What factors contributed to the differences in student achievement growth between boys and girls participating in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A shift to remote and hybrid learning in response to pandemic-induced school closures altered the educational experience for students. While emerging evidence has uncovered disparities in achievement growth between male and female students during the pandemic, little is known about the underlying causes of these differences and their implications for educational policymaking.
In this report, Sungmee Kim and Tim Sass investigate potential factors contributing to gender differences in achievement growth, with a particular focus on changes in peer interactions and the level of self-control required in remote-learning environments. We address three key research questions using administrative and parental survey data from a metro-Atlanta school district, encompassing students in Grades 1–8 from school year (SY) 2018–19 to SY 2020–21.
We find that there is significant variation between boys and girls in their ability to succeed in remote learning. Boys were more likely to exhibit disruptive behavior before the pandemic, while girls demonstrated greater self-control (measured by not rushing though prior exams). Disruptive peers and a lack of self-control were linked to lower academic growth for boys in math and reading, with no negative effects observed for girls in either subject. Girls who spent more time in remote instruction mitigated the impact of disruptive peers in math but not boys. The primary driver of the gender differences in achievement growth was girls excelling in remote instruction, although we find conflicting evidence for the causes of girls’ relative success in remote instruction. Moreover, the observed gender differences cannot be solely explained by measures of self-control, and a significant portion remains unexplained. These findings highlight the need for further research to identify the factors affecting student success in remote learning.
To read more, please download the policy brief and the report and its appendix below.