Will the Education System Pivot Fast Enough for Post COVID-19 Learning?
By: Daniel Velasco
As forty million students are transitioning out of their regularly scheduled programming and parents take on the complex world of home-schooling amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we must recognize the long term implications for students and put wheels in motion, now, to ensure learning gaps are curtailed and resources are deployed swiftly, equitably, and decisively when students are allowed back into their school buildings.
Long-standing research around the “summer slide” indicates children typically:
- Lose one month of learning per summer
- This loss is sharper for children in low socioeconomic households
- Are more widely impacted as they move into higher grades
Additionally, a four-year (2008-2012) study of half a million students showed Black and Latinx children lost, on average 25-30% of their school year’s learnings over the summer, which is concerning given they tended to have smaller gains during the school year to begin with. Furthermore, English Language Learners (ELLs) students and their parents face some of the most challenging barriers yet. Not surprisingly, Latino students are disproportionately represented across this subgroup, making up over three quarters (77.2%) of ELL enrollment in America.
So, what could we expect from a 5-month summer break that, in some states, starts in March and ends in August? Given available data, the fact our schools, teachers, students and families are largely not equipped to teach and learn in virtual settings, we can reasonably predict near catastrophic results to our kids’ learning and frankly, the near future of the American workforce.
All isn’t lost though. For years, researchers have studied ways to combat the summer slide and the achievement gap in general. What we know works:
- Doubling and tripling up instructional minutes for math and reading as needed
- Increasing the school day and prolonging the school year
- Providing alternative schedules for teachers and students
- Leveraging blended learning (a combination of virtual and in-person instruction) to complement and supplement teaching
As our leaders in this sector get ready to confront the aftermath of COVID-19, we must bring Latino leaders, teachers and communities onto decision-making tables, early and often, to ensure culturally competent strategies are developed alongside those most directly affected. This means Latino teachers should be leading across schedule design, curricula, and outreach strategies that reflect the lived experiences of the Latino community.
We know our kids, families, and educators will struggle to adjust to this new normal, yet we have a window of opportunity right now for our school systems to get ready for what’s to come.
Looking ahead, teacher prep programs, labor unions, charter and traditional school districts, city mayors, and state offices must collaborate across ideologies and politics. We must look beyond these historical divides to ensure our children have educational access and our teachers have the tools and support critical to addressing what comes next.
If you want to share your insights or feedback into what type of reality you’d like to see materialize in your community, reach out to your local officials.
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Dr. Daniel Velasco is Chief Growth and Impact Officer at Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating leadership pathways for Latino leaders in the education sector. He was program faculty at Harvard’s School Turnaround Leadership program and was honored in 2016 by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition for national service. He earned master’s degrees in Education Policy and Management from Harvard and a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Entrepreneurship from Johns Hopkins. Dr. Velasco brings 14 years of experience in education, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and strategy.