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Study Finds Gap Between Students Who Attend High School Remotely Vs. In Person

The research found that high school students who attended school remotely suffered socially, emotionally, and academically.

WASHINGTON — New research found that high school students who attended school remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic suffered socially, emotionally, and academically compared with those who attended in person.

The findings of the study titled “Students Attending School Remotely Suffer Socially, Emotionally, and Academically appeared in “Educational Researcher,” a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The research was carried out by researchers Angela L. Duckworth, Tim Kautz, Amy Defnet, Emma Satlof-Bedrick, Sean Talamas, Benjamin Lira, and Laurence Steinberg.

“Many news stories have reported on individual stories of teenagers who have suffered from anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges during the pandemic,” Duckworth, the lead author on the study, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Character Lab, said.

“This study gives some of the first empirical evidence of how learning remotely has affected adolescent well-being.”

The study found a social, emotional, and academic “thriving gap” between students attending school in person and their counterparts who had been attending remotely.

The greater suffering of students attending school remotely held up when controlling for how students were faring on the exact dimensions before the pandemic. Though not enormous in magnitude, the thriving gap was consistent across gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status — and even minor effects are noteworthy when they impact millions of individuals.

On a 100-point scale, in-person students were rated higher than remote students on levels of social well-being (77.2 versus 74.8), emotional well-being (57.4 versus 55.7), and academic well-being (78.4 versus 77.3).

“Notably, the thriving gap was larger among students in 10th through 12th grades than it was among ninth-graders,” Steinberg, a professor at Temple University, said.

“As policymakers gear up for national tutoring and remediation programs — which we agree are urgent priorities — we must recognize that our nation’s students are not just lagging as performers, they are suffering as people,” said Duckworth.

“Meeting their intrinsic psychological needs — for social connection, for positive emotion, and authentic intellectual engagement— is a challenge that cannot wait.”

As part of an ongoing research partnership with Orange County Public Schools, a large and demographically diverse public school district in Florida, the study authors had already administered the Character Lab Student Thriving Index— a confidential survey assessing students’ current social, emotional, and academic experience— to over 6,500 students in February 2020, just before the pandemic shut down schools.

Several months later, families in this district were offered remote versus in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year.

Two-thirds of the students in the sample ended up attending school remotely, and one-third attended school in person. Regardless of whether they were learning from home or attending classes at school, the same students completed the Student Thriving Index again in October 2020.

To capture social well-being, the survey included questions about fitting in at school, whether there was an adult in their school to whom they could turn for support or advice, and whether in their school there was an adult who always wanted them to do their best.

For emotional well-being, teens responded to how often they were feeling happy, relaxed, and sad and how they felt overall about their lives.

And for academic well-being, the survey asked how interesting the teens found their classes, how important they found it to do well in their classes, and how confident they were that they could succeed in their courses if they tried.

(With inputs from ANI) 

(Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Nikita Nikhil)