The Washington Post reports that education leaders are worried that students are falling behind due to school closures and extraordinary measures must be taken so they can “catch up.”

Of course, there is good reason to worry about children who have experienced months without formal schooling. Many, however, do have access to emergency remote teaching. The children likeliest you have no educational opportunities are those who are already farthest behind, those with no access to a computer or the internet, those who get no academic support or direction at home.

When school ultimately reopens, the children who need the most help should have extra-small classes and intensive time with experienced teachers. That requires more money, however, and states are unlikely to increase spending when their revenues are plummeting. The poor kids are likely to get testing and lamentations, not the small classes and instruction they need.

Here is the latest:

Only weeks after the coronavirus pandemic forced American schools online, education leaders across the country have concluded that millions of children’s learning will be severely stunted, and are planning unprecedented steps to help them catch up.

In Miami, school will extend into the summer and start earlier in the fall, at least for some students.

In Cleveland, schools may shrink the curriculum to cover only core subjects. In Columbia, Mo., this year’s lessons will be woven into next year’s.

Some experts [i.e. Mike Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute] suggest holding back more kids, a controversial idea, while others propose a half-grade step-up for some students, an unconventional one. A national teachers union [i.e., the AFT] is proposing a massive national summer school program.

Graduates from the Class of 2020 shared how they’re coping after the coronavirus outbreak brought senior year to an abrupt ending.

The ideas being considered will require political will and logistical savvy, and they are already facing resistance from teachers and parents. They’ll also require money, and lots of it, at a time when a cratering economy is devastating state and local budgets, with plunging tax collections and rising costs.

As Congress considers another coronavirus spending package, schools’ ability to make up ground may hinge on how much more they can pry from Washington.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus package approved last month included $13.5 billion for K-12 education. In the next round, a coalition of school administrators and teachers unions is seeking more than $200 billion, citing those depleted state budgets.

In New York state, for instance, schools were poised for deep cuts, with the state anticipating revenue losses as high as $10 billion. The stimulus package will reverse those cuts, but without more bailout money, schools won’t get any extra funding to deal with the crisis.

Just a month ago, most American children were attending school as normal. Today, virtually every U.S. school building is closed. Seventeen states have ordered campuses shuttered through this academic year, another three recommend it, and educators and parents across the country are bracing for a lost spring — and maybe more.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week that he expects schools can reopen in the fall. But he can’t be sure, he said.

Whenever schools return, researchers say, the likely result is a generation of students forced to play catch-up, perhaps for years to come. Most vulnerable are those who are always the most vulnerable: homeless children, those living in deep poverty and students with disabilities. While some students are adapting to distance learning, others are struggling to find quiet spaces to study, lack reliable Internet access or must care for younger siblings during the day, among other barriers.

“ This may be the biggest challenge public education has had to face in the four-plus decades I’ve been doing this work,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a nonprofit coalition of 76 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems. He said that online learning is likely failing many low-income families and that without “substantial” new spending, schools won’t have the money to reverse the damage. “We are facing an educational catastrophe.”

In some districts, the problem is just getting kids to show up.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest system, 1 in 4 students has not logged on at all. Older students were more likely than elementary children to be connected, but on any given day in one recent week, a quarter of high school students didn’t log in.

Before the coronavirus crisis, only about 1 in 4 students in the high-poverty Baltimore City Public Schools had computers. More Chromebooks are on order, but for now teachers are trying to reach families by phone and Instagram, and the district is broadcasting lessons over its television station.
“What we are providing now is not going to make up fully for all of the time lost,” chief executive Sonja Brookins Santelises said.

In Atlanta’s public schools, about 6,000 children still don’t have computers, and about 10 percent of students have not yet logged in to the remote-learning system, Superintendent Meria Joel Carstarphen said.
One recent day, Carstarphen visited the home of a family whose children had not logged in. She found their mother struggling to provide food, and discovered the house was in an Internet “dead zone.” She also realized she knew the family’s oldest child, a “super sweet kid,” from her visits to his high school football team.
“He’s the man of the house and he’s only a junior right now,” Carstarphen said. “He has not been doing his work and neither have his siblings for three weeks.”

Even when students have computers, parents and caregivers fear that minimal learning is underway. Billie Stewart is raising her 8-year-old grandson, Tony, on Detroit’s east side. She’s received little direction from his school, she said, and trying to keep up with the school’s online offerings has been “almost overwhelming.”
Stewart, 73, has worked hard to lay out a daily schedule for Tony but finds herself unable to keep up. “If I get asked for another password, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

In Philadelphia’s public schools, teachers have been told not to teach new material, due to concerns that lessons cannot be equitably provided to all. Philadelphia plans to begin remote education later this month, but for weeks families have been left largely on their own.


We’ve been looking for guidance from teachers, but they don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Stacy Stewart, who has two children in a North Philadelphia elementary school, plus 1-year-old twins. “Ever since they’ve been out of school, there’s been no structured virtual learning. It’s just been flying by the seat of their pants.”
The school provided a study packet for Mikail, a second-grader, but no direction for Abdul Malik, who’s in kindergarten, other than links to a few education websites. There’s only one computer in the house, which Stewart needs for work, and it’s been a struggle to keep her kids engaged in anything that looks like learning. “I mean, I’m not really a teacher,” she said.

To understand how deep the setbacks may be, researchers are examining data on the so-called “summer slide,” in which students, particularly those in low-income families, lose months of reading and math knowledge. Research differs on the magnitude of the loss, but there’s broad agreement that this year’s losses will be greater than normal.