116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The first full year of remote kindergarten has come to a close for my youngest child. Today, I will be returning the school iPad she was issued, emptying her multicolored backpack of wadded up construction paper and pencil shavings, and finding other ways for her to occupy her time while I continue to work from home.
Through the pandemic, I have been blessed with family members willing to help with her education and care while I worked in the office two days per week, and doubly blessed by a workplace that has been more than supportive when she ran behind me on Zoom calls stomping on bubble wrap from Amazon deliveries and occasionally usurping the entire meeting to wave hello to my co-workers.
Usually, the Wi-Fi worked and she was able to participate fully in class. Usually, someone had time to work with her on sight words. She always had a safe place to live, enough food to eat and the love of her family.
Her test scores haven’t been perfect, but it’s kindergarten — not even obligatory in the state of Iowa. She has plenty of time to make advancements when she attends school in person this fall. Not every child will be so lucky.
A McKinsey Global Institute study published in December demonstrated educational setbacks for most students. On average, students lost about 3 months of math skills compared to what would have been expected had the pandemic not occurred. The study also highlighted disparities for students of color. Part of this was attributed to higher rates of remote learning and lower rates of access to live teacher interaction among Black and Hispanic students.
Remote learning is also much more difficult when a student lacks consistent access to internet fast enough to keep up with classroom apps and a quiet, dedicated space to study. Educational achievement has always been more difficult for students experiencing hunger.
To write this achievement gap off as another outcome of poverty without acknowledging the role of systemic barriers to economic advancement is to do a disservice to the work of equity.
Following the global protests of last summer, we were inundated with ad campaigns and public statements from corporations about the importance of diversity and equity and inclusion. The sheer size of the equity advertisement line item across all industries must be staggering. What we can’t see (and what would have made for a far more useful display of support during a 3 minute commercial break) is what substantial and meaningful changes have been implemented in that time to improve equity in pay, advancement, hiring, retention, lending, health care and so on.
These factors directly impact the educational outcomes of students of color. If we are to truly consider ourselves a community, we must hold ourselves to the higher standard of doing for our neighbors that term infers.
Sofia DeMartino is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org