8 Ways to Promote Educational Equity During COVID-19 Closures

As Michigan families and educators adapt to the challenges of continuing the education of children during school closures, The Education Trust-Midwest is providing education leaders with a fact sheet outlining eight key steps to ensure as many children as possible continue to get the services they need and deserve.

“Many working-class and low-income families are facing extraordinary challenges right now, from lacking quality childcare to homeschooling children while working long hours away from home, to facing job cutbacks due to the crisis. My thoughts and prayers are with these families,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.

The fact sheet, available in multiple languages, recognizes that for students who have historically been underserved in school and in the community, the impact of this pandemic is expected to be particularly disruptive and potentially devastating. Students who depend on school for closing the gaps of opportunity and access in their lives are also more likely to be reading below grade level – and less likely to have access to technology and resources that make learning from home during this crisis possible.

As school leaders adjust emergency plans, here are eight specific steps they should explore in order to promote instructional equity and preserve student well-being throughout this period of school closures and beyond.

  1. Invest in supports to address gaps in opportunity for vulnerable students: The Education Trust-Midwest recently issued a report, “Michigan’s School Funding: Crisis and Opportunity,” that shows that students from low-income families, students with disabilities, students of color, and others need substantial additional funding to have equal access to educational opportunity and success.
  2. Support families and teachers to address increases in racism and xenophobia: We have seen increases in bullying connected with racism and xenophobia over the last several weeks, particularly as some seek to identify the coronavirus as “foreign.” Districts need to be proactive in helping teachers and families to set a healthy and positive climate in our homes and schools, when classes resume.
  3. Ensure equitable access to high quality learning materials and engagement: Many schools are unprepared today to provide students with high-quality instructional materials, online or in-hand at home. Distance learning depends on students having access to connected devices and reliable, high-speed internet. Yet not all students have access to the technology that makes distance learning possible or have  parents available to support student learning at home.
  4. Work closely with teachers, counselors and support staff to ensure continuation of services for all students: It is important that schools make sure counselors or psychologists are ready to address the needs of students when they are not in school every week. Teachers need to be trained and supported in reaching out to students at home.
  5. Address the specific learning needs of students with disabilities, English learners and students with disabilities: Educational materials should be made available to meet the specific needs of all students, including those with disabilities, students learning English and students in temporary housing.
  6. Provide breakfast and lunch to students who rely on school meals: Schools should take advantage of U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers to help meet student’s nutritional needs, using grab-and-go meals distributed and schools and community centers, and delivering meals to students’ homes when possible.
  7. Coordinate with trusted community partners: Community-based organizations, faith communities, after-school partners and other trusted voices can help provide consistent communications to students and families about coronavirus information, resources and supports.
  8. Connect families to other services they may need: Schools are a vital and trusted hub for students and their families. Helping families access health, housing, legal and other resources through this period of economic hardship should be provided, in multiple languages to meet the community’s need.

“As we rally to meet the needs of students in this difficult hour, it is also vital that we begin to look past the crisis toward long-term solutions to education inequities that hurt our state’s ability to meet its future employment needs, as well as ensuring the well-being and education of all students,” said Arellano. “We urge all interested in equal opportunity to join us in supporting the Fair Funding movement, to make fairness in opportunity and equity in school funding a priority in budgeting for pre-K through 12th grade education in Michigan.”

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