So, what are the prospects of our children doing distance learning this fall? What are the realities of students not being in Prince William County classrooms in August? What if our school board and the governor extend the virtual learning mandate until January, 2021? Each of these questions is serious and demands careful consideration.
A recent study by consulting firm McKinsey & Company suggests that disparity (among students) will grow. The study estimated that if schools were entirely online until January, on average white students would lose 6 months of learning, Hispanic students 9 months, Black students 10 months and low-income students more than a year during the time school buildings will have been closed for the pandemic
Though school teachers and parents expressed their desire to open schools in August, the Prince William school board opted otherwise. They expressed fear that if schools opened, COVID-19 cases would rise and our students would be in jeopardy.
In PWC we don’t know how many families do not have internet access. In a previous article, we listed the service providers, Comcast and Verizon, and the need to contact them for help.
In Baltimore, schools will remain closed the first semester. It is a known fact that many students do not have internet access in the city. Baltimore City Council member Zeke Cohen said, “When we say Black Lives Matter and then deny children in a majority Black city the opportunity to obtain an education because they can’t get online, we are exposing one of the great hypocrisies of our society,” https://news.yahoo.com/education-advocates-warn-thousands-maryland-110600668.html. So it is vitally important that families can connect to the internet!
Second, it is necessary for our students to have a learning device. We listed those specifications in a previous article, as well. But with internet access AND a learning device, what outcomes can we expect?
If in-class instruction does not resume until January 2021, McKinsey estimates that students who remain enrolled in virtual learning could lose three to four months of learning if they receive average remote instruction. With lower-quality remote instruction, students could lose seven to 11 months, and 12 to 14 months if they do not receive any instruction at all.
Data from Curriculum Associates, creators of the i-Ready digital-instruction-and -assessment software, suggest that only 60 percent of low-income students regularly log into online instruction, while 90 percent of high-income students do. In schools serving predominantly black and Hispanic students, just 60 to 70 percent are logging in regularly.
In 28 states, with around 48 percent of K–12 students, distance learning has not been mandated. As a result, many students may not receive any instruction until schools reopen, whenever that happens. Even in places where distance learning is compulsory, significant numbers of students appear to be unaccounted for. In short, the online education currently available is likely to be both less effective, in general, than traditional schooling and to reach fewer students, as well.
All this points to many students dropping out of school, period. Others will be behind their peers and just plain “not get it” academically during the rest of their education due to the ‘COVID gap.’ Our children are in jeopardy and their welfare is not being considered by government officials when they decide to close schools.
COVID-19 closures will probably increase high-school drop-out rates (currently 6.5 percent for Hispanic, 5.5 percent for black, and 3.9 percent for white students, respectively). Many of the supports that can help vulnerable kids stay in school like academic engagement and achievement, strong relationships with caring adults, and supportive home environments don’t exist with the COVID-19 social isolation mandates and school closures.
Following Hurricanes Katrina and Maria school closures, 14-20 percent of students never returned to school. As a result of COVID closures, an additional 2 to 9 percent of high-school students could drop out. That adds up from an estimated 232,000 ninth-to-11th graders to 1.1 million, depending on the length of the closures and how conservative you want to be. Do you know what that will mean to our workforce in the United States? Those dropout students will have a much lower income rate because of their lack of job skills and education. Joblessness will put a heavier burden on tax payers, and the US will also be less competitive in the world market with fewer skilled workers to compete.
At this writing, we do not know what resources are available to PWC teachers who are developing their course content for virtual learning. If most monies are being spent on technology for students, what will the level of instruction be if teachers don’t receive help, as well? For our kids’ sake, we want to believe classes will be outstanding. But we don’t know that for a fact. What disadvantages are our teachers working with?
In this total scenario, we cannot forget parents who affect their students’ lives most deeply. Parents need help in knowing how to cope with social isolation, the technology of virtual education, and how to provide a home environment that allows their kids to study and learn effectively. This is a huge issue not to be taken lightly by anyone, including our governor and school boards.
The money spent to supply students with learning devices could have been better used in adapting schools with equipment and supplies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among students learning at their desks! Parents and teachers understand this. Parents and teachers need to voice their opinions and concerns at school board meetings. Attend and do not think you are alone in your battle. Your students matter greatly and we are in the battle with you! Let us know how we can help!
This just in as we were going to press: Dr. Robert Redfield said on “Good Morning, America,” July 25, 2020, that he would “absolutely” send his grandchildren to school this fall. Redfield is Director of the CDC in Atlanta. If anyone should know about COVID-19, he does. Dr. Redfield said schools serve an important link in public health: that of protecting our children from abuse, neglect and sexual trafficking. Teachers are largely responsible for reporting cases of suspected abuse and without this intervention, many children will die. COVID is not largely a killer: abuse in any form is. One more good reason to reopen our schools!
— Posted by Tom Salmon for Doris, a fellow member of the Prince William and Manassas Family Alliance