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March 2020 was the month when all students went from in-person learning to distance/online learning. That fall, only a small percentage of students returned back to fully in-person learning. The reason: COVID-19.
To elected officials, the reopening of restaurants seemed to be more important than the safe reopening of schools with a future of over 50 million children. Failed leadership is still painfully clear as states begin another pandemic school year without pursuing meaningful public health strategies to provide the most secure return to in-person schooling. These policy errors combine at a time when the extremely infectious Delta variant and coronavirus appear to become a permanent factor.
Consider a state-by-state study of the Center for Reinventing Public Education’s reopening policy. The study indicates that many states have pushed locals to return to in-person education while supporting measures that clash with the goal of educating young people safely. For instance, over one-fourth of the states have banned COVID-19 vaccination requirements as of this month. By early August, just 29 states had suggested that students wear masks—from last fall’s 44 states—and nine states had prohibited masking requirements.
State authorities would be smart to protect students even more by mandating teachers to be vaccinated—with no exception. In the meanwhile, the fact that only a few states disclose this information openly frustrates parents who desire to learn what fraction of the teaching staff has been vaccinated.
Governors and other elected officials attempt to overcome catastrophic learning deficits caused by the shutdown. However, this situation emerges in studies and reports that show how alarmingly all students are behind compared to a regular school year. This situation even more so affects poor children.
N.W.E.A., a nonprofit which offers academic evaluations, did an analysis and revealed that in the spring of 2021, third grade Latinos scored 17 percentile points lower than Latino third-graders in the spring of 2019. For Black students, the decrease was 15 percentile points, while Native American students recorded 14 percentile points, compared with previous similar students.
A similar situation was reported by the consulting firm, McKinsey. It highlights, among other things, that the pandemic has increased existing chances and gaps in performance and has increased the likelihood of high school dropouts.
“The fallout from the pandemic threatens to depress this generation’s prospects and constrict their opportunities far into adulthood,” the authors from ,Mckinsey and Company said. “The ripple effects may undermine their chances of attending college and ultimately finding a fulfilling job that enables them to support a family.”
According to the authors, unless efforts are done to close the pandemic learning gap, these people will earn less during their careers. As the generation joins the labor force, the economic impact on the United States may vary from $128 billion to $188 billion per year.
Furthermore, last month, children’s advocates at the General Assembly got it right when they criticized governments throughout the world for responding to the pandemic by suspending in-person schooling for lengthy periods of time rather than employing infection-control methods. The UNESCO, a specialized agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security, and UNICEF announcement stated that the closure put children at danger of developmental setbacks from which many may never recover.
The fact that their schools are more likely to be shut down than the schools serving higher-income students in the U.S. demonstrates that impoverished children suffer from the pandemic. This made poorer children increasingly reliant on online learning.
In addition, the National Center for Education Research Access and Choice has recently analyzed the possibilities of remote schools for schools. In neighborhoods with higher percentages of Black and Latino children, they were more likely to have remote schooling. In other words, districts with more people living in poverty “were more likely to have remote instruction.”
Remote teaching certainly contributed to the so-called “disenrollment” by researchers. For instance, research carried out by Stanford University professor Thomas S. Dee and his colleagues showed that schools that went completely remote had up to 42 percent more “disenrollment” compared to full-time in-person learning. More than one million of the students that were anticipated to attend local schools, either in-person or online, did not show up as The Times recently revealed.
“The missing students were concentrated in the younger grades, with the steepest drop in kindergarten — more than 340,000 students,” the Times released on their website.
In the best of conditions, this implies that some of the most vulnerable children in the country will start first grade without having had a major preparation year. In a more terrible situation, certain students who lost connection in the upper grades may not come back to school unless districts work together to get them back.
It takes more than one academic year to repair the learning disaster that hit the country’s most vulnerable children. Start by creating rigorous strategies to assist children to catch up while pushing them through new academic content and designing methods that measure progress to clearly defined goals. It won’t be simple to complete this job, but it would be a catastrophe not to make it alright. Pretending that everything is fine and not taking extraordinary measures is a disaster waiting to happen.