COVID-19's Impact on Education

Report: Students Struggled During Spring Closures

A national survey of students in grades 5-12 found that when it came to the spring school closures, the kids aren't necessarily all right. Large numbers were able to navigate the mechanics of accessing and turning in their schoolwork (87 percent and 79 percent, respectively). Nearly six in 10 (57 percent) said they spent more time than usual on activities they enjoyed. And half reported that they were able to focus on their learning.

But remote learning didn't always result in a lot of learning. Challenges were especially high for low-income and Latinx students, who cited lack of ready access to the internet and computing devices more than other groups of students. Also, female students and those who identify in a way other than male or female reported struggling more with mental health and well-being (57 percent and 70 percent, in order) more than male students (38 percent).

The survey was run by YouthTruth, a national nonprofit that uses feedback from students, families and staff to help educators understand how to accelerate improvements in teaching and learning. The organization ran the survey between May 11 and June 19, 2020. A total of 20,438 students in nine states and 166 schools responded.

More than half of students (51 percent) said their teachers gave them assignments that really helped them learn; 39 percent said they learned "almost every day." Yet, two-thirds (64 percent) reported having to deal with distractions at home and half overall said they felt depressed, stressed or anxious.

Obstacles to online learning. Source: "Students Weigh In: Learning & Well-being During COVID-19" from YouthTruth

Obstacles to online learning. Source: "Students Weigh In: Learning & Well-being During COVID-19" from YouthTruth

The older the student, the less likely they were to report that they could motivate themselves to do schoolwork. While 57 percent of grade 5 students said they were motivated, just 26 percent of grade 12 students said the same.

Motivation by grade level. Source: "Students Weigh In: Learning & Well-being During COVID-19" from YouthTruth

Motivation by grade level. Source: "Students Weigh In: Learning & Well-being During COVID-19" from YouthTruth

Connections to teachers provided to be a "bright spot" for students. Six in 10 (61 percent) said their teachers were available to give them extra help if they needed it. And 54 percent said they had an adult from school whom they could talk to when they were feeling upset or stressed or were having a problem.

At the same time, less than a third (30 percent) said they felt like they were part of their school's community. As one middle schooler told the researchers, "I don't get to see/interact with most of my friends, I don't get to see/interact with my teachers. Sometimes I feel alone because my parents go to work and my brother is just really annoying. I don't feel a part of my school at all."

Commitment to healthy activities suffered too. Just a third said they spend time outside (38 percent) at the same rate as they did during their "usual" lives; 34 percent said they were eating regular meals; 33 percent said they were getting enough physical activity; and 45 percent said they were getting enough sleep.

Among the seniors who were surveyed, one in five (19 percent) said their postsecondary plans had changed.

"There is a critical opportunity now to listen to and learn from students' lived experiences during this unprecedented time," said YouthTruth Executive Director, Jen Wilka, in a statement. "As we navigate the challenges ahead and adapt to new learning models, student voice and equity must be central to the way school is reimagined."

YouthTruth has released its findings through a publicly-available interactive report that can be explored in numerous ways. The organization has also released a summary of findings on its website and will host a webinar to discuss the results on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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