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Study: Remote Learning Hinders Struggling Students, Tanks Grades 'Across the Board'

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Virtual learning due to the coronavirus pandemic is hurting academic achievement in the largest school system in Virginia, according to a study published last week.

The study by Fairfax County Public Schools indicates “a widening gap between students who were previously performing satisfactorily and those performing unsatisfactorily.”

“Students who performed well previously primarily performed slightly better than expected during [Quarter 1] of this year. In contrast, students who were previously not performing well, performed considerably less well,” the report said.

The percentage of Fs earned by middle school and high school students jumped from 6 percent to 11 percent from 2019 to 2020, the study found.

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Middle school students saw a 300 percent increase in failures, while high school students saw only a 50 percent increase, suggesting that younger students were more affected by remote learning than older students.

Students with disabilities and those learning English struggled the most.

Students with disabilities earned 111 percent more failing grades, according to the study.

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For students learning English, the percentage of Fs rose 106 percent, accounting for 35 percent of all their grades.

“The pattern was pervasive across all student groups, grade levels, and content areas,” the study said. “The trend of more failing marks is concerning across the board.”

Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a statement that the school system is working quickly to repair the damage done to students’ learning, adding that many students who were doing well before the pandemic hit are still doing well, while others “who previously struggled in school … continue to do so.”

“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,” Braband said.

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