Enrollment dropped. Absences soared. How one Arizona school is fighting pandemic learning loss

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Excerpt from "Enrollment dropped. Absences soared. How one Arizona school is fighting pandemic learning loss"

ARIZONA - The son of working-class immigrants from Mexico, Tony Alcala grew up just a few blocks from Galveston Elementary School, near downtown Chandler.

Alcala, 41, is now the principal of the same neighborhood school he attended as a child.

The school illustrates how the COVID-19 pandemic led to decreases in enrollment and increases in chronic absentee rates for students in Arizona, but particularly for low-income Latino students, an analysis of data by The Arizona Republic and WestEd/Helios Education Foundation shows.

Latinos are a large and fast-growing demographic group in Arizona. They make up nearly half of the state's K-12 students and the overwhelming majority of students at Galveston.

The decrease in enrollments and increases in chronic absentee rates have resulted in significant losses in learning for all students, experts say.

But the learning loss has exacerbated an achievement gap among Latinos. The achievement gap has been a public education concern. Now the pandemic has widened the gap even more.

When Alcala was growing up in the neighborhood in the 1990s, his was one of the only Hispanic families.

But the neighborhood where Alcala grew up has changed. The area is now mostly working-class families from Mexico, drawn by the area's affordable housing. The changes mirror demographic shifts that have transformed neighborhoods across Arizona.

Now, 92% of the approximately 400 students who attend Galveston, grades pre-K to sixth, are Latino. About 87% are considered low-income, according to Arizona Department of Education data.

Many of the parents Alcala has met since he became principal in 2021 work at hotels, restaurants, in construction, landscaping, as house painters and in air-conditioning repair. All jobs that put them at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Read the full article here.