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NYS poll: Equity gaps for low-income students and students of color widened during pandemic

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

The results of a new parent poll and research published Monday by the nonprofit group The Education Trust—New York show that educational equity gaps for low-income students and students of color have widened during the coronavirus pandemic.

The statewide poll of 800 parents of public school students also found that parent satisfaction with distance learning fell throughout the last few months of the school year, dropping most sharply among low-income families.

“When we first did our polling in March, we saw pretty high and consistent levels of satisfaction,” said Ian Rosenblum, executive director of The Education Trust—New York. “And then when we asked parents again in June we saw not only lower [satisfaction overall] but this really striking gap between the experience of families from low-income backgrounds and the experience of families from higher-income backgrounds.”

Just 36% of low-income parents said they believe distance learning is successful when surveyed compared to almost half (48%) of higher-income parents. Parents in upstate New York and Black parents were also less likely to describe distance learning as successful.

The vast majority of all parents surveyed (86%) said they worried that their children will fall behind academically because of the sudden switch to remote learning necessitated by the pandemic. However, low-income parents and Black and Latinx parents were more likely to report additional burdens like having less access to teachers, less regular feedback on assignments and less access to technology.

“We’re facing two public health crises right now: the pandemic and systemic racism,” Rosenblum said. “Both of them have enormous impacts on education in our state and in our larger society, and when we think about this coming school year, either New York State is going to maintain the existing gaps that we have, or they’ll get worse, or we’ll take deliberate actions to close those equity gaps.”

Along with The Education Trust—New York’s poll results and a review of school districts’ instructional continuity plans for the 2019-2020 school year, The New York Equity Coalition also released a set of recommendations Monday for school districts to consider in order to prioritize equity when it comes to reopening schools this fall. The recommendations include providing safe in-person instruction for as many students as possible, preparing for a hybrid model of distance and in-person learning and possible future closures, and reengaging students at the greatest risk of dropping out.

The coalition is also calling on school districts across the state to adopt anti-racist policies.

“When we think about anti-racist polices and practices, we’re thinking about the curriculum that school districts have in place—ensuring that it’s culturally responsive and representative—we’re thinking about how to expand educator diversity [and] about how to improve equitable access to advanced coursework,” Rosenblum said. “And we also think about the overreliance on school suspensions as a form of exclusionary discipline and how that excludes students, particularly Black students, from the classroom.”

In recent years, the Buffalo public school district has increasingly focused on anti-racist policies like strengthening culturally responsive curriculum and training thousands of teachers and administrators on restorative justice practices. However, the Buffalo Board of Education asked Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash to continue working to address the district’s disproportionate suspension rates of students of color compared to their white peers in its recent annual review of his performance, which took place on June 26.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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