Inequity in COVID-19 School Closures

As schools decide to hold virtual classes, it is important to look at what has transpired back in Spring. Online learning as it happens inside a child's home is sensitive to the resources a household can provide. Obviously, there is access to technology. Likewise, parents are now a much bigger factor in their child's education. There are, of course, differences in what parents are able to do to assist in their children's education on top of the technological demands of online learning. How various households have accessed the internet during last Spring when COVID-19 abruptly moved classrooms online offers a glimpse of the inequity schools should anticipate this coming Fall. The differences based on socio-economic status is significant as shown by a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Children from wealthier households are clearly provided more resources. 

Above copied from 
Inequality in Household Adaptation to Schooling Shocks: Covid-Induced Online Learning
Engagement in Real Time
Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Joshua Goodman, and Christine Mulhern
NBER Working Paper No. 27555
July 2020

The study looks at search engine results during the time COVID-19 closed schools in Spring and compares this from the prior years. There is clearly a significant rise in search engine results pertaining to online learning resources, both in school-centered and parent-centered resources:The above plots the difference between the searches relevant to online learning made by a rich family compared to a poor family. This is a logarithmic scale so the difference is around 1.5 to 2 times more searches for a wealthy household. And the difference is clearly initiated by school closures that started in March of this year. The keywords counted in this study are the following:

The parents-centered resources listed are clearly suggesting that well-to-do families are looking for additional materials to supplement their children's learning. 

Full-time, Online Instruction – How it is different from the spring

We will open schools virtually with a schedule that is as close to “normal” as possible. Schools throughout the division will follow a consistent instructional schedule and provide more live, face-to-face online (synchronous) student learning.

Students will receive virtual instruction 5 days per week. The week will include 4 days of live, face-to-face online instruction with teachers Tuesday through Friday. Mondays will be used for independent learning (asynchronous). Some students will receive additional teacher assistance or intervention as needed on Mondays. S

  • Elementary students will receive real-time, interactive instruction Tuesday through Friday. The elementary day will include additional small group instruction, intervention supports, and independent learning activities assigned to students. Significant investment in new digital resources will provide a more personalized approach to learning in mathematics and language arts.
  • Middle and high school students will follow an A/B block schedule. Each class will be 80 minutes in length with 15-minute screen time breaks between classes.

Student attendance is required and all students will receive assignments that will be graded.

Students and parents will notice a more rigorous and engaging virtual-learning program with greater connections for all students at all grade levels. Parents and caregivers will be supported with additional resources to assist their children’s online learning.

The staff at each school will continue to work together to ensure that each student has consistent, reliable technology to access instruction each and every day. Laptops, MiFis, and other resources will be available to support every student.

The two-week delay in the start of the school year will allow teachers and other school-based staff members to engage in professional development to prepare them for teaching and learning in a virtual environment. Additionally, school teams will use the days leading up to the first day of school on September 8 to connect with families and ensure that students have access to the necessary links and can practice using the links for class. A large portion of time will be spent training teachers on how to support their students’ social and emotional well-being to address anxiety students may be feeling at this difficult time. 

We can only hope that this coming Fall will be much better than last Spring.