Devastating failure rates and outlook revealed at Liberty High School District

(BRENTWOOD) November 18, 2020 —- This evening, the Liberty Union High School District board reviewed plans for hybrid and distance learning formats for the upcoming spring semester [see slides below]. While there was a unanimous vote to move forward, many elements were left open to change as the health mandate situations remains fluid –   

  • Will school reopen in January as planned?  Maybe. Limited to county and state health mandates at that time.
  • Will there be a distance learning format without having to transfer to Independence?  Maybe, but not all classes would be available.
  • Will sports happen?   Hopefully, but just for those that choose an in-person option, which is really only in-person just 1-2 days per week, sort-of.

Through a detailed report of the planned approach for delivering curricula to students, the LUHSD board was presented a comprehensive and honest explanation of the challenges ahead, including a stand-out point that in no scenario would children receive a full curriculum. Indeed, it would be impossible to deliver the necessary amount of instruction in just a fraction of regular class time and so a comparable amount of learning loss will be unavoidable.

Before the vote, Director Erik Stonebarger requested that the achievement data slides the board was presented with on Friday be shared on the screen. Superintendent Volta stated the slide was unavailable, and with that Stonebarger began to read from his hard copy, sharing information so devastating that he visibly shook as he read it…

“1,085 of our high school students are failing,” 14% of students at Heritage, 20% at Freedom and 23% at Liberty High School [exact data in 2019-2020 comparative data table below]. “This is going to impact these kids for the rest of their lives. All we’ve talked about for thirty years has been about ‘closing the achievement gap,’ but now we have chosen to let this happen to these kids… 750 students will not get a diploma and we KNOW what that means. By not going back, and with this low infection rate, we are telling kids they are not worth the risk,” shared Stonebarger, who was hot with a red race he explained is often reflective his emotion.  “We haven’t even talked about the abuse, which [LUHSD director] Roy eluded to earlier… what we know we are doing to these kids [while they are left in situations of abuse] – emotional, physical, or sexual.”

“We have sat back as a society and allowed this to happen. If we don’t change the pace they’re going to continue to fail. It is our responsibility to go to the county and say THIS is what we are up against. We have to find a different way.  It is NO fault of the teachers. It’s not for the lack of effort. It’s just not a very good system.  We know the damage we are doing to a generation to kids by choosing not to fight.”

In response to Stonebarger’s plea for a common sense return of students to the classroom, Superintendent Volta shared that the tone of his conversations with county health officials has changed these last few months: “I believe they are interested in going back and are now considering the health of the entire community.” Officials are “encouraged,” Volta said, by [insignificant] transmission rates at the schools that have opened in Contra Costa county, and that schools are far from being among the top five causes of Covid-spread.

As the meeting closed Stonebarger instructed Volta to post the achievement data (for which a slide had been unavailable during the meeting) on the district website, so “people can start downloading and know what we’re dealing with.”

UPDATE: LUHSD Superintendent Volta quickly responded to our request for this data today, providing the exact figures found below. Mr. Volta shared: “Distance Learning, despite great efforts, e.g. home visits, tutorial hours, device and mi-fi check outs, parent meetings, is proving a tough place to learn.  I truly am humbled by the efforts of many on our campuses.  Unfortunately many of the on-site and classroom supports we have in place can’t be replicated in Distance learning. This is why we were one of the first districts to have a return date for high schools. Unfortunately now we are under the “purple” and no telling when we might return.”