Race, Equity, and COVID-19: Navigating Crises and Building for the Future

COVID & Vulnerable Student Populations

**Yip, T. (Ed.). (2020). Addressing inequities in education during the COVID-19 pandemic: How education policy and schools can support historically and currently marginalized children and youth. Society for Research in Child Development. Available at https://www.srcd.org/sites/default/files/resources/FINAL_AddressingInequalitiesVolume-092020.pdf

This collection of briefs examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families in five marginalized groups: American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian American, Black, Latinx, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+). While certain negative effects are common across most or all of these groups (such as higher infection and death rates; greater exposure due to overrepresentation in essential professions; and less access to high-speed internet, information technology, and learning support from parents in the home), each group also faces unique vulnerabilities. For example, research suggests that AIAN students typically learn better in hands-on, collaborative environments, conditions that can be hard to replicate via distance learning or with physical distancing. Asian Americans are reporting higher incidents of discrimination and xenophobia due to misplaced blame for the pandemic, which in turn causes higher rates of stress. LGBTQ+ students can experience higher levels of harassment online, as well as a greater likelihood of an unstable housing situation (such as living in a shelter or motel). Each brief concludes with a list of policy and practice recommendations to help meet each group’s specific needs both in distance learning settings and in schools when they reopen. We included this reading to give specificity to some of the broader conversations about equity we will have at the meeting, including ways in which student experiences and needs can vary by subgroup.

Kohli, S. (2020, August 7). Children with disabilities are regressing. How much is distance learning to blame? Los Angeles Times. Available at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-07/covid-19-distance-learning-weakens-special-education

This article describes some of the persistent barriers schools and families face as they educate students with disabilities while schools are closed. State law requires that schools continue to provide services for special education students, but families and students are struggling to access necessary supports in a virtual setting. The parents profiled in the article report that some support is always better than none, but they are having great difficulty with the additional roles they are asked to take on without formal training (e.g., tech support, physician, instruction aid). Moreover, their children are either stagnating or regressing, often because the students are not able to meaningfully engage through a screen. A special education professor at San Diego State University echoes this, saying that many services and assessments do not translate well to virtual environments and that there is no research base yet to support the virtual methods schools are using. Meanwhile, schools and the professionals they work with to provide services have less time to offer to students because they are backlogged by requests, undergoing training, and/or reworking their strategies for a virtual environment. These problems are exacerbated for lowincome and homeless families, and many families and educators are deeply concerned with how to compensate for the learning loss.

Sugarman, J., & Lazarín, M. (2020, September). Educating English learners during the COVID-19 pandemic: Policy ideas for states and school districts. Migration Policy Institute. Available at https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/mpi-english-learners-covid-19-final.pdf

This brief highlights the challenges English learners (ELs) face in schooling due to COVID-19 and proposes recommendations for schools and districts so ELs do not fall further behind in their language development. The authors explore ELs experiences in three areas: less exposure to academic English and oral language production opportunities, lower learning gains resulting from the aforementioned access to academic English, and social and emotional impacts of immigrant households where parents may be essential workers and older children are responsible for younger ones. Additionally, the authors discuss the challenges of EL assessment during the pandemic, including identification, placement, and exit from EL programming. In response to these challenges, the brief outlines six ways for districts to support learning for ELs: (1) prioritizing in-person instruction for the EL population; (2) ensuring that all teachers who instruct ELs participate in professional development focusing on digital instruction strategies for ELs; (3) attaching a “maintenance-of-equity” requirement for federal funding; (4) emphasizing parent engagement through timely and effective communication; (5) building partnerships with community-based organizations that serve the immigrant population; and (6) addressing how EL student data will affect programming decisions and funding in the coming years.

Bishop, J. P., Gonzalez, L. C., & Rivera, E. (2020). State of crisis: Dismantling student homelessness in California. Center for the Transformation of Schools. Available at https://secureservercdn.net/

This executive summary highlights the coordinated efforts necessary to support underserved Latinx and Black students who experience homelessness, which ultimately effects their academic outcomes. The report draws on interviews with 150 stakeholders—including students—to address the challenges created by homelessness and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors identify 7 key findings: (1) professional capacity to support students needs to be comprehensive, coordinated and targeted; (2) homelessness liaisons cannot carry the burden alone; (3) racially and culturally appropriate strategies are needed to reflect the populations facing homelessness; (4) stereotype threat can increase students’ isolation and vulnerability; (5) coordination among all stakeholders helps eliminate barriers for students and families; (6) an ecosystem of services should be nimble in their responses; and (7) inclusion of services at pre-K through post-secondary levels help to create a coordinated response. Student perspectives emphasize the need for trustworthy mentors from an early age, the effects of traumatic circumstances or life events, the importance of having basic needs fulfilled, and the ways flexibility enables school systems to more appropriately respond to student need. The authors conclude with concrete policy implications at the school districts, city and county, state, and federal levels.

Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. (2020). Listening to learn: What Los Angeles families say they need during distance learning. Available at https://partnershipla.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Equity-Alert-USC-and-P4LA.pdf

This report describes a July 2020 survey of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) parents in the neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, Watts, and Boyle Heights, which asked about each family’s experiences with distance learning during the spring semester. Although LAUSD has made efforts to provide students with laptops and internet access, a quarter of families have no broadband internet at home, and many students either share a computer or use smartphone for distance learning. Parents report a lack of familiarity with technology, which makes it more difficult for them to help their children with distance learning. Other barriers to student learning at home include a lack of quiet space and insufficient support from schools. Based on these findings, the authors make recommendations for the 2020-21 school year, such as investing in schools more equitably, stepping up efforts to provide families with technology and internet access, improving two-way communication with families, and supporting teachers to provide high-quality digital instruction.

**This document is considered a priority reading.