The New York Times reported Wednesday that around three million children have “dropped out” of full-time school because of the shift to virtual learning from in-classroom learning, and the poor and minority communities have been deeply affected.
The outlet took a detailed look at the plight of a low-income, minority family in an extensive expose that published earlier this week. Among the revelations, the Times discovered that it was particularly difficult for kids whose parents worked in “essential worker” jobs, including those jobs that require overnight shifts, and that many of the most at-risk students also lack the basic needs associated with virtual learning: time and an internet connection.
“By one estimate, three million students nationwide, roughly the school-age population of Florida, stopped going to classes, virtual or in person, after the pandemic began,” the Times reported, citing a study from Bellwether Education Partners.
That study found that in major cities — including cities like Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C., where teachers unions have pressured school districts to keep learning virtual and teachers out of classrooms — students “dropped out” of school at an alarming rate
In Los Angeles, 15%-20% of English learners, students in foster care, students with disabilities, and homeless students didn’t access any of the district’s online educational materials from March through May.
In Washington, D.C., back-to-school family surveys found that 60% of students lacked the devices and 27% lacked the high-speed internet access needed to successfully participate in virtual school.
In Miami-Dade County, 16,000 fewer students enrolled this fall compared with last year.
The Times dug deeper.
“A disproportionate number of those disengaged students are lower-income Black, Latino, and Native American children who have struggled to keep up in classrooms that are partly or fully remote, for reasons ranging from poor internet service to needing to support their families by working or caring for siblings,” the outlet noted. “Many are homeless or English language learners. Others whose parents work outside the home have struggled in the absence of adult supervision.”
The losses, the Times admitted, are incalculable.
“Studies of how much learning American students have lost in the past year are underway, but the preliminary reports are mostly grim. Even one of the more optimistic surveys found significant losses in math, with a doubling of the proportion of students described as ‘sliders,’ because they had moved down in their rankings compared with a typical year,” the Times noted. “Another national study, from the assessment company Curriculum Associates, found a decline of up to 16 percent in the number of elementary school students performing at grade level in math, and up to 10 percent in the number of students performing at grade level in reading.”
Meanwhile, teachers’ unions have been pressing to keep schools closed, claiming, in some instances, that the push to return students to classrooms is “racist.” The Chicago Teachers Union, as The Daily Wire reported earlier this year, effectively called the Chicago Public School system which, in large part, serves minority families, “racist and sexist” in a petition to stop the mayor and the Chicago Public Schools executives from forcing teachers back into classrooms in February.