The rollout of virtual schooling has hit major roadblocks, from technical challenges to moving lesson plans online. As a result, our kids are falling behind, and parents are stressed out.
One of the greatest impacts of the coronavirus pandemic is that millions of kids are staying at home and, hopefully, going to school online. This not only means a macrodose of quality time for families, but the greatest experiment ever conducted in online learning. So far, the experiment hasn’t gone well.
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Schools Struggle to Move Online
The statistics shed light on the challenge to rapidly adapt a “learn at school, practice at home” model to a fully online platform. According to a recent poll, 47% of public school students say they have yet to attend a single online class. In the same poll, more than half of students reported that they are worried about not being able to keep up with school work during the pandemic.
Parents Stress Over Kids’ Success
A statewide survey of California parents, conducted last week, confirmed that going online has inspired little confidence. 89% of parents are concerned about their kids falling behind in school during the closures. Parents showed similar rates of concern about their kids’ mental health as a result of the pandemic, and 80% said their own stress is much higher than usual.
Though perhaps more reluctant to admit it, another obvious source of stress for parents is the presence of the kids themselves. Many parents have continued to work from home, and are now juggling the same responsibilities of work while wrangling their children. This creates a difficult “work” environment for parents, and a boring one for kids that are used to spending the day with people their own age.
Minority Families Struggle
Stress about the general effect of the COVID-19 on families’ wellbeing can have a major impact on children’s ability to learn during school closures. In this respect, minority students are faring worse. While only about half of white teens are worried about their families catching the virus or their income being affected, the rate is far higher for minority students.
Children who are learning English in school, and whose parents don’t speak it at home, are unlikely to develop the skill without daily interaction with Americans. These students also tend to have one or more undocumented parents, which means their economic situation is likely to become far worse during the pandemic. Consistent with this idea, 87% of Hispanic students surveyed expressed fear that the outbreak would hurt affect their family’s ability to earn a living.
The rushed rollout of going fully online has led to some predictable difficulties. The highest profile failure has been Zoom’s security breaches, in which strangers have flashed or harassed kids and teachers by hijacking their virtual classroom session.
However, schools around the country are also seeing their schools’ platforms simply crash or become painfully slow under the intense network strain. As a metaphor for the larger situation, the system was not designed to accommodate students learning from home.
Kids staying home, and their rapid move to online learning, has naturally hit some major roadblocks. Schools struggle to teach without kids in the classroom, and parents struggle to have their kids in the living room. Economic insecurity is hitting some groups harder than others, proving a major distraction for students who don’t know what the future holds. Online platforms often lack the security or bandwidth to accommodate millions of students going online.
As time goes on, the US will get the hang of online schooling, but it’s been a bumpy start.