How many kids have not gone back to school since the pandemic began?

missing school coronavirus pandemic
Photo via Tomash Devenishek/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The coronavirus has disproportionately affected low-income communities that were already struggling before the pandemic, and it is having a detrimental impact on education. A recently published study has found that 3 million of the “most educationally marginalized students in the country” have not experienced any formal education since schools closed their doors in mid-March—up to 25% of the most vulnerable students in the U.S. are missing school.

The study, published by Bellwether Education Partners, cites complex reasons for the disparity, which primarily affects low-income Black, Latinx, and Native American households. 

For many students, it boils down to simply not having the technological resources such as access to Wi-Fi or computers to participate in remote learning. Even before the pandemic, the study cited approximately 17 million children lacking home internet access and more than 7 million without a computer.

Though many school districts across the country have made efforts to get these resources to low-income families, this is just one of many explanations for the gap.

For example, students with disabilities or those who are learning English and may require unique accommodations are falling by the wayside at a faster rate. So, too, are children who are homeless or in foster care. Another major problem getting in the way of education for low-income families is that some older children and teens may be joining the workforce to make ends meet or providing care and learning support for younger siblings.

Long-term consequences may be detrimental for these students missing school. Students who leave school are unlikely to reenter, according to a separate study that examined the re-enrollment of high school dropouts in a large, urban school district. It found that approximately two-thirds of high school dropouts never re-enrolled. Of those who did re-enroll, about one-half dropped out again. 

The pandemic is presenting students with unprecedented circumstances. However, according to the nonprofit, even if every student experiencing lapses in education returned to school as soon as possible, the months of missed opportunities could lead to “permanent setbacks.”

“We realize there’s a huge, hidden crisis,” Hailly Korman, Bellwether Education Partners senior associate partner, told CBS 21 in Dallas-Fort Worth. “It’s not even on the way. It’s happening right now.”

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Sources: Bellwether Education Partners, CBS DFW

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