potentially create a generational problem, where students fall behind.

“Parents need to know that virtual is not working for these students,” Hancock said.

White said if students return to the classroom and are engaged, that many of them can still turn things around this school year.

“We feel like we can get them almost caught up between the second semester and summer school, and we feel like that’s the best option for the students to be able to stay on track,” White said. “We know if we lose them for them for an entire year, the chances of them dropping out are unbelievable. It’s going to be hard to get them back and get them graduated.”