As we continue through this challenging and extraordinary time, one of the most important conversations we are having is how to ensure our students receive a high-quality education whether that be in person, remote, or a combination of the two. We know there is tremendous work being done at the local and state levels to come up with plans to do just that, while also being mindful of the health and safety of students and educators. It is not an easy task and there is no one solution that will fit everyone’s needs. The reality is that we are going to have to be patient, understanding, and flexible as schools try to navigate these important decisions.
However, the one thing we can’t compromise on is ensuring equitable education opportunities for all students, regardless of background or zip code. This will, undoubtedly, cause more challenges for teachers and schools that serve students in rural and traditionally underserved communities.
Nationally, it is estimated that 35 percent of low-income households with school-aged children don’t have high-speed Internet. When measured by race and ethnicity, the gap is greater for African American and Hispanic families. In addition, research tells us that an increased reliance on homework widens gaps that already exist. Children who have parents who are able to help with homework will do better than those whose parents are not able to help. In fact, a study out of Brown University indicated that while most students will experience learning loss from the past several months, the top third of students may, in fact, make gains in reading specifically, because they are continuing to read with their families while schools are closed, thus widening the achievement gap.
Summer learning loss and its impact on the achievement gap is nothing new. But, what we are experiencing now is significantly more concerning. There are no easy answers and we applaud the educators who are working hard to create an environment in which all students can succeed – even in the midst of all of the unknowns they face. As we all continue to support our educators and our students, we must remain relentlessly committed to issues of equity and ensure all students have the opportunity to achieve a high-quality education.