Closing opportunity gaps has increased in priority: it ranked as practitioners’ number nine priority challenge in 2019, and ranks as practitioners’ number three priority challenge in 2020.
According to educators, opportunity gaps have been exacerbated by school closures and remote learning. Teachers have more difficulty personalizing instruction to meet the varying needs of their students and monitoring student progress from a distance. Students, especially those who require more one-on-one instruction, are not receiving the instructional support they need for learning.
“I can see how large the learning gap is during this pandemic and I worry for the children who need that one-on-one instruction.”
– Early education teacher
Teachers are worried that students from low-income communities do not have the necessary resources and support to fully engage in remote learning. Not all students have the appropriate technology and/or connectivity to access online learning resources from teachers, and for those students who do, many have to share devices with their family members. Additionally, many students have other family responsibilities that take time away from learning. Because students come from different home situations, according to one district leader, teachers “cannot guarantee that students are receiving an education while they are home.”
Special education students who typically receive personalized care and instruction through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) are not able to receive those same accommodations during remote learning. Many students have not been provided with the accessible devices or adaptations they need to learn. Teachers have prepared videos, shared parent information, and explored other ways of continuing to provide services, but it is nearly impossible to offer the same level of instruction they would provide in person.
“Most special education students are accustomed to learning with a teacher who is assigned to them to assist with meeting their needs. This often includes small classes and more personalized instruction. Due to COVID-19, many students do not have that immediate access to their resource teacher.”
– Middle school teacher