According to a research paper published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, kids in high-poverty schools paid considerably more for virtual learning than their peers in low-poverty schools, leaving vulnerable pupils even further behind than before the pandemic began. In this, article I have shared the “Virtual Online Learning Achievement Gap”
The authors focused on the costs of virtual learning and warned that failing to fix the gaps could have disastrous implications.
“There will be huge ramifications for future earnings, racial equity, and income inequality, especially in places where remote instruction was widespread,” the study says if achievement reductions become permanent.
One key finding was that in districts with more in-person schooling during the pandemic, the gaps were less significant.
“One of the most important findings in our analysis was that remote instruction had quite different effects in high-poverty and low-poverty schools,” said Thomas Kane, a Harvard professor of education and economics and one of the paper’s co-authors.
It’s unclear why pupils in low-income schools lost so much ground, but Kane believes it’s “likely reflecting differences in access to a broadband connection at home, devices at home, and study space at home.”
Students from low-income families faced a double whammy: they stood to lose the most from virtual learning, and they spent more time learning remotely on average.
According to the study, high-poverty schools had 5.5 more weeks of remote teaching than mid and low-poverty schools. Students of color and Latinos were also more inclined to learn online.
The article is sure to stoke the argument about whether keeping pupils out of class last year was a good idea.
Many large-city districts, like those in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., chose to be more cautious in the face of pandemic uncertainty by remaining closed until the second half of the school year or operating in hybrid mode for the majority of the school year.
This was partly due to teacher union pressure, which expressed worries about returning to the classroom. However, many families of color — whose areas were the hardest hit by the pandemic — preferred to keep their children at home, citing greater safety concerns than White parents.
Governors in many Republican-led states pushed school districts to reopen and jeopardized their funding in some situations. While disparities between kids in high- and low-poverty schools continue in districts that remained open during the pandemic, they did not widen.
Inequality has long plagued the nation’s public education system, which can be seen in everything from the facilities in which kids learn to the number of books in the library to the level of experience of the teachers in front of the classes.
Students of color and those from low-income families are more likely to attend schools with fewer resources than their more affluent White counterparts, compounding and perpetuating other disparities.
According to a report conducted by the Education Trust, a charity focused on school equality concerns, Black, Latino, and Native American children receive 13% less funding than White pupils.
However, the pandemic has brought attention to educational disparities and a renewed feeling of urgency to overcome them. The American Rescue Plan offered $190 billion for schools a year ago, with a large portion of the money going to high-poverty institutions.
“The pandemic brought to light a long-standing problem: brilliant and enthusiastic Black and Latino students, as well as students from low-income neighborhoods… who want and deserve fantastic educational chances aren’t getting them,” said Allison Socol of the Education Trust.
She believes that her article, as well as the pandemic, would “spark a fire under school leaders, governments, and the public to accomplish what has been needed for a long time.”
She and Kane also underlined the significance of schools allocating the windfall of government money from the American Rescue Plan to proven academic interventions like tutoring and school year extensions.
Only 20% of the funds are needed to be spent on addressing learning loss, but they believe school leaders should be devoting significantly more.
“I’m most concerned that the catch-up plans being developed by districts are nowhere near large enough to compensate for these losses,” Kane said.