Who Is Losing Ground with Distance Learning in California?

Even educators know that distancing learning is to education what a cartoon is to real life.  Yet, thanks to the Democrats teachers continue to be fully paid, while folks in the private sector have had their pay cut and many fired—private business does not pretend to do business.

  • Live contact with teachers is limited. Children and teachers had an average of 3 hours of live contact by phone or internet in a typical week; low-income and African American families had less frequent contact at 2.6 and 2.4 hours.
  • Parent involvement in learning varied widely. In a typical week, parents spent 6.5 hours helping with their children’s educational activities, and 18 percent spent more than 10 hours. At the same time, the pandemic has made it more difficult for some parents to be involved, with less-educated, Asian American, and Latino families spending 6 hours or slightly less.”

That is almost the same amount of time paid teachers spend with the students.  Even when schools are open, it is just for a few hours a day, not the full school day.  Why?  Due to social distancing classes have to be limited—so to get a few hours for all children they take turns in a classroom.  LAUSD teachers have already said to the 600,000 students they will not return till there is a vaccine and/or provable preventive protocols.  In other words they will get paid fully for doing very little—and NOT in a classroom.

Who Is Losing Ground with Distance Learning in California?

Niu Gao, Julien Lafortune, Laura Hill, PPIC, | October 2020 

Summary

The resurgence of COVID-19 over the summer and the predicted fall increase in cases means that many districts will continue some form of distance learning for months to come. To help districts refine remote instruction, we explore key issues California families experienced around distance learning this spring. Using data from the Census Household Pulse Survey, a weekly survey conducted in 2020, we document how the pandemic altered Californian households. Our findings show that distance learning has widened gaps for children of color, children in low-income families, and children of less-educated parents. More specifically, we find:

  • Internet and device access remains a formidable challenge. Twenty-nine percent of households did not always have internet available for educational purposes, and the share is much higher among low-income households (43%). Devices were not always available in 33 percent of households, and access to devices is often limited.
  • Live contact with teachers is limited. Children and teachers had an average of 3 hours of live contact by phone or internet in a typical week; low-income and African American families had less frequent contact at 2.6 and 2.4 hours.
  • Parent involvement in learning varied widely. In a typical week, parents spent 6.5 hours helping with their children’s educational activities, and 18 percent spent more than 10 hours. At the same time, the pandemic has made it more difficult for some parents to be involved, with less-educated, Asian American, and Latino families spending 6 hours or slightly less.
  • Hardships may interfere with learning. Nearly 40 percent of African American families reported not having sufficient food to eat during the spring; so did 25 percent of low-income families. Nearly a third of low-income families missed their rent or mortgage payment during the spring and nearly half did not have confidence in their ability to pay in the following month.

We offer several recommendations as state and local policymakers consider strategies to improve distance learning and mitigate learning loss. First, the state must increase its financial commitment, bulk-purchase computing and hotspot devices, subsidize connectivity for low-income families, and incentivize internet service providers to bring broadband to remote and rural areas. Second, districts should establish more-frequent live contact with students who receive less family support. Third, districts, along with the state and counties, must provide more wraparound services to students with the greatest need: when schools re-open, in-person instruction should prioritize vulnerable students, including English Learners, homeless children, and students with special education needs. Last, districts need to monitor student learning and well-being to identify at-risk students and develop intervention strategies.

Most California school districts began the 2020–21 school year in distance learning mode, and policymakers have made great efforts to improve internet and device access, online instruction, and contact with teachers. But working to address gaps identified from spring 2020 may prove challenging given the extra expense required to make campuses safe, the extra burdens families face during a recession, and potential budget cuts if the pandemic downturn persists.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. Rick Mueler says

    Listen many teachers are taking full advantage of this situation as they do of every situation even when we are not battling Covid. My wife is a teacher and she is putting in longer hours than before because she is trying to help these kidswhile also learning a new system. The learning is watered down in most cases but for her there are less interruptions with discipline challenges that she would have if the kids were in person. So, more is getting taught without interruption or as many. Kids will still try and manipulate.

  2. William Hicks says

    The answer to the question is simple…..Those who are the poorer working class have the choice of helping their children with distance “learning” or feeding their families. So poor children are the ultimate losers in this fake learning called “distance learning.”

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