Amid a fresh wave of coronavirus infections washing over New York City — a development that has reversed the city’s halting efforts to slowly ease more students back into the classroom — comes a new report finding that thousands of students “failed to connect” at all with remote learning opportunities last spring.
And who were the students most likely to struggle? Those with disabilities, English language learners and students in temporary housing as well as students in low-income districts, according to the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York’s analysis of data collected by the city’s Department of Education. CCC is a nonprofit advocacy and research group focused on the city’s most vulnerable youth.
The Education Department counted multiple interactions with school: a student’s submission of an assignment, participation in an online chat, or even just a response to a call or email — any form of communication from the family.
Yet even by this limited measure of engagement, English language learners, students in temporary housing and students with disabilities all engaged at lower rates than others during the monthslong all-remote part of the spring semester.
Faring worst of all in terms of interaction were students who were either in temporary housing or doubling up with another family. Among this group, on average 20% failed to make any contact with school whatsoever, CCC reported. While there was no specific breakdown of students in foster care or in juvenile detention facilities, it’s probably a safe bet that these students make up a good number of that 20%.
CCC called on city leaders to “make concerted efforts to focus on these students, by ensuring every child has a device, enabling Wi-Fi or at the least cellular data access in all shelters, creating hot spots in communities, and providing fast and easy-to-access technological support for families.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, about 185,000 school-age kids in New York City have no broadband internet at home, and half of those have no internet access at all, CCC reported. Another 75,000 have internet access but no device available to them.
The communities that had the lowest levels of engagement with remote learning were Mott Haven, Brownsville, Central Harlem, East New York and Bedford Stuyvesant.
The CCC’s school engagement report did not look at how remote learning is affecting grades in New York’s public schools, but districts around the country are seeing lower levels of academic achievement amid the pandemic, especially among the groups cited as lacking engagement in New York City.