The Impact of COVID-19 Policy on Education
Even Where Schools Open for In-Person Instruction, Students Stay Home
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The permutations of
K-12 instruction being delivered are many right now, and so are the
choices families are making for the education of their students. By
mid-March 2021 more than three-quarters of fourth- and eighth-grade
students (76%) were being offered the chance to attend public schools
open at least some of the time for face-to-face lessons. But just a
fraction of those students attended in-person instruction. The
remaining 24% of grade 4 and grade 8 students were in schools that
were only online.
Those results came
from a data
collection program being run by the National
Center for Education Statistics in the Institute
of Education Services and shared through a public
interactive dashboard. The data collection was developed in response
to an executive
order issued by President Biden in January, to "fully
understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and
educators, including data on the status of in-person learning."
The survey is scheduled to collect data five times, once a month from
February through June 2021. The current analysis represented a
collection period that ran between Feb. 22 and Mar. 12, 2021 among a
sample size of about 5,000 public schools -- between 40 and 70
schools per state.
According to the
"Monthly School Survey Dashboard" maintained by IES, a
greater share of fourth graders had the option of attending in-person
than eighth-graders, 78% compared to 74%.
However, just 55% of
all grade 4 students and 48% of grade 8 students attended class
either in-person or in a hybrid model, which mixes in-person and
attending hybrid classes, the data suggested that few had access to
in-person sessions every day of the week. Among fourth graders, 13%
attended schools that were offering one to two days each week of
in-person instruction, 3% averaged three days and 14% attended four
to five days.
For eighth graders,
a fifth (20%) showed up in schools with one to two days of
instruction, 6% had access to three days of in-school instruction and
15% got four to five days.
For grade 4, the
in-person model was more prevalent for White students (49%) versus
Asian (15%), Black (28%) and Hispanic (33%) students. The hybrid
model, which mixes in-person and remote instruction, follows a
similar pattern. While 23% of White students have the opportunity to
attend hybrid classes, the same is true for just 10% of Hispanic
students, 14% of Black students and 16% of Asian students.
The gaps were large
in grade 8 as well. According to the data, 37% of White students may
attend in-person classes compared to 10% of Asian students, 19% of
Black students and 21% of Hispanic students. For hybrid schools, 28%
of White students can attend those versus 10% of Asian students, 13%
of Hispanic students and 14% of Black students.
specific needs were prioritized for in-person instruction by schools.
The reporting for grade 4 found that students with disabilities
received the highest priority (at 44% of schools), followed by
English learners (28%), students without internet at home (27%) and
those who were experiencing homelessness (23%). In grade 8, nearly
half of schools (48%) prioritized students with disabilities,
followed by those lacking internet at home (34%), English learners
(33%) and those who were homeless (29%).
The same dashboard
also offered a look at the amount of "live" instruction for
students delivered via online means each day. For fourth graders, a
small fraction -- 7% -- received none at all. Another 21% had less
than two hours daily. The remainder, 72%, had at least three hours.
For eighth graders, 10% had access to no live instruction in their
remote schooling, while 14% had less than two hours and the remainder
had at least three hours each day.
The portrait of the
status of education delivery isn't complete. Current numbers
encompass just 74% of schools across the country. Several states --
Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia --
declined to participate or didn't meet the participation rate; and
many others -- Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Puerto Rico,
South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- had "insufficient data"
stated that the results of the new pilot survey would be available
for analyzing with the results of the 2022 National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP), thereby providing additional background
for understanding those testing results when they appear.
The dashboard is
openly available on
the IES website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.