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Data from the government shows ethnic and geographic differences in school reopenings.

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Data from the government shows ethnic and geographic differences in school reopenings.
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Data from the government shows ethnic and geographic differences in school reopenings.

Data from the government shows ethnic and geographic differences in school reopenings.

 

According to the findings of a national survey conducted by the Biden administration, nearly half of the nation’s elementary schools were open for full-time classroom learning as of last month, but the share of students learning in-person has varied greatly by area and ethnicity, with most nonwhite students learning entirely online.

The survey results, which were published on Wednesday, are the first step toward President Joe Biden’s goal of having most K-8 schools open full-time in his first 100 days in office. They also indicate that he never had to travel far to achieve his goal.

In February, 47 percent of schools enrolling fourth graders provided full-time classroom instruction, while 46 percent of schools instructing eighth graders did. According to the results, at least some students were not opting in.

According to the study, 76 percent of elementary and middle schools were open to in-person or hybrid instruction, while 24 percent only provided remote learning. Since February, when coronavirus rates were just coming down from a national boom, the percentage of students spending at least some time in the classroom has likely increased.

“The survey data are crucial for beginning to quantify and understand the pandemic’s effects on American students,” said Mark Schneider, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the US Education Department’s research arm.

The administration intends to update the initial data set every month to demonstrate how many schools in the United States teach in-person, online, or a combination of both. Since the federal government had not previously collected data on the subject, it was difficult to monitor the progress of school reopenings.

The new results are focused on a study of 3,500 public schools with fourth-grade students, as well as 3,500 schools with eighth-grade students. Six states refused to participate, resulting in a total of 44 states agreeing to participate. As of February, the survey asked schools about their teaching strategies, but other data was collected in January.

The survey sheds new light on an especially contentious period in the school’s reopening process. In January, authorities in California, Chicago, and other cities were already at odds with teachers over reopening plans, with vaccinations often being cited as a stumbling block.

However, in many cases, the drive to reopen has gained traction since January. In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a timeline for reopening, and this month, the department relaxed social distancing guidelines in schools. Hundreds of states are now focused on providing COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers and other school workers in response to Biden’s pressure.

According to a separate poll conducted by The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Studies, as more schools welcome students back into the classroom, many parents are conflicted. A majority of parents are worried that in-person teaching will lead to more people being infected, but a slightly larger percentage are concerned that their children will experience academic failures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The recent federal survey not only monitors school teaching approaches, but also how many students have enrolled in each form of learning.

According to the study, 38 percent of fourth graders and 28 percent of eighth graders were engaged in full-time, in-person learning in January. More students were studying away from classes, with 43 percent of fourth graders and 48 percent of eighth graders doing so. It was unclear how many students chose to study online and how many were enrolled in schools with no in-person choices.

The regional wars that have played out as cities discuss how and when to reopen schools is reflected in the stark gaps between students based on where they live.

In January, just under 40% of eighth grade students in the South and Midwest, where schools were the quickest to reopen, were enrolled full-time in classroom instruction. In the West and Northeast, on the other hand, the figure was about 10%.

Students in rural areas and towns were much more likely than students in cities and suburbs to return to school full-time in all regions.

The survey found significant differences based on students’ ethnicity, highlighting the pandemic’s unequal effects. Nearly half of white fourth-graders were studying entirely in person, with just over a quarter learning entirely online. Nearly 60% of Black and Hispanic students, on the other hand, were studying entirely online.

The disparity was even more pronounced among students of Asian descent, with 68 percent attending entirely online and just 15 percent attending entirely in person.

Similar inequalities have been discovered in a number of towns, alarming education advocates who worry the pandemic would exacerbate racial inequities in education. The Biden administration has pledged to address racial disparities in education, and is encouraging schools to make it a priority as they invest more than $120 billion in newly funded relief funds.

According to the report, students with disabilities and those studying English were not being returned to class at substantially higher rates than other students as of January. In comparison to 38 percent of all students, only 42 percent of those with disabilities and 34 percent of those studying English were enrolled in full-time classroom learning.

Despite this, more than 40% of schools said in the survey that they were prioritizing students with disabilities, who have a harder time with remote learning.

According to the study, the amount of time spent with a live instructor differed greatly among students studying online. A third of the schools had more than five hours of live instruction per day, while the other third had two hours or less. Ten percent of eighth-grade schools did not have any live instruction at all.

High schools, which were not included in Biden’s reopening pledge and face new obstacles while they work to reopen, are not included in the survey. Younger children are less likely to become severely ill as a result of the coronavirus, and education experts believe they have the greatest need for face-to-face instruction.

The Education Department has stated that it will release updated survey data every month until July. The data is available on the agency’s website in the form of a dashboard.

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