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COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the persistent achievement disparities across income levels and between white students and students of black and Hispanic heritage, with school shutdowns resulting in disproportionate learning losses and increased dropout rates for these students.

The potential long-term economic impact this disruption could have on these students is extremely troubling. Despite the best efforts of teachers, school administrators, and parents most studies have found that full-time online learning does not deliver the same level of academic results as in-class instruction. Low-income, black, and Hispanic students are likely to suffer the most learning loss. Data suggests that only 60 percent of low-income students are regularly logging into online instruction, compared to 90 percent of high-income students do. At schools serving predominantly black and Hispanic students, just 60 to 70 percent are logging in regularly.

The pandemic has also disrupted many of the supports that help vulnerable youth stay in school. In addition, the social isolation and anxiety brought on by loved ones falling ill and losing jobs can reduce academic motivation, academic performance, and general school engagement.

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