Influence of socioeconomic status on academic performance in virtual classroom settings

(1) Monterey High School, Monterey, California

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As the children of immigrant parents, we understand the significant extent to which education is a tool for becoming contributing global citizens. During the COVID-19 pandemic, witnessing first-hand how socioeconomic inequalities were affecting education, we were determined to make a difference. We conducted an online survey to evaluate the impact of household socioeconomic status (SES) on student participation and performance in distance learning at the height of the COVID-19 in communities along the Monterey Bay Peninsula. SES is defined as the combined measure of gross income, educational attainment, and occupation. We hypothesized that students from low-socioeconomic households lacking resources and safe and supportive learning atmospheres would seldom participate during distance learning; therefore, earn lower grade point averages (GPAs) than students from higher SES households. We surveyed students from neighboring high schools whose student bodies are separated by a vast wealth gap, and utilized a novel scoring system to quantify the responses specifically for SES and direct participation factors (e.g., unmuting to participate in a class discussion and typing answers into the chat). The results suggested that high SES for Carmel High School and low SES for Monterey High School had a substantial impact on student achievement during distance learning. The average participation score for Carmel students was statistically significantly greater than Monterey students. Furthermore, students from the upper SES range attained higher weighted GPAs. This work ultimately reveals the inequality present in our current education system and the negative implications for low SES students in the online learning environment.

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