This spring, schools have steadily increased the number of in-person lessons offered to students, but new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the return was different for white students and students of color.
“What we’re seeing here is a generally more in-person movement for all groups, but increases for students of color tend to go from virtual to hybrid, and for white students, full-person, ”said Emily Oster, a Brown University researcher and lead author of the study. “The result is a full widening of the gap in person.”
Oster and his colleagues scoured school district websites, Facebook pages, and other public data every week from September 2020 through April 2021 to track changes in the types of education offered in some 1,200 districts across the 50 states. and the District of Columbia, representing 46 percent of all K-12 public school students. Amid the evolution of CDC guidelines and state rules on how schools should operate safely during periodic waves of the pandemic, researchers recorded when schools offered full distance education, hybrid and fully in-person, as well as the age groups and demographic groups of students have access to different types of education.
They found that starting in January, schools began phasing out access to virtual learning only for students of all grades and racial groups. The percentage of white students with access to full-time in-person classes rose from 38% to almost 75% from January to April, with black student access increasing from around 32% to over 63% during that time. period, and Hispanic college students’ student access dropping from just under 36 percent to nearly 60 percent.
Yet over the same period, access to blended education increased 9.5 percentage points for white students, but 23 percentage points for Hispanic students and nearly 22 percentage points for college students. black. In April, 30% of black students and nearly a third of Hispanic students attended a school using blended education, compared with less than a quarter of white students.
In particular, the new study found that racial gaps in accessing full-time in-person classes widened the most for middle and high school students. Among K-5 classes, the gap in access to full-time in-person classes between white students and students of color increased by almost 7 percentage points, to just over 15%, from January to April 2021. On the other hand, this racial gap has widened by more than 11 percentage points in the middle classes and by nearly 13 percentage points for high school students. The two levels of secondary school had access gaps of between 13.8% and 14.8% at the end of the study period.
This could increase the pressure on schools that serve these students, as previous studies from the CDC and others suggest that blended schooling still has an emotional and health impact on students and their families. In March, a separate CDC study found that, across a range of measures, children and parents participating in virtual or blended education had significantly worse physical and mental well-being than those participating in full-time education. no one. These harmful effects include children who exercise less and spend less time outdoors and have poorer mental health and parents who report more work-related problems, difficulty sleeping and emotional distress, among other problems.
“Schools are essential for supporting children and families, providing not only education, but also opportunities to engage in activities to support healthy development and access to social, mental health and health services. physical, which can alleviate stress and lessen negative outcomes, ”conclude the authors led by Jorge Verlenden of the CDC’s COVID-19 emergency response team and its division of adolescent and school health. “However, the pandemic is disrupting many school-based services, increasing parenting responsibilities and stress, and potentially affecting long-term health outcomes for parents and children, especially among families at risk for health problems due to social and environmental factors. … Virtual education may be more risky than in-person education related to the mental and emotional health of children and parents.
In addition, a similar survey of schools by the National Center for Education Statistics found that many schools did not prioritize students with high needs. such as English learners or students with disabilities when moving students to fully in-person classes. For students attending hybrid classes, the amount of in-person instruction varied considerably from state to state and district to district. The NCES found that the majority of students in grades 4 and 8 in blended education receive four hours of instruction per day or less.
CDC researchers have echoed calls from governors and the Biden administration for all schools to transition to fully in-person instruction by the start of the 2021-22 school year.
“School leaders should focus on providing safety-optimized in-person learning options at all grade levels in all geographies,” they concluded, but also warned that communities will need to continue. reduce infection rates in the community and improve immunization rates for ages 12 and over. older because no vaccine has yet been approved to protect young children.