Distance learning: LAUSD report finds disparities in online participation during COVID pandemic

Gov. Gavin Newsom has allocated funds to close the digital divide, and new state guidelines will now require daily live interaction.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Students of color and low-income families are taking hits on all fronts during the COVID-19 pandemic, including when it comes to distance learning.

"As folks started losing income and losing jobs internet became disconnected and so it was kind of a live situation where we needed to keep providing hotspots to folks that were losing their connectivity," said Dr. Jesse Noonan, chief academic officer of Ednovate Charter School.

On Friday, educators at the Los Angeles Coalition for Excellent Public Schools shared ways they met needs in their communities.

"Our students and families, and many of our staff members are living in areas that have been particularly hard-hit: the Westlake, Pico-Union, South LA area," said Marisol Pineda Conde, principal of Charter Academy High School.

"Particularly centering on what we can do better for our students, our staff, our community members, our black students," said Dr. Leanna Majors of KIPP Compton Community School.

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In Orange County, which remains on the state's COVID-19 watch list, schools are now preparing to restart in the fall with only virtual classes.

Many delivered hot spots or connected families to resources, and even met financial needs.

"We worked with One Family L.A. to bring some of those gift cards and needed resources to 350 families," said Jonathan Garzon of Green Dot Pubilc Schools.

A new report by LAUSD analyzed an approximately two-month period from when the pandemic began in middle and high schools. One key finding was that weekly participation by Black and Latino students was 10% to 20% lower than their peers. Low-income, English learners, students with disabilities, those in homelessness programs or in foster care also participated less online.

LAUSD did work to provide computers and internet to students during that time. The study didn't look at a cause for why certain groups of students are participating less.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has allocated funds to close the digital divide, and new state guidelines will now require daily live interaction.

"We just recently learned through a study out of CRPE that schools in higher income communities at the end of last year were twice as likely to have synchronous live screen-to-screen instruction than schools serving higher poverty populations of students," said Noonan.

"We can't allow those gaps to grow."
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