new study conducted by Virginia’s largest school system found
that distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic is severely
damaging academic achievement.
What are the details?
In comparison to the last academic year, the percentage of
middle school and high school students enrolled in Fairfax County
Public Schools receiving marks of “F” in two or more classes during
the first quarter of this academic year rose from 6% to 11%, the
district’s Office of Research and Strategic Improvement found. The
numbers represent a year-over-year increase of 83%.
Younger students were much more seriously affected than older
ones, as middle-schoolers exhibited a 300% increase in marks of
“F,” while high schoolers exhibited a 50% increase.
The study also found that some of the most vulnerable students
— those with disabilities and English-language learners — were
the ones who have been struggling the most.
The number of students with disabilities who scored marks of “F”
in two or more classes shot up by 111% to account for nearly
one-fifth of those students, while the number of English-language
learners who scored marks of “F” increased by 106% to account for
35% of those students.
While students in certain demographics exhibited more pronounced
increases than others, the study found that “the pattern was
pervasive across all student groups, grade levels, and content
areas examined in this report.”
In a summary of the findings, district researchers acknowledged
that “there is reason for concern,” especially considering that
students who were previously not performing well were the ones who
were having the hardest time.
“Results indicate a widening gap between students who were
previously performing satisfactorily and those performing
unsatisfactorily,” the report noted. “In other words, students who
performed well previously primarily performed slightly better than
expected during Q1 of this year. In contrast, students who were
previously not performing well, performed considerably less well. A
greater proportion of low-performing students received failing
grades during Q1 than would have been expected based on patterns of
marks in prior years.”
In a statement
to the Washington Post, the school system’s superintendent,
Scott Brabrand, said they are working quickly to identify and aid
the students who are struggling the most.
“We are working on identifying these students by name and by
need and are working on specific interventions to support them
right now and as we phase back in person,” he said.
Despite the obvious damage being inflicted on students’ academic
achievement, the school system has
halted plans to return to in-person classes until at least Nov.
30 due to a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
Brabrand, however, vowed
during a recent town hall that he has every intention of
returning to in-person activities as soon as possible.
“We are committed to returning our kids to in-person. There will
be some setbacks. There will be some pauses. I cannot promise you
that it will be linear,” he said.