A former professor once said, “There is an immense opportunity in a crisis.” While I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment, what is also true is, that it is the crisis itself that reveals what needs to be changed, leading to the opportunity.
Remote learning has unearthed the many challenges and disparities that exist in education, from the availability of resources for students, to the access of the technology that is required for students to be engaged daily in their school’s instruction. All of these challenges are present, for all students, but more so for Black students.
As if learning within the system of education wasn’t hard enough with the numerous barriers that existed for Black students, it has been further exacerbated by remote learning.
There are three major elements that need to be present for remote learning to be successful:
- Thorough plans of actions (at the district and school level).
- Effective means of communication to parents.
- Sufficient resources and access to technology to meet the diverse needs of students.
Let’s be clear.
The preceding essential elements are not specific only to remote learning — they are essential for effective schooling period. But since we aren’t in a physical building right now, they are more essential than ever.
Plans, communication and access.
An Enormous Gap
Before remote learning even began, Black students lagged behind their white counterparts.
According to the NAEP Report for reading, 45% of white 4th graders scored proficiency in reading, while only 18% of Black 4th graders scored proficiency or above on national reading tests in 2017.
Sure, we don’t want any child to be left behind, but there is something to be said when you proportionately have more Black students being left behind each year. This enormous gap (any percentage of any amount of students deserves this word equivalent) isn’t and won’t be only attributed to external factors that are outside of a student’s control. They can be (and should) be attributed to a system that habitually lacks structures, plans and communicative measures to ensure those who need the most are afforded the best.
The system of education is one that can be compared to the “brilliance” and essence of classic conditioning — making families and students salivate over sub-par and ineffective schools that don’t honor the commitment of actualizing success for all students. Black parents, families and students are habitually presented inequities masked as excuses, incompetent leaders disguised as caring individuals and corrupt corporations (i.e. districts) that undermine the opportunity to provide Black students and other marginalized student groups the level of excellence and greatness they so deserve.
The educational system, as it should be designed, is charged with providing the best (treatment) for those who require the most interventions. However, in many cases, the opposite often occurs, leading to the unequal race to educational excellence.
Being a member in multiple groups, organizations and associations, and having a network of colleagues in the educational profession, what I’ve witnessed is ineffective planning, poor parental engagement and communication, with insufficient resources and technology for students.
Districts weren’t sure of plans for educating students, inadvertently creating chaos and confusion among teachers, who were responsible for interpreting half-thought out plans for students this school year. Many families, including myself as a parent of a middle schooler, were not provided guidance to how remote learning would be rolled out until days before school started (read: the Friday before classes started on Tuesday after the holiday) and were frustrated at the lack of communication and resources provided.
While technology was issued for students across the country, the obstacles are now not access to the actual device, but the continued connectivity of WiFi in homes and the use of the instructional tools used by students. Not only were many schools behind the 8-ball with creating plans for instruction remotely, many of them didn’t account for parental training and exposure on the apps, suites and technology that will be used by students (at home). Let’s face it, if students are learning remotely, many parents are facilitating this learning, not knowing how to help their child in more ways than one.
While remote learning is currently a necessary
evil aspect of our nation’s educational system, it has also torn the veil off the sheer fact that not only are students combating the challenges mentioned above, they are also doing so with ineffective teachers (that’s another blog for another day).
Understanding that the institution of education was created indeed as a system, not inherently or originally for Black students to succeed, it’s no wonder why they are failing.
This is a mass call to action to those who have power and influence within this system to make drastic waves in either dismantling the system or creating y(OUR) own.
With great crisis comes great opportunity and this pandemic is no different. We have known of the inequalities, inequities and injustices that have existed and fought for educational equity for decades – while the circumstances may change, the fight consistently remains.
The system grooms leaders, who lead teachers, who instruct our students…