Upper Arlington Schools: More students struggled with online or hybrid learning models

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

Upper Arlington Schools saw a higher number of classes failed by students while they received more than half of their instruction online during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  

District data show more students struggled after the district went to hybrid and online learning models in March 2020.  

Andy Hatton, Upper Arlington Schools associate superintendent of learning and leadership

“The number of classes failed at the high school increased by 20% between the first semester of 2019-20 and the first semester of 2020-21,” said Andy Hatton, associate superintendent of learning and leadership. “The number of classes failed at the middle school level increased by 40% between the first semester of 2019-20 and the first semester of 2020-21.” 

Grades for the second semester won’t be tallied until the end of the school year, but Hatton said Upper Arlington officials hope some class failures and the potential for holding students back could be mitigated by providing increased intervention or help in specific academic areas for those who have fallen behind.  

“We are pleased to be seeing improvement in the second semester,” he said.  

Students struggling with the reduction in face-to-face instruction from teachers and in-school intervention were among the reasons the Upper Arlington Board of Education decided to return all students to in-person classes beginning March 1.  

Backed by a recommendation from Franklin County Public Health due to surging COVID-19 cases, the district began the 2020-21 school year with all students taking online classes five days a week. A hybrid model was used from Sept. 21 to March 1, through which approximately half the students in each building took in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half attended in-person classes Thursdays and Fridays. 

Board member Nancy Drees said during the Feb. 12 meeting she was worried about “struggling students failing classes.” 

She reiterated her concern after Upper Arlington Education Association members began to follow work-to-rule, performing only their minimum contractual duties, because of concerns about being able to keep six feet of social distance when all students returned to buildings.  

“(Staff) are essential workers and our kids are struggling,” Drees said. “COVID has proven that teaching face-to-face is the most effective way to educate.”  

Although in Pickerington, administrators cited students who weren’t taking part in online classes as a significant factor in the number of classes being failed, Hatton said UA hasn’t seen a notable drop in attendance.  

“The attendance rates for our schools this year range from 96% to above 99%,” Hatton said. “This is actually a slight increase from previous years. We have been pleased by our attendance rates this year, which are tracked following the state’s guidelines for remote and hybrid learning plans.”   

Still, Hatton said, engaging students in academic instruction has been a challenge throughout the pandemic. 

He’s hopeful the return to in-person classes five days a week will bolster the amount of help struggling students can receive and will keep more students focused and on task with the curriculum.  

“We have had students struggle to remain engaged, given all of the disruptions this pandemic has caused on the learning models,” he said. “Our teachers and counselors work hard to connect with those students and we have found that oftentimes, that personal connection can help a student re-engage.”  

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate