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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'B' is for below grade level (and chronically absent)

"Rosie" averaged an 83 in core classes and tested more than two months above grade level in fifth grade in 2019. She was absent three days. In 2022, Rosie was 10 months below grade level in math and reading and absent 10 days. She averaged an 83.


Achievement is down and absenteeism is way up, yet report cards show the same grades -- or higher -- as before the pandemic, concludes False Signals, a new report by EdNavigator and Learning Heroes. No wonder "families believe that everything is back to normal or will be soon." No wonder demand is low for tutoring and summer school.


The number of students scoring below grade level and chronically absent has quadrupled since before the pandemic, the report finds. "Yet more than 40 percent of these students still earn Bs or better in core subjects."


Researchers analyzed two districts, one with above-average achievement and another with scores around the national average. They found the average student fell five months further behind in math and English Language Arts (ELA). Chronic absenteeism soared.


Schools should "send clear signals" to students and parents about the need for regular attendance with special attention to families whose children "need extra support," the report urges.


That requires "re-norming" grades so they reflect "educational realities." Schools should "communicate to students and their families where they stand" relative to grade-level standards, advises the report.


In short, be honest about how students are doing. Rosie was earning a real "B" before schools closed. Give her the motivation to show up, work harder and improve.

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12 Comments


Guest
Nov 10, 2023

My school provides students with three mental health days, excused absence, lest they fret over their poor performance. Twenty-two years in the classroom and every year the system acce farther down the failure road, destroying a generation and a Nation.

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Guest
Nov 10, 2023

But when you give someone less than a B, their feelings might be hurt. Granted, they won't be able to read or write, but at least they'll have their self-esteem.

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Guest
Nov 10, 2023

Changed policies and attitudes on attendance during mild illnesses may be increasing absences. Students may still be asked to stay home when they have any symptoms of respiratory illness--no more showing up with the sniffles or mild coughing. If the students are able to catch up or keep up with the daily work, then attendance itself isn't a strong signal of learning. Testing scores can be a better indicator of gaps in understanding or knowledge, although they're imprecise on what's missing.

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Guest
Nov 09, 2023

Years ago, our kids' (private) school got their standardized test results back. The entire 3rd grade, apparently did horribly. The school got all the students together to berate them. (A friend had a kid in that grade...it was the last day they went to the school...the following day was the first day of home schooling.)


When a handful of kids do badly, it requires focus on helping those students. When an entire class, grade, school, school system, or country does badly, it requires a massive overhaul of everything.


That might be necessary, but will never happen. There will never be accountability in our current system.


Ann in L.A.

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Guest
Nov 10, 2023
Replying to

Uh... did you mean 'bell curve'?

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Guest
Nov 09, 2023

I rule of K-12 education, one can have high standards along with high failure rates or low standards along with low failure rates. What one cannot have no matter what is high standards and low failure rates.

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Guest
Nov 10, 2023
Replying to

No, one cannot. If one sets higher standards, then one has to accept that more students will fail. To deny this is the same as claiming that everyone can master calculus if one just has the right standards, the right teachers, and enough resources. Anyone who has ever taught math knows how insane that idea is.

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