Virtual Learning in Elementary School: A Quantitative Study Examining Growth and Achievement Compared With In-Person Learning

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Virtual learning has gained traction in K–12 education following the COVID-19 pandemic. The problem is there is limited data evidence on student achievement and growth scores of Georgia students in virtual learning compared to in-person learning. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine differences in the achievement and growth scores of virtual students on standardized assessments compared to peers completing in-person learning. Much of the research conducted at the elementary level lacks comparative results due to differences in test type and curriculum. A large percentage of virtual schools serving elementary students are charter schools and do not report to the state for credibility. John Dewey’s experiential learning theory and John Hattie’s visible learning theory guided the research. The study took place in a suburban public school district in northwestern Georgia and included data gathered from a minimum of 330 students in Grades 3-5. The study examined differences in achievement on the Reading Inventory (RI), Math Inventory (MI), and the Georgia Milestones assessments, and students’ growth scores on the Reading and Math Inventories. The hypothesis states there are no statistical differences between the reading and math achievement and growth scores on each assessment. The study utilized a split-group quasi-experimental design allowing non-random criteria, the learning environment, to be compared. Data were analyzed using the Mann-Whitney U test and SPSS software to compare math and reading achievement scores and growth scores between learning environments. The null hypothesis was rejected for all tests run comparing student achievement in growth between both learning environments. Districts should consider additional data as they determine the long-term benefits of virtual learning.