It May Not be “White Flight”, but Flight It Is…

In the spring, when kids were first sheltering in place, parents saw their kids beginning to fall behind.  When it was clear their children were not getting what they needed, parents explored other options.  This is how ‘decline’ begins.  

Technical problems, lack of access, and the inability to directly connect with students have made the remote educational experience distasteful for students.   The lack of learning is a significant problem, especially for lower-income students.  

From the time remote learning was instituted, in March of this year, until the time children might return full time to school hopefully in spring 2021, students would have lost at least a year of schooling.  For a first-grader, without support at home, remote learning means they probably won’t learn how to read, won’t learn their numbers and, by next year, they will have forgotten what was learned in kindergarten. With little opportunity or support to help catch up, we are losing time in children’s lives when they are most, capable, interested, and excited to learn new things.  This is a significant issue for both the future of our students and the future of this country.

What can be done to overcome deficits?

  • Private school.  Enrollment has dramatically increased.  Requirements for private schools are different than for public-schools.  Teachers are not unionized; they are more receptive to different kinds of learning models.
  • Homeschooling.   Homeschooling has been around for many years. Parents are at home now anyway. Like private school, homeschooling requires withdrawing your kid from school and registering them in a homeschooling program.  Curriculums are vetted; students work from home, and kids get what they need to move on successfully to the next grade.  In fact, in the past, when results were compared with public school performance, home school kids have outperformed public school kids.   
  • Tutoring.    Some hire private tutors.   Pods are being set up.  Parents pay a teacher between $50 to $350, sometimes more, to work with a small group of kids, typically between 5 and 10 students.  Every week there is a virtual meet-up. Kids socialize on-line.  Groups can meet for tutoring, a homework session or to allow parents to take turns supervising.
  • Family support.  Some families purchase a curriculum to monitor their child’s progress.  Parents step in when children fall behind.   Schools with shrinking budgets rely on parental support to keep their kids on par.  

You will notice that all of these solutions require either money and/or parental support. Those children without either are left to their own devices.

There are some attempts to reverse the virtual divide. At KIPR (Kiss Institution for Practical Robotics), a non-profit I am associated with, we have developed a simulator, which allows kids to learn basic programming and engineering while playing with a virtual robot. Only phone access is required, so those without internet access or a computer can use it to learn. The public school system, our educational safety net, has a big hole in it. Without it, how will we educate our children who do not have the ability to pay for their education?

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