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Pandemic widens education gap for students of color : NPR

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Latino students’ test scores have plummeted during the pandemic. Ayesha Rascoe discusses her findings with Amalia Chamorro, Director of Education Policy at UnidosUS.


Parents and educators are concerned about the negative impact the pandemic will have on student achievement. U.S. elementary and middle school students saw sharp declines in math and reading scores compared to 2019, and the pandemic has widened the gap for students of color.Amalia Chamorro is director of education policy at UnidosUS. The organization tracks how Latino students lived during the pandemic. Welcome.

Amalia Chamorro: Hello, Ayesha. Thank you for calling me.

RASCOE: I’d like to dig into some of the data you guys found. So it shows that the reading percentile of Latino third graders dropped by 9 points compared to 5 points for non-Latino students. Math scores were even worse, with Latino students dropping her 13 points. As you know, your group has seen this downward shift at all grade levels. What other impact has the pandemic had on the educational performance of these students?

CHAMORRO: We know the turmoil and rapid shift to virtual distance learning has had a huge impact on Latino students and their families. Because when the pandemic started, everything really changed overnight and students, parents and educators had to do almost 100%. Remotely, she knew that one-third of Latino households didn’t have high-speed internet. And about 17% of Latino households didn’t have a device. So while we know many schools have enhanced their offerings with broadband and devices, computers and tablets, the coming months will have a major impact on enabling students to remain engaged in their learning. I knew there was. .

RASCOE: And, as you know, some Latino students have other issues that they have to deal with, like English isn’t always their first language. What about English as a second language learners? How were they affected?

CHAMORRO: Yes, I was especially worried about English learners. And his 2019 study, published by the Ministry of Education, found that teachers of English learners did not receive the same level of professional development and digital instruction as teachers in the general population. That’s one problem. At the same time, many English learners come from low-income families with even less access to broadband and devices.

RASCOE: And was access to broadband the main challenge that was holding you back from learning distance learning? I mean, with my kids, I know it’s hard to learn when you’re not in the classroom. Like, it’s a completely different experience.

Chamorro: Right. That was one problem. The lack of connectivity and devices, and the fact that many families lack tools and training. – To be able to actually navigate these platforms and help children at home for parents who could spend time at home – For Latinx families – With many parents Caregivers are essential workers, and many of them have fallen ill. I’ve seen you. And the older siblings stepped up to help the younger ones as well. After hitting his all-time high high school graduation rate of 82% in 2019, the impact was also seen on high school level students as we saw a drop in high school graduation rates for Latino students. .

RASCOE: Can you tell us a little more about the academic situation pre-pandemic?

Chamorro: Okay. Over the last 30 years, Latinx students have made progress in several key areas, such as improved mathematics and reading comprehension, as well as high school graduation rates. Academic performance. So while we’ve seen some of these important milestones achieved, we also knew there were persistent inequalities in the system.

RASCOE: As you said, what can educators, policy makers do to correct course, to account for the gaps that existed not only before the pandemic, but also before it?

Chamorro: Our published report contains a series of policy recommendations. And, you know, one big opportunity is all the federal bailout money that’s been given to states and then to local educational institutions over the past few years. And making sure that these decisions are informed by data and that funding is not just for the students and schools most in need, but for those who are struggling the most is critical. , students with disabilities, English learners, and students attending schools with high poverty rates to get the support they need to recover.

RASCOE: Amalia Chamorro, Director of Education Policy at UnidosUS. Thank you for talking with us.

Chamorro: Thank you very much.

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