Early data shows extent of learning loss among Virginia students

Early data shows extent of learning loss among Virginia students
A student in class. (Source: Live 5/File)

Early data from Virginia schools suggest that more students are struggling academically as the majority of divisions continue to operate totally or partially remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a concern that educators have raised as they continue to navigate virtual instruction. According to a survey of 132 local districts conducted by the Virginia Department of Education, 40 ranked failing students as the biggest issue with remote learning — above even access to reliable internet, which was the highest concern for about 35 divisions.

Nearly two dozen districts reported that the percentage of high schoolers and middle schoolers failing two or more classes had grown by more than 30 percent compared to last school year. And more than 50 divisions reported higher rates of absenteeism than the previous year.

The pandemic’s academic effect on students has been a continuing concern as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into 2021. In late March, Virginia became one of the first states in the country to close both public and private schools for the remainder of the year. Gov. Ralph Northam described it as a “period of sacrifice” amid early uncertainty over how the virus could affect students, teachers and families.

As of Jan. 26, 42 of the state’s 132 divisions are still operating fully remotely. But Northam and state education officials are now emphasizing a return to the classroom as more research suggests that schools can safely minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposures.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.