But we know that students have been considerably impacted too, and not in equal ways. Absenteeism is up, class grades and math scores have fallen, student motivation, which is so crucial to learning, is down, and we are just starting to understand the social-emotional implications of lockdown stress, illness, and isolation.
Vulnerable populations of students had to contend with additional challenges: many English language learners (ELLs) learned with English-dominated remote learning interfaces and instruction, students with disabilities lost some of the in-person supports they rely on for academic, emotional, and physical well-being, and low-income students struggled with access to internet connectivity and devices.
Experts are concerned about this cumulative learning loss, or the COVID Slide, that’s resulting from prolonged remote or hybrid learning, especially for those learners who’ve been disproportionately impacted. “For every day students are not at school, existing inequities are compounded at a faster rate,” Julie Sonneman and Peter Goss write for the Grattan Institute of Australia.
The good news: help is there for those who ask for it.
Over the course of the last year, the federal government has passed several acts providing funding for K-12 educational institutions. In December 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) was signed into law, which provides nearly four times the funding originally allocated by the CARES Act. Half of that funding will be distributed to state governors, and the other half will go directly to K-12 districts (LEAs) through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) to the tune of $54.3 billion.
Most recently, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, under which schools across the country will receive a massive and historic infusion of money. This relief package includes $128 billion for K-12 education, as well as hundreds of billions for state governments to allocate.
The money is intended to address learning loss and technology access specifically for low-income students and students with disabilities. This money will give schools the resources to set up larger-scale initiatives to help students who need it the most. Districts must use at least 20% of the American Rescue Plan money to address learning loss and schools must use this money by October 2023.