The impact of COVID-19 on student grades

Marta Wick, Staff writer

Freshman Emilie Long’s grades have barely dipped, but it’s clear to her that starting the school year distance learning has taken a toll. Though she is still earning As, she has felt a change in her mood and outlook on school.

Long said she has trouble focusing during class and remembering information. Her motivation is also low, and staying awake during class is difficult. It’s hard learning in isolation, she said.

“I get energy from other people,” she said, “and when I’m alone in my room staring at a screen, my energy is very low. Also when I work really hard and see my grades dropping, it makes it really hard to have motivation.”

Despite her struggles, Long still has maintained excellent grades. The same can’t be said of other students. In the recent 12-week grade report, a growing gap exists between students who are passing and students who are failing. The number of F grades has jumped 12% compared to the same period last year, and the number of Ds has increased by 7%. The trend is similar in nearly all departments.

School counselor Erika Miguel, one of the three at Branham, said that distance learning is asking students to become more independent and advocate for themselves, such as emailing teachers for help and attending tutorial, which was embedded in the school day when school was in-person.

“I do believe the increase (in D and F grades) is largely due to the type of skills a student is now being asked to use more of through distance learning”

This includes an increase in reading and writing in courses that may not typically have required as much during physical instruction. In many classes, an increase of executive function skills are being asked of students, like self-control, task initiation, time management, flexible thinking, etc.” 

Even though most students acknowledge that online school is necessary during the pandemic, high schoolers at Branham high school are struggling during these times.

For Emilie Long there are many aspects of school impacting her learning amid this pandemic that she has never had to deal with before. 

“I am struggling with getting my grades up, focusing during class, and remembering information,” she said.  “I found that when information is taught to me outside of a screen, I remember it better.”

Experiences with online learning this year have sparked concerns that many students are falling behind academically — not only because of the difficult learning process but also because many students are struggling with the motivation aspect of learning. 

Within this new environment, Branham has implemented a lot of support to help students who are currently struggling. All teachers and administrators are providing support to encourage engagement in the virtual school counseling platform to ensure students can gain access to the tools required to reach their full potential. 

“We have done home visits to help address issues students may be having that has prevented them from attending school, resulting in low grades, and then provided resources like WI-FI hotspots, replaced Chromebooks, and referred to other resources as needed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming. The public education system was not built to cope with a situation like this. This entire situation is unique in so many ways. As a school community, both teachers and students are finding ways to look on the bright side and get through online learning.

 “Although, it really sucks having to depend on my internet to attend classes,” Emilie said. “I’ll enjoy online schooling for as long as I can.”