A study of the Fairfax County school system in Virginia, one of the largest districts in the country, has revealed that the number of students earning "F" grades has increased by 83% this year as schools shift to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Among middle and high schools students, there was an 83 percent increase in the number of students receiving two or more F marks," reported the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement.
The study compared the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year to the first quarter of the 2019-2020 year. It also showed students with disabilities have suffered the most academically.
The study confirms the widespread concern that the suspension of in-person learning and its replacement with virtual instruction would have a profoundly negative impact on student achievement. Even with Fairfax teachers operating under new guidance which requires "additional flexibility" on deadlines and re-testing, the scores have fallen precipitously.
CDC Director Robert Redfield has encouraged schools to open, stressing that the science shows COVID-19 spread is not happening in school buildings.
"The infections that we've identified in schools when they've been evaluated were not acquired in schools," Redfield said. "They were actually acquired in the community and in the household. The truth is, for kids K-12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school, and it's really important that following the data, making sure we don't make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close.
I'm here to say clearly the data strongly supports that K-12 schools — as well as institutes of higher learning — really are not where we're having our challenges."