The US Education system wasn’t built to deal with extended shutdowns like those forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Administrators, teachers, and parents have worked hard to keep the learning going on; nevertheless, these efforts are not likely to give the quality of education delivered in the classroom.
The difficulty in the context was the determined achievement disparities across income levels and between white students and students of both black and Hispanic traditions. School shutdowns could not only cause excessive learning losses for these students combining existing gaps, but also lead more of them to drop out. This might have long term effects on these children’s long-term economic sustainability and on the US economy.
Despite the considerable attention dedicated to the achievement gap, it has remained a stubborn feature of the US education system. In 2009, we anticipated that the gap between black and Hispanic students and white ones deprived the US market of $310 billion to $525 billion annually in productivity, equal to 2 to 4% of GDP. However, we estimate these two gaps individually, we see that black and Hispanic students are also more likely to live in poverty.
Although we compute both of these gaps separately, we realize that Hispanic and black students are more likely to reside in poverty. Although poverty alone can’t account for the gaps in educational performance. Combined they were the equivalent of a permanent economic downturn.
Unfortunately, the last decade has seen little improvement in narrowing these differences. The average Hispanic or black student remains about two years behind the common white one, and low-income pupils are still underrepresented among top performers.
We estimate that if the Hispanic and black student-achievement gaps were closed in 2009, the current US GDP would have been $426 billion to $705 billion greater. When the income-achievement gap was closed, we estimated that the US GDP would have been $332 billion to $550 billion.
These estimations were made before schools closed, and the shift to remote learning started, sometimes chaotically. In this guide, we explore the potential long-term damage of COVID-19 school closures on black and Hispanic, low-income Americans, and the US economy.
Educational Learning Loss and Closed Schools
To that end, we made statistical models to estimate the effect of school closures on learning. The models were based on studies of remote learning’s efficacy relative to the traditional classroom instruction for three different kinds of students. We then evaluated this data in the context of three distinct epidemiological scenarios.
How much education students lose due to school closures varies significantly by access to remote education, the quality of home support, remote instruction, and the level of engagement. For simplicity, we have classified high-school students into three archetypes. First, some students experience average-quality distant learning. This group continues to progress, but at a slower pace than when they had stayed in school.
Second, a few students are getting lower-quality remote learning; they’re generally stagnating at their current grade levels. Some students aren’t currently getting any instruction at all. They are losing substantial ground. Finally, several students drop out of high school.
We also formed three epidemiological situations. At first–“virus contained”–in-class schooling resumes in autumn 2020. At the next –“virus resurgence”– school closures and part-time programs continue intermittently throughout 2020–21 school year, and in-school education doesn’t wholly resume before January 2021. In the third situation, “pandemic acceleration”–the virus isn’t controlled until vaccines are ready, and schools run remotely to the entire 2020–21 school year.
In our second scenario (in-class instruction doesn’t resume till January 2021), we expect that students who stay enrolled could lose a few months of learning if they get an average remote instruction, seven to 11 months with lower-quality remote education, and 12 to 14 months if they don’t get any instruction whatsoever.
Although students at the finest full-time virtual schools can do as well as or better than those at conventional ones, most studies have found that full-time online learning doesn’t deliver the academic outcomes of in-class instructions. Moreover, in 28 states, with approximately 48 percent of K–12 students, distance learning hasn’t yet been mandated.
Consequently, many students may not receive any education until schools reopen. Even in areas where distance learning is mandatory, significant numbers of students appear to be unaccounted for. In short, the hastily assembled online education presently available is very likely to be less effective, generally less than traditional schooling, and to achieve fewer students.
Potential Impacts on Black, Hispanic And Low-Income Students
Learning loss will be most significant among black, hispanic, and low-income students. Lower-income students are less likely to gain access to high-quality remote learning or to a conducive learning environment, like a quiet area with minimal distractions, the device they don’t have to share, high-speed net, and parental academic oversight.
Information from Curriculum Associates, creators of the i-Ready digital-instruction and -assessment software, implies that only 60 percent of low-income students log into online instruction; 90 percent of high-income pupils do. Engagement rates lag behind in schools serving mostly black and Hispanic students; only 60 to 70 percent are logging infrequently
These variations result directly in a more significant learning loss. The average decline in our midst epidemiological situation is seven months. However, black students may fall behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and low-income students by over a year. We estimate that this could exacerbate present achievement gaps by 15 to 20%.
With learning loss, COVID-19 closures will most likely raise high-school drop-out rates (presently 6.5% for Hispanic, 5.5% for black, and 3.9% for white students). The virus is disrupting many supports that can help vulnerable children stay in school: academic engagement and learning, healthy relationships with caring parents, and supportive home environments.
