A new report by the McKinsey & Company management-consulting firm contends that delaying in-class schooling to Jan. 2021 would result in a catastrophic loss of learning for students — a loss that would be even more pronounced among blacks and Hispanics than whites (and, presumably, Asians, who are not mentioned despite comprising 5.6% of the U.S. population).
The average loss of learning for all students would be 6.8 months. The loss would be slightly less for whites, about 6.0 months, but significantly greater for blacks (10.3 months) and Hispanics (9.2 months). The racial/ethnic achievement gap, which has defied all efforts of school administrators to close over the past decade, would grow significantly worse, says the article, “COVID-19 and student learning in the United States: The hurt could last a lifetime.”
The McKinsey scenario does not describe the hybrid stay-at-home/back-to-school model proposed by the Northam administration for Virginia, but it highlights many of the problems that Virginia school districts would encounter by having students attend school only two days per week.
States the study:
Learning loss will probably be greatest among low-income, black, and Hispanic students. Lower-income students are less likely to have access to high-quality remote learning or to a conducive learning environment, such as a quiet space with minimal distractions, devices they do not need to share, high-speed internet, and parental academic supervision. Data from Curriculum Associates, creators of the i-Ready digital-instruction and -assessment software, suggest that only 60 percent of low-income students are regularly logging into online instruction; 90 percent of high-income students do. Engagement rates are also lagging behind in schools serving predominantly black and Hispanic students; just 60 to 70 percent are logging in regularly.
The impact could be long lasting.
In addition to learning loss, COVID-19 closures will probably increase high-school drop-out rates (currently 6.5 percent for Hispanic, 5.5 percent for black, and 3.9 percent for white students, respectively). The virus is disrupting many of the supports that can help vulnerable kids stay in school: academic engagement and achievement, strong relationships with caring adults, and supportive home environments. In normal circumstances, students who miss more than ten days of school are 36 percent more likely to drop out.
None of this should come as a surprise. Commentators of various political stripes highlighted many of these issues as Virginia schools struggled to transition from in-school to online learning this spring. Although the schools will have had all summer to prepare for a hybrid learning environment, they are not organized for it, and, let’s face it, school systems are not exactly the most flexible of organizations. If the next school year devolves into chaos as schools and parents grapple with Northam administration guidelines, it is not inconceivable that the result will be worse than any of the McKinsey & Company’s three scenarios.
But never fear. The Northam team has a built-in defense against any adverse outcomes — any achievement gap is caused by structural racism! If the achievement gap grows even wider next year, it won’ t be because of the chaos Northamites created, it will be because minority students lacked Internet access or their parents weren’t home, or they live in smaller houses with less privacy and more distractions…. as if those factors were not entirely foreseeable.
Bacon’s bottom line: Virginia’s K-12 schools are heading for a perfect storm. The “restorative justice” approach to discipline is creating more disorder in the classrooms. The “social justice” fixation on racial disparities won’t make anyone any happier, but will distract from the tasks of teaching and learning. And the hybrid school/online response to COVID-19 will sow confusion.
I fervently hope that I am wrong, but I fear that the history books will show that the Northam administration presided over the greatest meltdown in K-12 education in Virginia history.
Originally published on baconsrebellion.com