Will Coronavirus Accelerate Education Inequality?

Acceleration (a) is the change in velocity (Δv) over the change in time (Δt), represented by the equation a = Δv/Δt.

In September of 2017 the Economic Policy Institute published a study on social class (read: socioeconomic status) and educational success. The report concluded that the “single most significant predictor of educational success” is social class and that performance gaps by social class begin early, creating a situation where a child who starts behind, tends to stay behind throughout their educational career.

Coronavirus has disrupted nearly every aspect of our society in some significant way. When we get through this, which I firmly believe we will, there will be numerous new ways to exist and operate within our society. I also expect many of the things we’ve enjoyed and come to expect in our daily lives will return too.

But these articles from Vox, The New York Times, and LA Times got me thinking about that EPI study and education inequality…

A handful of journalists, whose assignment is to cover education, are writing about the effects of the pandemic on our schools and children’s education, but are our elected officials and policymakers thinking about what comes next, after our children return to school?

Before the pandemic educational performance gaps took time to metastasize. Coronavirus is likely going to accelerate the widening of those education gaps much faster, like this coming September, and not only for the younger students but for students of all ages.

Think about this Associated Press study from 2019 that found about 17 percent of students nationwide lack a computer at home, and 18 percent lack broadband internet access. That’s nearly 1 out of every 5 students who will have missed the final three months of their previous grade, going back to school in September trying to succeed at the next grade level.

Teaching best practices, along with state and local school board curriculums, were developed and disseminated in such a way to level the field, making it so all students started from the same place, with a chance at the same success. And importantly, teaching best practices and curricula were developed for face-to-face learning. With so many educators forced to figure out how to transfer their lesson plans to a remote learning environment, it’s fair to assume some teachers have been more adept at being able to effectively teach remotely than others, and some subject matter is easier to teach and learn over a video conference than others. These two examples also make for an uneven learning experience which will have consequences on our children’s education… again, starting as soon as this September.

Our elected officials and leadership at NYS Education Department need to focus not only on making sure our schools are safe for teachers and students to return to, but *also* on creating distance learning tools for our teachers, and on developing programs to bring up to speed those students left behind when the stay-at-home orders went into effect.

Children at a distinct socioeconomic disadvantage should not continue suffering the consequences of poor planning by those responsible for their education.

Sources & Links

#NewYorker, historian, author & believer in government & business working *together* towards a better quality of life for all.

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