NWEA, a nonprofit research group, warned in May that closing spring schools could cost students a third of their expected annual reading progress and half of their expected math progress. Subsequent analysis of the fall test scores showed better results – no drops in reading and more modest drops in math – but many underprivileged students did not take the test, which likely skewed the results.
Data from Zearn, an online math program used by some schools, shows performance gaps are widening, with low-income students’ progress falling 14% since January, even as it increased 13% among high-income students. A recent study of Dutch exams found that the average student made “little or no progress” during an eight-week hiatus last spring, with disadvantaged students suffering the greatest learning loss.
“Distance learning is almost certain to widen the achievement gap,” Lake said. “It has been a complete disaster for low income students.”
Among those affected are Dehlia Winbush of Kent, Wash., And her ten-year-old daughter, Nadira, who suffers from a behavioral disorder that oscillates between depression and aggression.
The switch to distance learning last spring “was extremely horrible,” said Ms. Winbush. “It was constantly a struggle for her to log on, even if it was only for an hour.” The school computer malfunctioned and Ms. Winbush, who is visually impaired, was unable to read it well enough to help Nadira with lessons.
“Personally, I don’t think she learned anything,” she says.
The new school year, she said, brought a longer school day and “a really good teacher.” But the isolation worsened Nadira’s depression and led to recent hospitalization. Ms Winbush took time off from her warehouse job to be by her daughter’s side, but her absences caused her to lose her job, adding financial problems to medical problems.
As Nadira’s screen flashes with interesting lessons – the rise of cities, defense mechanisms in animals – she misses the social and emotional development that comes from being in a classroom.