Adams 14 leaders try to get 9th graders back on track after more than half fail two or more classes

Across the country, most students struggled with remote learning, but among high school freshmen in the Adams 14 district, more than half failed two or more of their classes last fall.

“Once they fail a class, they fall behind for four years,” said Ron Peterson, the high school turnaround specialist for MGT Consulting, the management company overseeing the district. “It has lots of consequences.”

Adams 14 students learned fully online last fall until some began returning in person in February. Remote learning for so long contributed to the failures of those core classes, leaders said, and they are hopeful that as they increase in-person instruction next month some of those students may be able to get back on track before the year ends.

Although many schools have reported increases in students earning failing grades, nearby districts that shared comparable data did not see spikes as large as in Adams 14. Aurora Public Schools, for instance, recorded 20.7% of ninth grade students failing two or more classes in the fall, up from 18.4% the previous fall. In Adams 12, the number of students failing two courses climbed to 628 last fall, or about 21%, compared to 381 the previous year.

Even before COVID-19, Adams 14 leaders knew they needed to focus on incoming ninth graders. The high school has had several years of low state ratings and faces a timeline, just as the district does, to significantly improve student achievement. Leaders had decided one strategy would be to target ninth graders, after finding that many of the students who eventually drop out began high school on the wrong foot. In the fall of 2019, 14% of the ninth grade class had failed two or more courses.

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