Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.

Tens of Thousands of Students in Texas Dropped Out of Remote Learning, Analysis Shows

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 03, 2020 2 min read

A stunning Dallas Morning News analysis of state data shows that more than 100,000 students in Texas never engaged in their remote learning assignments last spring, the newspaper reported this week, and about 20,000 of them dropped entirely out of contact.

The analysis puts a spotlight on what many educators have acknowledged remains a significant problem in the age of COVID-19. It’s a harbinger of what is almost certainly a national catastrophe: In April, just a few weeks into the pandemic, Education Week reported that teachers and administrators alike were facing an inability to contact many of their students. Some of them, those teachers and administrators said, literally seemed to drop off the face of the Earth. One major problem was that contact information for students and their parents was often out of date.

At the time, we reported about one study that found that only about half of a sample of high school students had a parent email or mobile phone number that worked. And Education Week survey data also showed that students in districts with more than three-quarters of students living in poverty were the most likely to have disconnected with school.

The causes are probably multifaceted—lack of stable housing, increased mobility due to the economic fallout of the pandemic, disengagement from teachers and peers, illness or trauma at home.

What should we call this phenomenon of widespread numbers of students failing to access school? The Dallas newspaper terms it no less than a potential “lost generation” of students, unless drastic steps are taken to find those students and making up for the learning loss they’ve suffered.

Fully Engaged?

In a clever use of state data, the Dallas newspaper analyzed the labels that the Texas Education Agency assigned each student, based on district reports of how responsive students were to assignments over two distinct time periods. There were nine codes. Students who turned assignments in in a subject were considered “fully engaged.” The analysis included 80 of the largest Dallas/Fort Worth districts and charter schools.

In general, wealthier districts tended to have higher levels of engagement, reflecting the Education Week data from April. Several of these well-resourced districts said almost all their students were fully engaged.

Each of the codes matched how students responded to assignments over two time periods: from the start of the COVID-19 break to April 30, and from May 1 to the end of the school year.

In all, the newspaper found that more than 100,000 children across the 80 districts failed to engage in assignments at all, or stopped doing them by May 1.

Some districts in Texas are responding to the findings. The newspaper reported that the Garland district has built extra weeks of instruction throughout the year with optional days of classes offering intervention, enrichment, and acceleration. (The idea sounds similar to the notion of extended learning time in special academies, a model Education Week profiled in our Learning Loss series of stories.)

But the paper’s overall conclusions are worth repeating. This is really bad news for student learning, and the implications will be felt nationwide unless all of our 14,000 districts design comprehensive plans to ensure student engagement as the pandemic continues.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Human Resources Manager
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Communications Officer
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Hamilton County Department of Education

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read