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COVID-19's Learning Losses Greater For Black And Low Income Students

Advance Illinois President Robin Steans speaks at an Illinois Legislative Black Caucus press conferemce.
Advance Illinois President Robin Steans speaks at an Illinois Legislative Black Caucus press conferemce.

COVID-19’s effects on learning for Illinois students emerged in a state Senate committee this week.

Robin Steans, president of the education advocacy nonprofit Advance Illinois, said COVID-19 has placed a reliance on remote learning that has put students at a disadvantage.

“There was research that backs up that even when you do remote learning exactly as intended and everybody has the devices and equipment and access to broadband and technology support the need, It doesn't work the same for everyone. It does not work as well, particularly for students of color, particularly for students from low income families,” she said.

Steans says white students have lost six months of learning on average.  The loss is over 10 months for Black students and more than 12 months for those from low income families. The minority and low income students don’t start out on a level playing field,  Steans said.

She cited a study from Columbia University that stated evidence “strongly suggests that online coursework—at least as it is currently and typically implemented—may hinder progression for low income and underprepared students.”

The information was offered in a Senate hearing called by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, which is highlighting the racism that exists in  Illinois education systems.

“We have finally reached a moment in time where we will no longer tolerate having Black children in a state education system that is rife with systemic racism,'' said state Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, who is chairwoman of the Black caucus.

Lightford says that in Illinois only 22%  of Black children are ready for kindergarten. She also says just 15% of Black students read proficiently by fourth grade, compared to 22% of Latinx students and 47% of white students.

"(Black students) should not be expected to learn in environments where there is no air conditioning, no permanent math teacher and no one to talk to about their emotional well-being,’’ she said.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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