During the first nine-week grading period—a time when most Fort Bend ISD students, save for a handful of special education students, were learning online due to the coronavirus pandemic—21% of students were failing one or more classes, according to data presented during the Dec. 14 board of trustees meeting.
This number is up from 13% of students with a failing grade during Term 1 of the 2019-20 school year, district officials said.
Furthermore, Hispanic and Latino students, as well as Black students, saw the largest percent increase of failing grades—as did bilingual and English as a second language students.
“The data that you are going to hear tonight is concerning,” Superintendent Charles Dupre said. “It’s concerning to all of us, but it's the reality.”
Dupre stressed that the problem of higher student failure rates is not something Fort Bend ISD alone is facing, but that districts across the region, state and country are seeing similar, if not worse, increases.
Deputy Superintendent Diana Sayavedra said the district analyzed failure rates by campus, the percentage of failing students by subject area and the percentage of failing students by subpopulation.
“We need to be looking at and asking ourselves some questions because just looking at the data flat on paper is not going to help us,” Sayavedra said. “Is it a teacher issue? Is it a particular content area where we may need to go back and look at the curriculum or the teaching practices? Or is there a particular student group that we need to drill down and look at some root causes or other things that might be impacting their student learning?”
While overall failure rates declined at nine elementary schools, all secondary campuses showed increases in the percentage of students failing. Additionally, the percentage of students failing increased at 22 out of 25 Title I campuses.
District data also shows that for kindergarten-10th grade math, failure rates increased by 1.77%; for K-12th grade reading and language arts, the failure rate increased by 2.48%; and for K-10th grade science, the failure rate increased by 2.9%.
Chief Academic Officer Beth Martinez said there was a significant increase in the percentage of failing grades for third- through fifth-grade reading as well as ninth grade algebra I.
Martinez cited a study performed on students who evacuated during Hurricane Katrina that said it took four years for students to get back on grade level in reading and never returned to grade level in math.
“That just weighs very heavily on us as we look at this data and think about our current situation,” Martinez said.
The district also presented data for the percentage of failure grades by race and ethnicity and student population by subject area.
Across three core subjects—reading and language arts, math and science—Hispanic and Latino students, as well Black and African American students, saw some of the largest percentage increases in failure rates and had the highest percentage of failure rates.
Additionally, bilingual and ESL students, economically disadvantaged students and other at-risk students typically had the largest percentage increases in failure rates and had the highest percentage of failure rates.
As FBISD completes Term 2 and heads into the third grading period in the new year, district leaders said they would be implementing strategies to better engage students as well as consider potential curriculum and calendar changes to better support student learning.