Failure rates spike among Md. public school students, data shows

Failure rates have surged among Maryland public school students during the second quarter of the school year, according to new data.

The data looked at year-to-year failing rates in math, English, science and social studies for the second quarter, which ran from November 2020 to January 2021.

It shows failure rates doubling or tripling in most of the state’s 24 school districts.

“Most of the schools systems, the percent of students who failed a particular course approximately doubled or more,” said Dara Shaw, executive director for research at the Maryland State Department of Education.

For example, close to 16% of Prince George’s County elementary students failed at least one second quarter class — up from about 5%.

“Last year, no systems had a failure rate of above 20%. This year, nine systems had a failure rate of above 20%,” Shaw said.

Officials believe the surge in failure rates is a result of pandemic learning but they acknowledge that the data could be flawed.

“We know that course grades are not a perfect measure of student learning, because there are things that go into course grades, especially in term grades that are not related to an objective test of student learning,” Shaw said.

“So things like attendance, participation, coursework, or classwork or turning in assignments. So I want to caveat this by saying that we wanted to do the best that we could to take a look at student learning across the state, knowing that we have imperfect and unstandardized data.”

The full board of education meeting is available online.

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