Administration struggles to address high failure rates during distance learning

Principal encourages teachers to use modifications to raise grades; some teachers express concern over suggestions to raise grades


Benjamin Tran

Illustration by Benjamin Tran

Gavin Cardoza and Amara Del Prato

After nearly a year of laggy chromebooks, missed zooms, late assignments and ignored inboxes, distance learning has taken its toll on students, leaving many flustered and unresponsive to school.  As a result, schools are reporting record high numbers of students failing. 

“Last year we had about 700 students at the first progress report with at least one F,” Principal Hillary Harrell said.  “This year, at the first progress report, we had 900 students who had at least one F, so that’s a significant increase.” 

Students have claimed that the cause of this increase in failure rates is due to the struggles they have faced under distance learning.  Many say they have had issues with communicating with their teachers and find it harder to reach out for help. 

“Distance learning is the whole [reason] why my grades are like this,” sophomore Xander Contreas said.  “I’m a hands on guy.  Ever since distance learning started, it’s like we don’t have to be there at all.  It was easy to communicate with teachers in person because you were able to walk up to them [but] now, you have to email or text them.” 

Photo by Eileen Tran

Others feel the problems with distance learning lie within the “learning” itself.  Some students feel that they aren’t actually absorbing information anymore; they’re simply completing documents of endless, mind-numbing work. 

“They just assign [work] and just say ‘do this work for a grade,’” junior Keari Shabazz said.  “Distance learning is not actually about learning and [taking in] knowledge; I feel like it’s just about the grades.” 

While students who aren’t used to these types of struggles are still trying to regroup, some students who were failing before have found that they’re struggling even more now. 

“Even before distance learning, I still wasn’t doing work,” senior Max Moreno said.  “Just distance learning made it easier to not do work.”

Photo by Eileen Tran


Many students have also been impacted by other issues that have developed or have been ongoing since before the pandemic — whether physical, social, academic or all of the above.  Distance learning has only proved to be more of a source of frustration and anxiety rather than being a proper supplement to daily school life.  

Along with considerably higher failure rates, the school has experienced a higher rate of absences, which have also contributed to these increased failure rates. These students ultimately decided that giving up was their only option.  

“That really bothers me, how many kids have we lost,”  Principal Hillary Harrell said.  “You know, how many kids I am never going to get back, [who] have other things happening in their lives that they have to deal with and school is not helping them.  How many of them feel so frustrated that they don’t even try anymore.”  

“If [distance learning] goes any longer, I’m just gonna end up failing school entirely,” Contreas said.  “I’m just gonna end up hating school more than I did in in-person school. [I’ll] just slowly fade away from school.” 

Disclaimer: We have reached out to Principal Hillary Harrell and Vice Principal Richard Shipley for statistics regarding both semester failing grades and attendance but we have continuously been told these numbers are “not available” at this time.  We will continue to update the story as we gather more information. 

Contributors: Autumn Kong, Dominic Navarro, Allison Lee, Jenessa Serrano