Academic slide hitting students of color hardest, new CCSD data shows

distance learning stock
(Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels)

Students of color are seeing a disproportionately negative impact on their academic grades as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and school closures, according to new data released by Clark County School District.

The new data will help shape the CCSD School Board decision on reopening the nation’s fifth largest school district, which has physically closed for nearly a year, since March 2020.  A board discussion and vote on a plan to bring a limited number of students back is scheduled for Thursday.

According to reference materials made public in advance of the board meeting, the percentage of students who received at least one F grade during the first semester of the academic year increased for all student groups. But the increase was more pronounced among Black, Hispanic, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students.

The chart included in the materials did not list the specific percentages for each student group. The Current received the percentages after requesting them from the district.

F grade distribution table
Info: Clark County School District

District wide, the percentage of students with at least one F during the first semester jumped from 28 percent in the 2019-2020 academic year to 37.5 percent in the current academic year.

Almost half (48.5 percent) of Black students received at least one F during the first semester of the current academic year. That’s an almost 11-point increase from the prior academic year, when 37.6 percent of Black students received at least one F for the first semester.

Hispanic, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native student groups also saw steeper than average inclines.

American Indian/Alaskan Native students saw the sharpest incline: 11.7 points from 32.7 percent receiving an F during the first half of the last academic year to 44.4 percent receiving one this year.

Hispanic students saw an 11.5-point increase — from 31.9 percent receiving a failing grade during the first half of last academic year to 43.4 percent receiving an F during the first half of this academic year.

Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students saw an 10.4 percent increase — from 23.2 percent receiving at least one F to 33.6 percent.

Limited English Proficient (LEP) students have the highest percentage of students who received at least one failing grade: 54.5 percent. That’s up from 46.1 percent the prior academic year.

Asian students have the lowest percentage with a failing grade, but their rate also increased compared to last year. The percentage of students receiving at least one F moved from 14 percent to 18.8 percent.

The percentage of caucasian students with a failing grade rose from 19.5 percent to 24.8 percent.

chart showing F grade distribution by grade level
The percentage of students with at least one first semester grade of F increased districtwide by approximately 10 percentage points. (Chart by Clark County School District)

A second chart included in the board meeting materials shows a 10 percentage point increase in F grades districtwide. The percentage of students who received at least one F during the first semester jumped from 28 percent last academic year to 38 percent in the current academic year.

Elementary schools reported the highest percentage of students receiving at least one F grade — 41 percent. But high schools saw the steepest incline, jumping from 26 percent of students receiving an F during the first half of the 2019-2020 school year to 37 percent receiving one this year.

Overall, 90.4 percent of CCSD schools assigned more F grades this year than the previous year, according to presentation materials. Three-fourths of schools also reported assigning more D grades.

The new data aligns with previously reported data from the Nevada Department of Education showing that graduation rates declined disproportionately among the Class of 2020.

Reopening discussion

CCSD will recommend to the School Board that schools invite individual or small groups of students to school campuses on a voluntary basis, according to one slide included in the district’s presentation materials. The slide notes that these students would participate in “social-emotional wellness supports and interventions” and “academic screenings, interventions and small-group instruction.”

It also notes that transportation will not be available.

The school district is expected to give students in pre-kindergarten through third grade the opportunity to return to physical schools first, followed by higher grades. Employees will also have the option to either return to campuses or continue with distance learning.

No timelines are included in the presentation materials, but district officials have previously indicated it would not be an immediate transition.

Calls to physically reopen schools have continued, despite high rates of transmission of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced Nevada would receive $477 million in coronavirus relief funding to help K-12 schools physically reopen. It’s not immediately clear how much of that tranche CCSD will receive.

[Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to clarify what the School Board discussion and vote will cover.]

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.