While all students fell prey to remote learning loss, this group was hit the hardest

Only 30% of schools located in high-poverty neighborhoods believed they were doing a 'good' or 'excellent' job in preparing students for college, according to a recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Higher ed leaders have been warned about the deep learning setbacks K12 students experienced during the pandemic, which trickled down all the way to the elementary level. A recent spate of reports drives home how much deeper they were for schools with high-poverty neighborhoods, raising potential learning disparities for generations to come.

Remote learning, catalyzed by quarantine mandates during the pandemic, is a key driver of K12 students’ current academic declines, The New York Times reports. This extends across all family income levels: The longer districts maintained fully remote or hybrid learning, the deeper the setback in reading and math assessment scores, according to an analysis from The Nation’s Report Card. However, impoverished districts were found to suffer more than other affluent districts even if they maintained a similar timeline of fully remote, hybrid, or mostly in-person learning.

Districts that were in high-poverty areas and kept remote learning policies longer endured an even more significant setback. This was not an uncommon phenomenon, either; the National Bureau of Economic Research found that many poor districts were found to extend remote learning. This was most likely a response to the higher propensity of Americans living in poorer counties to die from COVID than in more affluent counties, Reuters reports.

“We wanted to survive,” said Sarah Carpenter, the executive director of Memphis Lift, a parent advocacy group in Memphis, according to The Times, “[b]ut I also think, man, looking back, I wish our kids could have gone back to school much quicker.”

Other abscesses created by remote learning include chronic absenteeism, decreased attendance, bus transportation issues, and teacher and superintendent turnover.

While many K12 districts have managed impressive assessment score rebounds, poorer school districts that experienced steeper declines have more ground to catch up. As a result, less-resourced K12 districts may have a more challenging time training the next generation of U.S. adults than they did before the pandemic.

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The implications for higher education

As K12 districts fight an uphill battle, many districts have had to regrettably place student aspirations after high school on the back burner. Less than half of schools (47%) rate themselves as doing a ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ job in college preparation, according to a recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The disparity among less-resourced districts reared its ugly head again: 30% of such schools believed they were doing a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job. Moreover, high-poverty neighborhoods offered fewer AP courses than the average.

Over 1,600 K12 public schools from every state and the District of Columbia participated in the survey in January.

“One noteworthy finding is that a lower percentage of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods give themselves the highest marks, ‘excellent’ or ‘very good,’ in preparing students for college, when compared with the national population of schools,” Peggy Carr, commissioner of NCES, said in a statement. “I hope these data will spark important conversations that lead to improved opportunities for all students.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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