Distance learning survey reveals challenges, obstacles for LA County students, teachers

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An eye opening study about the realities of distance learning shows many kids who were already at a disadvantage are only falling further behind.

Educators for Excellence and USC researchers released a new study they hope will encourage change, starting with the struggles certain students face with distance learning.

"Those students from low-income communities, special needs, English learners are particularly facing an education crisis that's widening the opportunity gap and threatening their futures," said Jaimee Estrada-Miller with the Educators for Excellence, Los Angeles chapter.

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"We've learned that schools are safer than we thought, and we learned that the consequences of keeping them closed are worse than what we thought."

The survey of more than 500 teachers in public and charter schools across L.A. showed only 23% of teachers say all of their students regularly attend class and 48% say all of their students are completing assignments. That drops even lower for pre-K through 5th graders and for low-income students.

When it comes to obstacles, 92% of teachers say their students lack a quiet learning space; 91% said their students lack access to technology; 90% said they lack access to high-speed internet; and 88% reported a lack of adult support.

The surveyors admit schools and the district can only control so much.

"What we can control as a society and as a system is access to tools of technology and access to high speed internet," Estrada-Miller said.

While they understand distance learning isn't ideal, experts do believe there are ways to make it better.

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A planned suspension of all in-person instruction and child care in the Los Angeles Unified School District took effect as the number of COVID-19 cases in the region continued to shatter daily records.

"There is some emergent data out there in terms of how teachers can respond effectively, develop interesting instructional models in this moment, but they need support and guidance for doing that," said Dr. Patricia Burch with USC's Rossier School of Education.

The survey also asked teachers about getting back to the classroom: 75% want a mask mandate; 63% want limited class sizes; 50% want available PPE; and 36% want a vaccine that's widely available.

"This is not the time for school reopening, but our school district, superintendent, as well as our associations are talking about that right now because when we get to that infection rate, what do educators truly think," Estrada-Miller said.

To see the whole survey, go to E4E.org and look for the Los Angeles chapter.
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