Home Education Study of “Teaching and Learning During the COVID 19 Pandemic” Finds “Widening...

Study of “Teaching and Learning During the COVID 19 Pandemic” Finds “Widening Gap” in Performance; English-Language-Learners, Students with Disabilities Hit Hardest in Fairfax County

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The Fairfax County Public Schools system is out with a new study, looking at “TEACHING AND LEARNING DURING THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC,” and the results are concerning (note: h/t to Washington Post reporter Hannah Natanson on this story). The bottom line, as the study summarizes, is as follows:

  • There appears to be “a widening gap between students who were previously performing satisfactorily and those performing unsatisfactorily”
  • “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”
  • Students at the middle school level had a notable increase in the percentage of failures, while at the high school level the increase also existed but was considerably smaller. The pattern was pervasive across all student groups, grade levels, and content areas examined in this report.”
  • “The trend of more failing marks is concerning across the board but is especially concerning for the groups that showed the biggest unpredicted increases in receiving multiple unsatisfactory marks, namely our English learner students and students with disabilities.”
  • “The majority of students at the middle and high school level received strong grades in Q1 of this year, continuing to perform at levels comparable to prior years in English and mathematics. Analyses did not yield an overall drop in marks for Q1 of this year among all students or even the majority of students. In fact, the majority of students outperformed expected marks based on prior patterns.”

So…somewhat of a mixed bag in the summary, but there are some seriously concerning data points, particularly grades for English-language learners and students with disabilities. My question is how much of this is the result of being forced to go to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how much of it could have been avoided by doing things differently. Of course, this is an unprecedented situation, and it’s really been a choice of bad/less-bad options (e.g., in-person learning, which would put teachers/staff/families at risk; or online learning, which mitigates that risk but is clearly problematic academically and in other ways), but still…we’re going to have a lot of damage to address once this pandemic is over, hopefully in a few more months.

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