The Guilford County Board of Education voted to begin the school year with nine weeks of remote learning and no in-person classroom teaching.
According to a study done by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights, the big losers in remote classroom learning are low-income children.
The study was based on data from Zearn, which is a nonprofit that provides online math platforms to schools.
The study states, “Children in high-income areas experience a temporary reduction in learning on this platform when the COVID crisis hit, but soon recover to baseline levels; by contrast, children in lower-income areas remain 50% below baseline levels persistently. Although this platform captures only one aspect of education, these findings raise the concern that COVID-19 may reduce social mobility and ultimately further amplify inequality by having particularly negative effects on human capital development for lower-income children.”
According to the study, low-income students were already at a disadvantage in completing homework that requires internet access, but when not only homework but the entire school day is remote learning, it makes that problem much worse.
A study by the Pew Research Center showed that before the COVID-19 pandemic, one out of three teenaged students only had access to the internet by cellphone to do their homework and one out of five students in the US were unable to do online homework because they lacked internet access.
To help ameliorate these problems, Guilford County Schools has made internet access available in the parking lots of at many schools across the county.
School buses have also been equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots and are placed in underserved communities to allow students to use the hotspot on the “smart buses” to access the internet. Each bus can handle up to 65 simultaneous connections to students within about 300 feet of the bus.
During the spring semester, after schools were closed in March, GCS data showed about 80 percent of students were engaged in online learning on a regular basis.
Even with these efforts, the data shows that low-income students without reliable internet connections are at a disadvantage when schools implement remote learning.