Seventeen percent of Riverside-Brookfield High School students failed at least one class in the third quarter of the 2020-21 academic year, a much higher failure rate than in past years.

In the quarter that ended in March, 282 RBHS students received a total of 596 Fs for final third-quarter grades. That’s about 30 percent more Fs than were handed out in last year’s third quarter when 418 failing grades were awarded. During the third quarter of the 2018-19 school year, 385 Fs were given out and 402 Fs in 2017-18.

“We’re a little higher than previous years,” RBHS Principal Hector Freytas told the school board at its April 13 meeting when he discussed the failure rate. 

Hispanic and Black students earned a disproportionate number of the failing grades. Hispanic students, who account for about 37 percent of all RBHS students, received 47 percent of all failing grades in the third quarter. 

Black students, who account for nearly 5 percent of all RBHS students, received 8.5 percent of all Fs. White students, who account for about 53 percent of all RBHS students, received 40.6 percent of all failing grades.

Freytas said the school is taking action to help students who failed classes in the third quarter improve their grades so that they can get a passing semester grade. These steps include getting students who failed classes in the third quarter to come to school more often, pulling struggling students out of wellness or elective classes for extra help in reading and math, dean visits to the homes of disengaged students and perhaps lessening the course loads of failing students. Messages were sent to every senior who failed a class in the third quarter.

Last fall, Freytas sounded the alarm bells when he reported in November that 35 percent of RBHS students were on track for failing at least one class for the first semester. However, the final first semester failure rate ended up much lower. 

Only 7.3 percent of students ultimately failed a first-semester class after students were given a chance to improve their grades in the second quarter. 

Third-quarter gradebooks are closed, Freytas told the school board, but the school policy this year is that no student can receive a grade of lower than 50 percent on any assignment, even if they don’t turn anything in. As a result, Freytas said, students can do enough in the fourth quarter to receive a passing semester grade.

“Guys you can pass, you have plenty of time,” Freytas said at the school board meeting in a message to students.

There will be no final exams in the second semester, just as there were no final exams in the first semester, so students will need to complete regular assignments to pass classes.

In-person attendance at RBHS has been slowly increasing, but it remains below where many school officials have been hoping it would be.

Freytas told the school board that about 500 students are attending school in person, which would be nearly 33 percent of all students, compared to just 200 students earlier in the year. 

“We are getting one or two more students every day,” Freytas said.

But many students who have been attending school remotely for more than a year now have gotten out of the habit of going to school and prefer to stay home. 

Despite the third quarter’s high failure rate most students at RBHS are getting good grades.

A total of 994 students, 61 percent of all RBHS students, made the third-quarter honor roll.