St. Charles high schools see increase in failing grades
The two high schools in St. Charles Unit District 303 saw more first-semester failing grades compared to recent years as they navigated a mix of remote and in-person learning.
The number of first-semester failing grades at St. Charles East nearly doubled from 394 last year to 774, while St. Charles North saw an increase from 211 to 306. Those numbers as of Jan. 6 came after a recovery from a spike of more than 3,200 combined failing grades in November.
Denise Herrmann, the chief academic officer for District 303, presented the data at Tuesday's board meeting. While recognizing the improvement from November, she also stressed the amount of work that needs to be done in the coming months.
"While this data is not where we'd want it to be, we did see amazing work being completed by teachers and students," Herrmann said.
Herrmann broke down the data demographically, with low-income students and some other groups showing wider gaps. Some board members suggested the disparities among the different groups could be attributed to conditions that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic but were exacerbated by the pandemic and remote learning.
"I'm hoping that what you've learned about the gaps and the patterns you're seeing is something that can be communicated and articulated all the way through," said District 303 board member Becky McCabe. "Kindergarten teachers very rarely talk to any high school teacher about what they're doing. Fifth-grade teachers, once, may talk to sixth-grade counselors. That articulation may need to be unpacked for equity reasons, for achievement reasons, for feedback reasons."
Herrmann detailed the response moving forward. Extra help during the school day, after-school help, night-school possibilities and free summer school for credit recovery are among the options.
"Both East and North High School staff are dedicated to continuing to lower the failure rate at both schools," she said.