Monday, August 15, 2022

Heartbreak as remote learning drags us down


A study released today shows that students in grades 3 through 8 are falling behind in math during the pandemic. The study comes from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), which administers the MAP test used by many schools in the US.

(Source: NWEA MAP)

Researchers compared scores of students who took the MAP test in fall 2020, many of whom are using remote or hybrid learning models during the pandemic, with the scores of students last fall. It’s not pretty.

“Compared to fall 2019, student achievement this fall was similar in reading, on average, but 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math,” they wrote.

Nearly 4.4 million students took the test, making this the largest study to date that purports to assess the effect—or rather, the ineffectiveness—of remote learning.

Furthermore, because many students who are using an all-virtual learning model live in underserved communities, the study reported a significant amount of “missing” data. In other words, some of our most at-risk students, whose scores may in fact be lower than this year’s average, didn’t contribute to the data set.

As a result, the math scores this year look bad, but the reality is likely to be even worse, because low-scoring students were probably excluded from the dataset at higher rates than their high-scoring peers.

As part of President-elect Joe Biden’s education plan, he hopes to foster effective remediation strategies to catch these students who have fallen behind up to their peers. It is not known how those plans will be implemented, as Mr Biden has not yet named a proposed education secretary; nor is it known how many years it will take until students are actually achieving in math at the levels seen before the pandemic.

Learning loss isn’t the only effect remote learning has on kids and their families, several Maryland students report in their school newspapers:

Mental health problems in students are being reported at a much lower rate this fall in Montgomery County, Maryland, reports Charlotte Vogel at Poolesville High School.

“We’ve dropped significantly,” she quoted Gregory Edmundson, director of the Student Welfare and Compliance Unit for the Montgomery County Public Schools, as saying, referring to the number of reports of abuse or mental health issues in students the school system has received this fall. “It’s a very great concern, now that teachers aren’t able to notice the signs.”

At Urbana High School in Ijamsville, Madison Moran expresses concern about students who wake up too late during remote learning and don’t eat a good breakfast.

“My favorite snack during this time has been the Fritos BBQ twists,” one senior is quoted as saying.

These are a good example of what you can eat during class or in between classes, she writes. Fritos don’t exactly contribute to students’ good health, however, as they sit in their bedrooms all day.

Healthy breakfast planning, from Mary L Gavin, MD, at TeensHealth from Nemours.

“Sitting in front of a screen all day in bed while listening to teachers and doing school work can be mentally draining for most kids,” writes Jack Gans at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac.

He’s finding that “mental health of many were affected negatively due to a lack of socialization and staying home all day in front of a computer screen.” But other students are finding advantages to remote learning.

“Online school has helped me mentally in some ways by there being more freedom on when I do my work,” a sophomore is quoted as saying.

Still, the lack of socialization can be harmful to students’ emotional and mental health. “Socialization is essential to everyone’s health and well-being, but it is especially important for children to learn the unwritten norms of social interaction,” write the mental health professionals at Wisconsin-based Rogers Behavioral Health.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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