Education

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) says it has a 91.3% participation rate for the first six weeks of nontraditional instruction (NTI). But rates are lower for Black and Latinx students, students with disabilities and students learning English.

“So that shows an area where we may need to provide additional targeted support,” JCPS’ Dena Dossett told the Jefferson County Board of Education during its meeting Tuesday night.

Asian and white students had the highest participation rates, with 95.5% of Asian students participating daily, and 93.7% of white students participating daily. Black and Latinx students had participation rates of 88.8% and 88.9% respectively. Students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELL) had the lowest rates: students with disabilities had a 87.8% participation rate. For ELLs, it was 85.9%.

“Participation” is a stand-in for attendance while students are in remote learning due to the pandemic. A student is counted as having participated for the day by doing one of the following:

  • A one-on-one student-teacher web conference or phone call; or one-on-one parent-teacher web conference or phone call.
  • Participation in an online web conference with a class.
  • Time spent completing assignments on an online platform.
  • Turning in a paper-based assignment. This would likely be collected weekly, and students would be retroactively marked as having participated.

 

“We’re pleased with some of the numbers around participation,” JCPS superintendent Marty Pollio said. “But we know moving forward, the quality of participation is something that we want to make sure is deep with all of our students.”

Staff said they want to be able to present more detailed participation data in the future.

“How often they’re online, and what the platforms are like that they are engaging with,” Dossett said.

Board members have been requesting participation data for several weeks, and Pollio has said there would be a participation “dashboard” at some point, but it has yet to materialize. Staff said the challenge was seeking the data from the many different vendors that are providing web services to JCPS.

“What we’re having to do is combine data across multiple platforms,” Dossett said. 

JCPS chief academic officer Carmen Coleman said schools are referring students who are not participating to an attendance support team run by the district. The team meets in person with families who are struggling with attendance at the JCPS 360 Family and Student Support Hub at Humana.

In the spring, families received one “nudge” letter by mail, Coleman said, if their students had participation rates between 5% and 90%. The district has not yet sent out a “nudge” letter to families this school year. Coleman said that letter is scheduled to go out at the 9-week mark.

Meanwhile, Pollio warned that with the current trajectory of the virus, across the state and the county, a return to in-person classes is looking further and further away.

“You can see the difference in the map, as the map is clearly growing with more red counties by the day,” Pollio said, referring to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. “This is extremely concerning, and especially in our county.”

Jefferson County is listed as red on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, with 35.2 cases per 100,000 people, signifying “uncontrolled spread.” The county’s test-positive rate was 6.9% Tuesday.

The virus is spreading rapidly across the state as well, with Kentucky continuing to report escalating weekly records, week after week.

Board members expressed frustration at both noncompliance with public health recommendations, and reluctance of state and local officials to enact new mandates.

“I would really like to encourage the governor and the mayor to grow a spine and institute some restrictions that will help us get back to school,” board member Chris Kolb said.

The district has heard from about half the district’s families on whether they would prefer to return for in-person classes or remain fully virtual. Pollio said so far 60% of families have selected an in-person option. 40% have selected the virtual option. 

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.