In K-12 schools & colleges, inequities based on student groups remain starker than ever | Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

In K-12 schools & colleges, inequities based on student groups remain starker than ever

Learning Through COVID:

In K-12 schools & colleges, inequities based on student groups remain starker than ever

The pandemic has provided all education stakeholders with a front row seat to how learning can be impacted by life’s challenges. With online classes being conducted across the state, educators were seeing students’ family lives displayed on their laptop screens, and parents were seeing lessons happen in real time. When we surveyed parents and educators last fall and students in the spring, our results laid bare the inequities that impacted student learning before and throughout the pandemic. Of the 2,068 teachers and families that completed the survey:

  • 21% of families said that providing care for their child at home while they work is a big concern.
  • 78% of families struggled with learning at home.
  • 54% reported that their children were either never or only somewhat engaged in learning tasks.

Through a summer survey to 9,475 middle and high school students representing 573 schools, we found that students experienced significant behavioral and emotional changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the interruption in a traditional learning environment.

Lack of adequate access to technology, increased responsibilities at home and work, and changes in physical, financial, and emotional safety and stability all created new challenges for students, according to respondents:

  • Nearly one-third (32.7%) of students surveyed had parents (or adults in the household) who lost a job or whose pay/hours were cut.
  • Student employment was more variable, as 13.3% of students had reduced employment, while 9.8% had increased employment.
  • Students experienced high levels of uncertainty about their K-12 schooling, postsecondary education, and their career aspirations. Roughly one-fourth of students described a change in their future plans, and 54% of those changes were negative.

The impact of student inequities was also felt at the college level, as many high school students changed their plans to attend college closer to home, opted to take a gap year, or decided to not attend college at all. Our March 2021 survey to nearly 1,000 high school seniors, college students and adult college prospects found that one year into the pandemic, uncertainties are still prevalent.

“I feel like my education has suffered because of the combination of demands that increased at home, financially, as well as the decreased time I had at school,” said one respondent.

Although 36% of respondents reported that their school helped them with additional aid during the COVID-19 pandemic to help with tuition, fees, housing, food, technology or other expenses, a majority also reported increases in concerns for basic needs. These concerns are also touching the institutions themselves. In our survey of institutions, 75% said they are somewhat to very concerned about enrollment due to COVID-19.

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NKU starts fund to help students impacted by COVID

Early on during the pandemic, officials at Northern Kentucky University recognized that many of their students would be adversely impacted by job losses and health care needs. In response, they created the COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund, and raised nearly…

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