Examine the disparities in the reopening of schools last fall

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When the debate over reopening schools raged last fall, one of the main talking points was how virtual learning as well as the patchwork of plans to reopen could exacerbate pre-existing inequalities among students. A investigation in JAMA network open examined the socio-demographic characteristics and inequalities associated with in-person or virtual school access in elementary schools in New York State.1

The investigator included all students from 2,498 public elementary schools in 704 school districts in New York State. Administrative databases were used to collect socio-demographic characteristics, ranging from race / ethnicity to students with disabilities.

Of the 1,140,540 students included in the study, 658,205 were from low-income families; 208,416 people with disabilities; 131,002 English learners and 49,488 homeless. As of mid-October 2020, 271 of the school districts had schools open full-time for in-person learning. This reopening meant that 343,303 white students had access to in-person instruction, but only 92,384 (8.1%) Hispanic students and 60,449 (5.3%) black students had access. In addition, low-income children (119,757 [10.5%] against 326 194 [28.6%]), lived in urban areas (urban vs rural / suburban: 44,481 [3.9%] against 809 783 [35.5%]), were learning English (74 135 [6.5%] against 224,686 [19.7%]), were homeless (31,935 [2.8%] against 215,562 [18.9]), or had a disability (164,238 [14.4%] against 216,703 [19.0%]) were less likely to have access to in-person instruction than those who were not similarly disadvantaged.

Investigators concluded that most of the districts that offered full-time in-person elementary education were those that were mainly attended by rural / suburban students, white students, or students who were not disadvantaged. Variations in the COVID-19 load were often not a factor in the decision to reopen and these decisions were instead based on the school’s ability to pay for mitigation strategies that allowed for safe school attendance. security. Other research indicates that students lost about a third of a year of learning between fall 2019 and fall 2020, and the impact on test scores was felt most significantly among students. blacks who experienced declines about 50% greater than those seen among white college students.

Reference

1. Fox A, Lee J, Sorensen L, Martin E. Sociodemographic characteristics and inequalities associated with access to in-person and distance elementary education during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York State. JAMA Netw Open. 2021; 4 (7): e2117267. doi: 10.1001 / jamanetworkopen.2021.17267


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