Bay Area school district grapples with learning loss among students of color, low-income households

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Reopening schools will be costly. Making up for student learning losses will be every more expensive. Studies are now telling us that if students lost one year of in-person instruction, it may take three to five years for them to catch up. It is a long term project that school districts are now preparing for.

For so many students, March 2020 marked the last time they spent learning in a classroom.

"A year is a huge time to loose from in-person school learning. I worry that the academic achievement gap is just going to get bigger and bigger," expressed Hina Shah, a San Francisco parent who has two kids in the San Francisco Unified School District.

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That gap has grown.

"For our lower elementary students in 4th and 5th grade, we definitely saw some loss across the board. In math we saw some loss as well, explained Enika Ford-Morthel, Deputy Superintendent of SFUSD.

San Francisco Unified measured the amount of learning loss in reading among 4th and 5th graders.

Pacific Islanders, followed by Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Japanese, Native American, Black, Vietnamese, Filipino and Chinese students suffered the greatest losses. Those in Foster Care, English learners and homeless kids also saw a marked decline.

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As schools prepare to reopen, Asian American, Black and Hispanic families are opting to keep their children in distance learning at disproportionately high rates.

Only Asian Indian, White and Special Education students improved.

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen will soon chair the Youth, Young Adults and Families committee.

"White families are doing just fine and can afford the pods and the tutors and pulling their kids out to go to private schools, extra lessons or taking time off work to be able to focus 100% on their child's education, that that families of color just can't afford," revealed Supervisor Ronen.

Middle and High School students showed less learning loss across all demographics.

But some education experts caution the numbers may not be accurate because these assessments were done online.

"Students who take the test online do better than students who are in school taking the test and there are some testing experts who wonder whether that's because parents are helping them out," explained Karen Hawley-Miles of Education Resources Strategies.
In order to properly assess students, it must be done in person.

RELATED: Digital divide: Distance learning attendance rates differ by ethnicity, data shows

"Assessments are going to be the thing as soon as we get back, both for their social and emotional as for their academic status," added Ford-Morthel.

The learning loss for younger students K-3 was not measured, because some are not reading yet or are at different levels.

Education experts suspect they have suffered the greatest learning loss and are in need of extra help.

"School districts could concentrate resources heavily in those early years to get that to happen because we know that if kids aren't reading by 4th grade then all sorts of academic challenges occur," said Hawley-Miles.


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  • EXCLUSIVE: East Bay school's hybrid model could be key to reviving in-person learning across Bay Area

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