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Report points to inferior remote learning in poor CT communities during peak of COVID-19 pandemic

Beardsley School is 118 years old and in need of modernization
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
A recent report revealed dramatic inequities between Connecticut school districts in accessing resources like laptop computers to better help facilitate the switch to remote education.

A state report released Jan. 20 that tracked how educators and school districts handled the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic found that students who had more in-person learning had better test scores and attendance records.

Researchers also found that school districts in poor cities and towns in Connecticut had a more difficult time shifting to remote learning than more affluent communities.

The report was created by the Center for Connecticut Education Research Collaboration, a partnership between several colleges and the state Department of Education.

Yale School of Medicine research consultant Joanna Meyer, one of the report’s authors, said the research aims to summarize lessons learned from remote classes during the pandemic.

“Schools were really in survival mode, and they were doing the best they could,” Meyer said. “We need to now look back and say, ‘What can we learn from this experience?’ Because there may be disruptions to in-person learning in the future.”

The authors said the pandemic revealed dramatic inequities between districts in accessing resources like laptop computers to better help facilitate the switch to remote education.

Schools that already had a computer for each child did better. Students also faced additional challenges in communities where families lacked stable, fast internet service.

Yale Consultation Center professor Michael Strambler, a co-author of the report, said schools that spent more time learning remotely also had more low-income children, children with disabilities and children learning to speak English.

“Those students were likely having some challenges from the start, and that made it that much more challenging for them, not having in-person learning opportunities,” Strambler said.

Meyer said teachers found it exhausting to re-create their lessons for remote learning as COVID-19 spread through the state.

“As the pandemic wore on, there was less public support,” Meyer said. “There was less understanding of how hard schools and teachers were really working. And that’s really challenging and has implications for the workforce going forward.”

The group said Connecticut should create a statewide plan in case a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts in-person learning again. Its report says some towns were able to afford safety equipment like masks that other towns couldn’t afford. The report suggests more support for schools for such equipment.

The study was commissioned by the Connecticut legislature.

Matt Dwyer is a producer for Where We Live and a reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department.

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