New report shows steep decrease in student achievement from virtual learning

ATLANTA — While many kids are heading back to school in person, many are grabbing their laptops and gearing back up for virtual learning.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln is looking into new data that shows a steep decrease in student achievement growth.

New research is showing that the method of having students open their computer and log in to learn may have led to a decline in their educational growth.

Some local districts say they are overhauling their virtual space in order to help fill in the gap.

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Eboni Walker told Lincoln that pulling her students out of virtual learning in Henry County was a choice she had to make for her kids.

“That was really frustrating for them,” she said.

She is now home-schooling her five- and six-year-old children after she saw declines in their education and behavior, which she says is directly related to virtual learning.

“The biggest challenge that we face is just the screen time and the frustration,” Walker said.

Tim Sass, a researcher with the Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education or MAPLE, says they found significant reductions in learning growth throughout the last school year.

“When the pandemic hit, we kind of dropped everything else and focused things on the issue of students,” Sass said.

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At the start of the pandemic, MAPLE began researching how students across Georgia were adapting to the new way of learning, and they found a negative impact.

“Student were in some cases as much as three quarters of a school year behind,” he said.

The study showed that while there were small strides made with a small number of students, children near the poverty line and those in minority groups were hit the hardest.

“Issues to access to devices in some cases , issues to access to high speed internet,” Sass said. “There were job losses, food insecurities in some cases, housing insecurity.”

MAPLE sent their data over to several metro Atlanta school partners so they can use it to improve virtual learning.

Fulton County Public Schools Academic Officer Dr. Gyimah Whitaker told Lincoln they used the data to rework their virtual structure.

“Some of these things were birthed out of necessity from the pandemic,” she said.

The district will now be offering more tutoring, more interactive teacher session and in-person check-ins to help combat feelings of isolation.

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Georgia State University, who runs MAPLE, is also studying how well summer programs helped students catch up.

Many local districts told Lincoln they are continuing to better their virtual learning plans in the event they have to go back to complete remote learning.