EAU CLAIRE − After an August report from the Eau Claire School District that indicated high school students earned more Ds and Fs during the pandemic, district administrators said Monday that their new goal is to decrease the number of students on the D and F list by 20% during this academic year.

The August report showed that Eau Claire high school students received more failing grades in the 2020-21 school year than in previous years.

A similar pattern manifested in younger students’ grades this spring. School districts around the country have also reported that quarantines and switches to virtual school have resulted in students earning comparatively lower grades.

The district plans to compile and organize student data so high schools can target students who need help, said Michelle Radtke, the district’s director of assessment, at a Monday meeting of the school board.

For example, high schools plan to create private dashboards categorizing students as “on track,” “on watch” and “at risk,” using indicators like attendance, math scores and English scores. The dashboards will let principals and teachers know which students need intervention and support, Radtke said: “Staff are able to easily see what students are on watch and at risk and dig deeper into the data.”

Memorial High School Principal Dave Oldenberg added that the high schools have begun to use other strategies, like additional time for staffers to work with student data and embedding time in students’ schedules for social-emotional learning and support.

School officials say the pandemic deeply impacted students’ ability to attend school and absorb information, as well as teachers’ ability to connect with and support their students.

Radtke said in August that about 10% of high school grades in Eau Claire students are Ds and Fs. In both semesters of the 2020-21 school year, the number of A grades high school students earned declined, and the number of F grades increased, Radtke said.

District’s climate goals clarified

Eau Claire schools superintendent Mike Johnson on Monday outlined how he interprets the school district’s goal of reaching 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Johnson is charged with drafting yearly plans for the district to reach that goal. He told the school board Monday that his goal is to release a first draft of the plan by March 2022.

Some of Johnson’s benchmarks to measure the district’s progress include:

  • The district monitoring and improving carbon dioxide levels inside district spaces.
  • The district developing and following a rubric for environmental diversity on its properties.
  • The district restoring and enhancing natural spaces on its properties.
  • The district supporting “local food, local producers and urban farmers.”

“Because we have over 12,000 students and staff together, a tremendous impact on this community, we’ve got to build on what we already have, but also look for partners like the city of Eau Claire and Xcel Energy,” Johnson said Monday.

The school board in October 2019 adopted the renewable energy by 2050 goal and resolved to start a slate of energy-efficient projects, including solar panels on top of some buildings, beginning in 2020.

Other Eau Claire entities have set similar goals. In March 2018 the Eau Claire City Council adopted a resolution saying that the city’s government and the Eau Claire community should run on 100% renewable energy by 2050.

In other school district news:

  • The school board on Monday was slated to discuss future community listening sessions for a planned November 2022 referendum, but postponed the discussion for a future meeting. The listening sessions are aimed at gathering feedback from the Eau Claire community about what projects a possible referendum should support. The listening sessions are part of the board’s referendum planning strategy, which will likely also include recommendations from a budget committee, recommendations from various stakeholders and a final decision on a dollar amount in summer 2022.
  • Board treasurer Aaron Harder was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.