In normal conditions, students who miss more than ten days of school are 36 percent more likely to fall out. In the aftermath of school closures after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Maria (2017), 14 to 20% of students never returned to school. We estimate that an extra 2 to 9% of high-school students could drop out because of the coronavirus and related school closures–232,000 ninth-to-11th graders (at the mildest scenario) to 1.1 million (at the worst one).
With the adverse effects of learning loss and drop-out rates, other, harder to measure variables could exacerbate the situation. For instance, the crisis is very likely to cause social and psychological disturbance by increasing social distancing and building anxiety over the possibility that parents may lose jobs, and family members could fall ill. Milestones like graduation ceremonies have been canceled, together with sports and other events. These challenges can conquer academic motivation and hurt academic performance and overall levels of engagement.
The loss of learning can extend beyond the pandemic. Given the economic harm, state resources are already stressed. Losses to K–12 education are most likely to strike low-income and racial- and ethnic-minority students disproportionately, which could widen the achievement gap.
The Economic Impact of Educational Learning Loss And Quitting School
These effects–learning loss and higher drop-out rates –are unlikely to be temporary breakdowns easily erased in the upcoming academic year. On the contrary, we feel that they might translate into long-term injury for society and individuals.
Using the middle (virus resurgence) epidemiological situation, where large-scale in-class instruction doesn’t restart until January 2021, we estimated the economic influence of the learning disruption. (The results would be worse in the next situation and better at first.) All told, we expect that the typical K–12 students in America could lose $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime incomes, or the equivalent of a year of a full-time job, solely because of COVID-19–associated learning losses.
These costs are high — and worse for Hispanic and black Americans. While we anticipate that white students would earn $1,348 annually less (a 1.6 percent reduction ) within a 40-year working lifetime, the figure is (3.3 percent reduction) for $1,809 (3.0 percent) for Hispanic and $2,186 annually for black students.
This translates into an estimated effect of $110 billion yearly earnings across the entire present K–12 cohort19. Of that amount, $98.8 billion will be related to loss of learning and the other ($11.2 billion) with the increase in the amount of high-school drop-outs. This isn’t only an economic issue. Several studies have associated higher educational success to improved health, controlled crime and imprisonment, and increased political participation.
The damage to people is consequential, but the outcomes could go deeper, the US could experience moderate harm. With higher numbers of drop-outs and lower learning levels, students affected by COVID-19 will most likely be less proficient and, hence, less effective than students from ages who didn’t experience a comparable gap in studying.
Moreover, if other countries mitigate the effect of lost learning and the United States doesn’t, this will hurt US competitiveness. In the workforce, the majority of the K — 12 cohorts will be by 2040. We estimate a GDP decline of $173 billion to $271 billion annually –a 0.8 to 1.3 percent hit.
Prompt Action Needed
These numbers are sobering—however, they are not inevitable. If the US acts quickly and effectively, it may avoid the worst possible outcomes. But if there’s a lack of devotion or a delay, COVID-19 might wind up inequities.
It is urgent to intercede quickly to support vulnerable students. Students will continue to benefit from free learning tools, but school systems must also think creatively about how to support ongoing learning over the summer. Initiatives may include expanding existing summer-school programs, working with agencies that run summer camps, and youth programs so that they include academics to their activities, and enlisting companies to identify and train volunteer tutors.
Tennessee, by way of instance, is recruiting 1,000 college students to tutor children falling behind. New York will be running a remote summer school for 177,700 students (compared with 44,000 in 2019). Some districts are making digital summertime learning accessible (though optional) to all students.
The necessity of continuing remote learning is may not be an excuse for indifference or inaction. There are examples of high-quality online education, and accomplishing this amount should be the general expectation. While no one knows precisely what level of in-class learning will be feasible for the 2020–21 school year, many students will possibly need to stay home for at least part of it. Educators should use to learn how to make education successful, whatever the scenario.
Achieving this goal will ensure it is essential to provide teachers with tools that show them how they could make instruction and virtual participation effective and to train them in remote-learning best practices. It will also be essential to work with parents to help make a sound learning environment at home, to call upon social and mental-health support so that students can cope with the pandemic’s stresses, and to assure that all students have the infrastructure (such as tablets, laptops, and good broadband) needed for remote learning.
As a blend of in-classroom and remote learning becomes possible, more compliant staffing models will be needed, together with a thorough understanding of which activities prioritize for in-classroom instruction, identification of the students who most want it, and the flexibility to switch between different teaching approaches. All this must be done while school policies keep the most unsafe students top of mind. That may need investment—something that cannot be taken for granted if state and local government budgets are cut.