District sees spike in failing grades

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Change is often difficult and when Concordia High School made a significant change to its daily schedule this year, district officials expected there to be some problems to resolve.

One of the most noticeable issues has been a surge in the number of students failing classes. During the first quarter 56 CHS students received a total of 123 F's. This was up from 27 students receiving 45 F's during the same period last year.

CHS Principal Troy Marnholtz said the number is alarming, but not unprecedented. In fact, a similar spike was seen in the 2009-2010 school year, which was the last time a significant change was made to the schedule.

The 2009 change saw students going to the same five classes every day for an entire semester. The new schedule has students attending a total of eight classes, but they alternate with students going to four classes every other day.

The alternating schedule is not new to Concordia's junior high students and the seventh and eighth grades account for only 15 of the 56 students currently failing a class. This year's senior class came through the junior high before the alternating schedule was adopted there, however, and has 13 of the failing students.

Marnholtz said there is some evidence students are adjusting to the change. Despite the high number of students failing at the end of the quarter, that number was actually an improvement from earlier in the year.

A survey of student grades on Aug. 29 showed 85 students -- 19 of the seniors -- accumulating a total of 153 F's. By Sept. 14, the number of students failing dropped to 70, but the total number of failing grades crept up slightly to 156.

In analyzing the data, it has been determined that 18 students (7.5 percent of the student body) account for 60 percent of the failing grades. He said included in that number are intentional nonlearners -- students who refuse to participate in their education despite the efforts of the staff.

"We have to look past those a little," he said, adding that some of these students might soon be leaving the district. "They're making other choices with their lives."

Marnholtz said while student performance does seem to be improving, district officials and teachers have been taking a critical look at the overall situation.

"We've had tough conversations about what we as a school need to do differently," he said. "We're evaluating what we're doing to see where changes can be made."

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