US students are falling behind and dropping out amid prolonged pandemic school closures

As the US nears the year anniversary of shutting down schools, the results of a year without education are starting to come in and it has been a devastating one for America's children.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

As the US nears the year anniversary of shutting down schools, the results of a year without education are starting to come in and it has been a devastating one for America's children.

A study conducted among students in San Francisco, who are only heading back to school at the end of this month, uncovered the truth that those who are most impacted by school closures are minority and low-income students.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that low-income students have fallen even further behind during the pandemic-inspired closures. The school board has instead prioritized the renaming of schools over getting schools open. They are more concerned with the appearance of racism than they are with actually making sure minority students get an education.

Still another study shows that students who are English language learners are "falling behind more compared to others."

McKinsey released an analysis in December that showed that black and Hispanic are both "more likely to remain remote" and face more challenges than their peers as a result.

The McKinsey report stated that "the cumulative learning loss could be substantial, especially in mathematics—with students on average likely to lose five to nine months of learning by the end of this school year."

"Students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students," it said. "While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss."

Meanwhile, many states are reporting that their enrollment numbers have significantly fallen during the pandemic. In New York City alone, the public school enrollment went from 1.1 million students at the beginning of the pandemic to under 950,000.

Michigan's enrollment fell by over 50,000, but of those, 13,000 are completely unaccounted for, not having been enrolled in alternative schools, or homeschool. Texas has lost track of approximately 9,000 high school students, 2,000 middle schoolers, and 1,000 primary grade students. Florida lost 88,000 students as enrollment dropped from 2.8 million to 2.7 million.

Florida's House Speaker Chris Sprowls said that this was "alarming," and urged school districts "to locate these missing children. We have a moral obligation not to allow any of these children to slip through the cracks of the system."

Many US students have "simply fallen off the grid," reports ABC News, "not showing up for online or in-person instruction, their whereabouts unknown by school officials."

Students who are particularly affected include the most vulnerable, including minority and low-income students, English language learners, students with disabilities, homeless students, and those in temporary living situations, like foster care.

A Bellweather Education Partners study estimates that about 3 million of the "most educationally marginalized students in the country" have been likely missing from school since the closures began. Their results are based on a calculation of the "likely percentage of at-risk groups not in school, based on media reports and available data."

ABC reports that this is a nationwide problem after reaching out to education departments in all 50 states. Many school districts went fully remote without ensuring that this would provide an education to all their students, and it has not.

The National Education Association, the nation's largest union, representing approximately 3 million educators, has issued demands for funding before they would advocate school reopening. Among their funding asks is for increased broadband to ensure remote learning lives on into the future.

The Biden administration has said they would get schools open in their first 100 days in office, but have repeatedly back-peddled, issued conflicting guidance, and changed the definition of what "open" means.

For New York City public school students, even being in school only provides a remote learning experience but in a classroom location, as teachers must instruct synchronously to ensure that students at home are following the same lesson.


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