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Coronavirus Impacts on Education and Learning

August 21, 2020
  • A Historic Disruption to School
  • A Historic Disruption to School
  • The Impact on Student Learning
  • Leaving Learning to Chance?
  • Parents Are the New Teachers
  • Do Students Have What They Need to Succeed?
  • Educators and Schools Go Above and Beyond
  • The Future of School
    A Historic Disruption to School

    The coronavirus pandemic forced a near-total shutdown of school buildings in the spring of 2020. With as many as days and as few as hours’ notice, school and system administrators scrambled to deploy devices and resources to ensure learning continued.

    At their peak, the closures affected at least 55.1 million students in 124,000 U.S. public schools. Nearly every state either ordered or recommended that schools remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year.

    Source: Map: Coronavirus and School Closures (2020, March 6). Education Week. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from
    The Impact on Student Learning Will Be Dramatic and Unequal

    The pandemic is exposing and exacerbating the deep inequities that have long shaped American public education. Research predicts steep COVID-19 learning losses will widen already dramatic gaps, and students who lack learning opportunities at home will likely bear the brunt of the related learning losses. Historically, unexpected interruptions to schooling have been found to undermine student achievement and even later success in higher education.

    Students are likely to return in fall 2020 with approximately 63% to 68% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year and with 37% to 50% of the typical learning gains in math.

    Black students could fall 10 months behind, Latino children could fall nine months behind, and children from low-income communities could fall behind by more than a year.

    Learning loss due to COVID-19 would exacerbate existing gaps by 15% to 20%.

    According to the Center for Reinventing Public Education, districts with lower proportions of low-income students are twice as likely to require live instruction than high-poverty districts.

    Sources: Kuhfeld, Megan, James Soland, Beth Tarasawa, Angela Johnson, Erik Ruzek, and Jing Liu. (2020). Projecting the potential impacts of COVID-19 school closures on academic achievement. (EdWorkingPaper: 20-226). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

    COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime (2020, June 1). McKinsey. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from

    COVID-19 Spring District Responses (2020, May 15). Center for Reinventing Public Education. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from
    Leaving Learning to Chance?

    Just one in three districts expect teachers to provide instruction, track student engagement or monitor academic progress for all students.

    Only half of districts nationally expect teachers to track their students’ engagement in learning through either attendance tracking or with one-on-one check-ins.

    According to Zearn math data through late April, learning was most affected in low-income ZIP codes, where student progress in math decreased by about half. In middle-income ZIP codes, student progress decreased by one-third and student progress in high-income ZIP codes was not at all affected.

    Only 24 states have issued any specific guidance to districts about how to best serve English Language Learners during school closures.

    Sources: Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker. Opportunity Insights. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from

    COVID-19 Spring District Responses (2020, May 15). Center for Reinventing Public Education. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from

    Distance Learning in the time of COVID 19 (2020, April 17). Education Reform Now. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from
    Parents Are the New Teachers

    In March 2020, parents across the country earned a new title – educator. For parents, especially those with young children, school closures meant taking on new responsibilities for their child’s education – ensuring devices are charged, internet is reliable, homework is done and lessons are complete.

    The good news is the majority of parents report that they feel prepared to support remote learning.

    57% of parents agree that their child’s remote schooling is working better than they expected.

    • 64% African American
    • 62% Hispanic
    • 56% White

    54% feel completely or very prepared to support their child while they are doing schoolwork at home

    • 68% African American
    • 53% Hispanic
    • 50% White
    Sources: Household Pulse Survey: May 7 – May 12 (2020, May 20). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from

    Parents 2020 | COVID-19 Closures (2020, May 20), Learning Heroes. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from
    Do Students Have What They Need to Succeed?

    Millions of American students, educators and households lack the necessary internet connection or devices to learn at home. According to a report from Common Sense Media and Boston Consulting Group, 16 million students lack the devices and internet connections needed to succeed in the at-home learning environment.

    This matters for students and for teachers, with the potential to accelerate learning loss during school closures. The digital divide disproportionately impacts rural communities and Black, Latinx and Native American households.

    Slightly more than half of teens who no longer attend school in person say they are worried about not being able to keep up with their schoolwork (56%). Black (66%) and Hispanic/Latinx (70%) teens are significantly more likely than white teens (49%) to be worried about keeping up with schoolwork.

    Source: Closing the K-12 digital divide in the age of coronavirus (2020, June 29). Common Sense Media. Retrieved June 29, 2020 from

    Source: Parents Overwhelmingly Concerned Their Children Are Falling Behind During School Closures (2020). The Education Trust. Retrieved June 29, 2020 from

    Source: Common Sense Media | SurveyMonkey Poll: How Teens Are Coping and Connecting the Time of the Coronavirus (2020). Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey. Retrieved June 29, 2020 from
    Educators and Schools Go Above and Beyond

    Amid uncertain times and challenging circumstances, many educators and schools are working tirelessly to put students first. From ensuring students have their basic needs met, to finding creative ways to bring the classroom into students’ living rooms, these heroes are doing whatever it takes to keep learning going.

    The team at Pinnacle Charter School in Denver is doing everything they can to eliminate barriers for their students. The school’s bus drivers are following their routes and dropping off breakfast and lunch along the way.

    Democracy Prep is offering meals to anyone who needs them under the age of 18. They’ve served thousands of people over the last few months.

    Parents at Purpose Prep are facing two crises – destruction in the wake of a tornado and COVID-19. Educators are ensuring students don’t miss a beat, providing necessary food and supplies, and at-home learning resources, including resource packets for those without devices and internet.

    Cristina Correa, an AP art teacher at IDEA San Juan College Prep in Texas, modified her curriculum to incorporate common household materials.

    The Future of School

    Many questions remain about what the 2020-21 school year and beyond will look like.

    Six in 10 parents say they are likely to continue home learning instead of sending their kids back to school this fall. One in five teachers say they are unlikely to return to their classrooms this fall. And when parents and teachers are considered together, about four in 10 oppose returning to school at all until a coronavirus vaccine is available.

    What is clear is that schools will need to be forward-thinking, nimble and dedicated to putting students first. Some schools are sharing their plans to safely and thoughtfully welcome students back:

    • YES Prep Public Schools outlined a “Prioritization Framework” that looks at how three scenarios (In-Person, Remote, and Hybrid) will play out across every function.
    • Comp Sci High enlisted public health experts to offer candid responses to questions like “How many students can safely be in hallways, even if they are 6 feet apart?”
    • KIPP NYC listed 45 school systems and procedures —from arrival and dismissal to bathrooms to deliveries —and the key features of each so that they can make necessary adjustments.
    Source: Teachers and parents expect schools to reopen in the fall (2020, May 26). USA Today/Ipsos. Retrieved June 29, 2020 from
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