Study Finds ‘Growing Gap’ Between Distance and In-Person High School Students


Washington / Philadelphia, July 14, 2021 – New research reveals that high school students who attended distance school during the COVID-19 pandemic suffered socially, emotionally and academically compared to those who attended school in nobody.

The study was published today in Educational researcher (ER) by researchers Angela L. Duckworth, Tim Kautz, Amy Defnet, Emma Satlof-Bedrick, Sean Talamas, Benjamin Lira, and Laurence Steinberg. ER is a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

“There have been many reports of individual stories of adolescents who suffered from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues during the pandemic,” said senior author Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Founder and CEO of Character Lab. “This study provides some of the first empirical evidence for how distance learning has affected the well-being of adolescents.”

The study found a “growing social, emotional and academic gap” between students who attended school in person and their counterparts who attended distance school. The greatest suffering of students attending distance school has continued over controlling how students coped on the same dimensions before the pandemic. While not on a massive scale, the growing gap was constant across gender, race / ethnicity, and socioeconomic status – and even the small effects are noticeable when they affect millions of people. ‘people.

On a 100-point scale, in-person students scored higher than distant students on levels of social well-being (77.2 vs. 74.8), emotional well-being (57.4 vs. 55.7 ) and academic well-being (78.4 against 77.3).

“Notably, the blossoming gap was larger among students in grades 10 through 12 than among students in ninth grade,” said Steinberg, a professor at Temple University.

“As policymakers prepare for national mentoring and remediation programs – which we agree are urgent priorities – we need to recognize that students in our country are not just lagging behind as performers. , they are suffering as people, ”Duckworth said. “Meeting their intrinsic psychological needs – for social connection, positive emotion, and genuine intellectual engagement – is a challenge that cannot wait.”

As part of an ongoing research partnership with public schools in Orange County, a large and demographically diverse public school district in Florida, the study authors had previously administered the Character Lab Student Thriving Index, a survey confidential evaluating social, emotional and academic experience – to more than 6,500 students in February 2020, just before the pandemic closed schools.

Several months later, families in that district were offered the opportunity to take courses either remotely or in person for the 2020-21 school year. Two-thirds of the students in the sample ended up attending distance school and one-third went to school in person. Whether they learned at home or were taking classes at school, the same students again completed the Student Achievement Index in October 2020.

To capture social well-being, the survey included questions about integration into school, whether there was an adult in their school they could turn to for support or advice, and s ‘there was an adult in their school who always wanted them to do this. Their best. For emotional well-being, teens responded to how often they felt happy, relaxed, and sad, as well as how they felt overall about their lives. And for academic well-being, the survey asked how interesting teens found their classes, how important they found it to do well in their classes, and how confident they were that they could do well in their classes. ‘they were trying.


Quote from the study:
Duckworth, AL, Kautz, T., Defnet, A., Satlof-Bedrick, E., Talamas, S., Lira, B. and Steinberg, L. (2021). Students who attend distance school suffer socially, emotionally and academically. Education researcher. Prepublished July 14, 2021.

About AERA
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the nation’s largest interdisciplinary research association dedicated to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scientific research related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About the Character Lab
Character Lab’s mission is to advance scientific knowledge that helps children thrive. Character Lab connects researchers to schools while bringing the voices of teachers and students throughout the process, with the ultimate goal of identifying the conditions that lead to the social, emotional, academic and physical well-being of all young people. .

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