HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The superintendent at Hays Consolidated Independent School District said there has been an increase in failing grades in the school district this year.

“I am really concerned because our averages right now are skewed, and the number of failures is disappointing to me,” Superintendent Eric Wright said in a video message posted to YouTube on Wednesday.

Wright tells KXAN elementary students are in good shape. However, middle and high school students are seeing total failing rates about 30% higher at this progress report compared to last year.

Wright says he thinks most students are simply not doing their work.

But he says there are other reasons, too.

He says some teachers are still getting used to entering grades in the new learning management system, and the district will be working with teachers to make sure they are getting grades posted.

Another reason is the new Schoology-based system, which some students and teachers may not know how to fully navigate, yet—or technical errors that result in assignments not going through.

That was the case for the Rodriguez family.

Javier Rodriguez and his mom say he was submitting assignments through an app, but the teacher wasn’t getting them—resulting in a low grade. (Courtesy: Tiffany Rodriguez)

“I was extremely confused because I usually have good grades,” said Javier Rodriguez.

But when the 8th grader got his progress reports last week, that wasn’t the case.

“All of a sudden, he was a 64 for two missing assignments with 100 at every other grade in that class,” said his mom, Tiffany.

The family realized the teacher hadn’t gotten some of their submitted assignments and was able to sort it out during a Zoom meeting.

“I had a daughter who was an all A/B student, failing five classes,” said Holly Cunningham, whose daughter attended Barton Middle School.

Her family didn’t even realize they had missed assignments.

“The work will be inside of a folder, that’s inside of a folder, that’s inside of a folder, that’s inside of a link. I mean, it’s endless,” she said.

And even when she thought her kids were all caught up…

“All of a sudden, the next morning I get an email from a teacher saying, ‘you have all these assignments missing,’ when I’ve literally been here with them going through and working hard to make sure all this stuff is being completed,” Cunningham said.

Holly Cunningham says she expected virtual learning to be a little difficult for her son but was ‘blindsided’ when her daughter’s grades came back so low. They didn’t realize they were missing assignments. (Courtesy: Holly Cunningham)

The stress of navigating emails, apps and software was too much. That’s part of why she left the district they loved last week, opting to homeschool.

“It was becoming traumatic to my kids and even myself,” she said.

Cunningham and Rodriguez hope to share their experiences so the school district and families can work toward a smoother transition for the rest of the year.

“I think that this first nine weeks is just kind of trial and error for everybody—for in-person learners, for parents, for virtual learners, for staff,” Rodriguez said.

With his grades now back up, Javier has also learned another lesson.

“It’s not going to be super easy, we’re going to have some little bumps everywhere,” he said. “And we’re just going to have to try to adapt to our current situation.”

October 16 is the first UIL pass/fail grading eligibility cut-off period for the school year.

Wright said he made the video message now, because there is still time for students to change their situation if they are failing because of missing assignments.