Crisis Schooling and How it is Creating Deeper Inequities for our Most Vulnerable Children
Schools across the U.S. are closed indefinitely. For many families, this is inconvenient. Parents may not know how to support their children’s learning. Perhaps they do not have time because they are expected to work from home as well. Many of those parents are feeling like failures because their children aren’t building multi level Rube Goldberg machines or learning to make French macarons. Some of these parents are creating and sharing lots of on-line resources for parents. They may be so inundated by resource lists that a sort of, resource fatigue is setting in. Personally, I am feeling this. I delete most of what is shared. It is overloaded.
Now imagine that you do not have a computer at home. Or, your school district generously delivered a computer but you do not have internet. Or, that you have a computer and directions for how to get temporary free internet but you are undocumented and have to weigh out the risks of signing up for that free internet. I can guarantee that many of the children impacted by a lack of technology or connectedness are also some of the most vulnerable children. They are currently being schooled in historically underperforming and under resourced districts. This September, assuming these kiddos are back in school, we will see the achievement gap widen even further.
This pandemic and related school closures has once again highlighted inequities for which we are not prepared. Even in well resourced districts, children with special needs are being left behind. I have not heard from anyone who is able to stay in compliance with Individualized Education Plans.
The situation is incredibly complex. The same teachers we expect to support our children are also trying to support their own children at home. Everyone is stretched to their capacity. The unfortunate reality is that reaching the children who need it the most is not easy and everyone is stressed and ignoring or minimizing or throwing hands up in the air is becoming the default response to children who need our support most. For those of us who otherwise have the privilege to just move forward and hope for the best, we can do better.
I hope that some of you will read this and add your ideas to this post. Here are a few ideas that might work:
- Videos and resources that teachers create can be loaded on to thumb drives and delivered to homes that have computers.
- Paper packets of activities for children and support for parents can be delivered (in the native language of the family).
- Real time (synchronous) lessons provided for children with special needs if families have access.
- Detailed instructions and resources provided to parents of children with special needs.
- Check ins via regular telephone when possible.