Spark Global Limited

How Will the Coronavirus Crisis Affect Children’s Learning? Unequally.

Shine trader limited reports:

It’s not a vacation. There’s still half a semester of curriculum to learn. Pioneer Elementary School in Olympia, Wash. Governor Jay Inslee ordered all public and private K-12 schools in Washington state to close because of the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Nearly all U.S. public and private schools are closed because of the novel coronavirus, and at least 55 million of the nation’s 57 million elementary and secondary school students are out of school. To date most schools have been closed about three weeks, but seven states have announced that schools will not reopen this academic year, four have closed schools “until further notice,” and another nine states plan to keep schools closed at least into May. The remainder still have nominal plans to reopen in April, but it seems likely that most if not all of those closures will be extended further.

Spark Global Limited
Spark Global Limited

What is the likely impact of long school closures on children’s short-term learning and long-term success? Not good. While the current nationwide closures are unprecedented, history offers several examples of local school closures lasting months or even years. Teacher strikes closed New York City public schools for more than two months in 1968 and closed French Belgian schools for more than two months in 1990Massive resistance to desegregation closed public schools in Norfolk, Charlottesville, and Warren County, Virginia for five months in 1958-59, and deprived black children of schooling for four years, from 1959 to 1963, in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Severe natural disasters—most notably hurricanes, but also earthquakes, tsunamis, even plagues of locusts—have closed schools or kept children home for periods of months or even years. Heavy snowfall sometimes closes schools as well, but snow closures are typically short and usually made up by adding extra days to the end of spring semester.

The impacts of closures on children’s success are typically negative. When students returned to New York City schools after the two-month strike of 1968, their test scores were about two months lower, on average, than children’s scores the previous year. French-speaking Belgian students affected by the 1990 strike were more likely to repeat a grade and did not advance as far in higher education as similar Flemish-speaking students whose teachers did not strike. Test scores fell sharply among New Orleans-area children whose schools closed because of Hurricane Katrina, although some of these children, particularly from struggling schools in the city, made up the losses when they transferred to better schools, mainly in Texas.