Jessica Espinosa helps a student in a small cohort classroom at King City High School. Cohort classes, including those at King City and Greenfield high schools, are designed to give small groups of students access to an in-person teacher as an alternative to distance learning. (Sean Roney/Staff)

SALINAS VALLEY — Grades among high school students at both King City and Greenfield high schools were evaluated during the latest board meeting of the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District.

Edward Van Hoose, assistant principal at GHS, spoke first with an academic progress report for the third quarter, comparing grades to the first semester.

The total number of A grades went up in all grade levels, with 773 A’s earned by seniors, 937 earned by juniors, 919 earned by sophomores and 693 earned by freshmen. However, the total passing grades, spanning from A to D, was down in all grade levels except for juniors. Passing grades totaled 1,114 for seniors, 1,503 for juniors, 1,532 for sophomores and 1,415 for freshmen.

A similar pattern was found for failing grades, with increases in F’s at all grade levels except juniors. In total, seniors had received 498 F grades, juniors with 606, sophomores with 981 and freshmen with 1,141.

“We are in the midst of academic tests and placement for next school year,” Van Hoose said.

The data from the progress report was compiled Feb. 10.

“Hopefully kids see that and make changes and improve,” Van Hoose said.

To address the problem of increased failing grades, Van Hoose said a number of intervention strategies are being enacted. The school has reached out to English, math, science and history staff to tutor students.

In an era of distance learning, GHS also has two cohorts with 20 students on campus. They will also use virtual tutoring, parent academy, summer school support and senior workshops.

King City High School Principal Janet Matos asked the board to consider changing graduation requirements, namely decreasing a requirement of eight semesters of English to seven, allowing for students to have one semester to make good on a failed class.

Matos identified the increased number of F grades as being related to Covid-19 and the connected distance learning. KCHS has implemented larger numbers of cohort classes, and plans to have 150 students on campus in such groups this month.

However, the failing grades have already come at the end of last year or the beginning of this year, too late for cohort strategies to make up.

“I have a number of students who are struggling and they need to pass every single one of their classes and they also need to make up that English they failed as a junior last semester when Covid hit,” Matos said. “They also need to make up a first semester Civics that they got.”

She noted the high levels of strain such requirements put on teens.

“My students are about to throw in the towel and give up,” Matos said.

Matos singled out the eight semesters of English, and the late-year semester of civics, as being a large problem for seniors. Making up the credit would require summer school or special classes before or after the school day, which she explained as a near impossibility due to a mixture of tremendous numbers of failed classes and student motivation.

She explained there is a much larger timeframe for students to make up other courses, such as math, science and social studies.

Among juniors, 77 of them have earned an F grade in English and 47 have earned an F in U.S. History. While many more F grades existed at other grade levels for various classes, there was time for those students to make up the failed courses, with juniors and seniors being in most urgent need of credit recovery.

In addition to changing graduation requirements, Matos asked the board to consider adding daytime sections of English, U.S. History and other classes, so students could take the make-up courses during their existing school day.

For those who wished to take electives, she said those could be offered before or after the regular seven periods, something where students would be more motivated to attend as opposed to an afterschool English class.

Matos said at KCHS, out of 253 seniors, the current grades look like 186 could graduate, but with the changes requested, the school could graduate as many as 220 seniors instead.

If such a plan were enacted, Matos said KCHS does not have facilities in place for the classes, and the additional staff hired would likely be traveling teachers.

While Matos said she didn’t know where the district would get the finances to pay for the additional teachers, she urged the board to consider it as a way to address the Covid-related learning loss and needed credit recovery.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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