JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation exposes a substantial increase in the number of “D” and “F” grades handed out to middle and high school students in Jacksonville.
Action News Jax worked for months to collect the data, which revealed about a quarter of all grades for the first quarter of the school year were D’s and F’s.
Jacksonville mom Alyssa knows the struggle first hand. She says, “The fact that they’re telling her she’s failing after knowing only A’s and B’s is disgusting.”
Alyssa’s daughter is in the third grade. Alyssa says, “The curriculum my daughter is learning was never meant to be taught online, so how are we grading her based on classroom setting for things she’s collecting one quarter of throughout the day?”
Another Jacksonville parent, Jeremiah, has a son going through the same thing. Jeremiah says, “They’re getting so much info at one time that it starts blurring.”
His son is in the same class as Alyssa’s daughter. Jeremiah’s wife Monique says she sits with both children during class, and still it’s not enough. She says, “It makes me feel hopeless at times. What more can I do?”
In an Action News Jax investigation, we asked Duval county schools for first-quarter grades for this school year and learned 23% of grades handed out to middle schoolers in Duval HomeRoom were D’s and F’s. For high schoolers, that number was 27%.
Kids in brick-and-mortar classrooms weren’t doing much better. 15% of grades handed out to middle schoolers were D’s and F’s and 22% for high schoolers.
We dug deeper, comparing these statistics to those of past years where instruction was in person. In 2019, 26% of first-quarter grades for middle and high schoolers were D’s and F’s. This year, it’s 41%.
“On paper, it appears the district is failing its students,” Paige Kelton said. She took her findings to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianna Greene, adding, “That’s a dramatic rise in D and F grades. Does that surprise you?”
Dr. Greene answered, “No, it doesn’t surprise me because of what we’re going through. This has never been done before.”
Dr. Greene admits students learning virtually have a more challenging time while expectations remain the same. She says, “Those expectations can be challenging for families that have chosen to learn remotely, but we are not able to say we can lower standards. That is not a choice we can make.”
Alyssa disagrees. “They’re not giving the resources they need. If you’re spreading a teacher between two classrooms, how can she make sure a child learns a lesson to pass a standardized test?” she asked.
Jeremiah agrees. “I feel like instead of being set up for success, it’s for failure. A teacher should not teach multiple classes in person and online and expect kids to get the info they need. There’s no way.”
So many students are failing that DCPS has sent thousands of letters warning they may be held back a year.
“At the end of the day, you have to make the decision is being virtual the best option for your child, whether it’s medical personal or members of the family, and we have to honor that and do what we can to support that,” said Greene.
The superintendent says the district has support systems for struggling students, but Alyssa says she’s tried everything, and her frustration has bubbled over. “My child has always been an A or B student. You’re not going to tell me she’s failing when the one inconsistency is in the way she’s being taught.”
Alyssa tells Action News Jax her daughter’s teacher is wonderful and tries her best but is hamstrung by the limitations of teaching virtually as well as splitting time between classes.
Since we started asking questions, Dr. Greene reached out to Alyssa, who says Greene told her, essentially, there’s nothing she can do unless the state gets rid of standardized testing this year.
We’ve reached out to the Florida Commissioner of Education and are still waiting on a response.
Alyssa now plans a campaign to lobby the state, asking for relief for her daughter and other struggling students.