Students without internet access in danger of falling behind during school closures: "This is a crisis"
Schools across the U.S. are reporting a drastic decline in attendance after the coronavirus pandemic forced many to close, in some cases for the rest of the academic year. Nearly 12 million children do not live in homes with an internet broadband connection, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, leaving them in danger of falling behind on their academics.
"This is a crisis right now," education expert Dr. Karen Aronian told CBS News' Meg Oliver. "We know we're looking at, with reading, a 30% drop off, and in math, 50% for this time frame."
Los Angeles high school senior Asia Bryant worries she is one of the many falling behind, after already processing the "truly sad" news that her graduation had been canceled and her school softball career would be cut short.
"That was the landmark for me. That was going to be, like, the push, was going to be the exhale for me," Bryant said of the canceled ceremony.
Bryant said her internet connection often freezes in the middle of lessons and she was "having a tough time adapting" to her new circumstances.
During her video interview with CBS News, her computer seemed to freeze again.
Despite the difficulty in accessing her classes, Bryant said she is still logging on and doing her work, hopeful that she can get a fresh start when she attends community college in the fall.
That was not the case for 15,000 high school students that share the Los Angeles unified school district who did not log on at all for the first two weeks of online learning. The number has since been cut by about two-thirds.
Dr. Aronian suggested that districts should begin utilizing retired and substitute teachers to help reach students who do not have internet or devices.
"Those potential families would be linked to a teacher that lives nearby them, who could drop off a packet of academic work once per week and check in with them daily," she said.
Dallas teacher Andrea Bazemore, whose school has a lot of students coming from low-income families, is already busy communicating with parents and students in any way she can.
"I had a student who was doing her reading lesson, and we were on such a great momentum. But we had to stop about 10, 20 minutes in because her data had run out," she said.
Bazemore said she uses text messaging to communicate with parents, and goes the extra mile to connect with students by hosting virtual pizza parties with a different student each Friday as encouragement.
"I solicited some donations from friends and family, and through those donations I'm able to provide a pizza at their doorstep," Bazemore said. "Forget all the things that are happening in our world today and just have a relaxing moment."
Despite her efforts, Bazemore said she is "absolutely concerned" for her students in danger of falling behind.
She compared the situation to the yearly "summer slide" where students experience a decline in academics due to a lack of educational contact.
"We're going to have a corona slide and it's going to be very, very significant," she said.
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