How Black Parents are Handling the 2020-2021 School Year

Differences in Approach to Future School Terms by Race

Black parents in both New York City public schools and Cumberland County, NC public schools do not appear to be ready to send their children to in-person education even part-time in January 2021. National data on the topic was unavailable.

New York City

  • In late October, “thousands of Black, Hispanic, and Asian students […] completed their first month of blended learning, which includes at least one day per week of in-person school”, as New York City schools finally reopened to some in-person learning.
  • While most parents of color are still choosing to keep their students fully remote, some are allowing their children to participate in the hybrid remote/in-person model, indicating a slightly increased willingness by Black parents to test the in-person school system.
  • Reasons for sending children back included the “value of face-to-face instruction, additional care for students with disabilities, and trust in the teachers and schools.” Parents desired the social aspects of school, including interactions with both peers and teachers, as well as indicated a fear of how far their children were falling behind academically due to remote learning.
  • Still, as of October 2020, “72% of Asian students, 54% of Black students, 52% of Hispanic students, and 40% of white students are currently enrolled in all-remote education” in the New York City School system, indicating that the majority of students of color are opting for all-remote learning.
  • Parents of color are much less likely to even consider a hybrid learning model for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year: “a survey by Education Trust-New York, an education policy and advocacy organization, found [… that] About 44% of parents of color and 50% of parents from low-income households have not even considered the blended model, compared to 10% of white parents and 28% of higher-income families.”
  • At the final opportunity in early November to switch to hybrid learning for their students, Black and Hispanic families did not show further confidence in a return to in-person learning, with roughly half still choosing to keep their children fully remote.
  • For those parents of color whom did allow their children to return to hybrid learning “fears of contracting the virus exist, but they made their choices based on factors such as having children with disabilities who require additional support, precautionary measures to avoid and limit virus spread, confidence in schools and teachers, and the opportunity for their children to receive face-to-face instruction and socialization with their peers.”
  • The toll of the virus in New York City, however, may force parent’s hands, regardless of race, with all middle and high schools forced to go completely remote for the remainder of 2020.
  • As the school district has now disallowed any further opportunities for parents of younger students to opt in to in-person learning, only “a third of the city’s district school students, at most, will be able to return to their classrooms” prior to the Fall 2021 term (beginning of the 2021-2022 school year), when a vaccine is expected to be widely available.
  • Even as parents of color choose to keep their children at home, they are the most unhappy with remote learning.

Cumberland County, North Carolina

  • As of early November, Black parents in Cumberland County, North Carolina, wanted to continue with remote, virtual learning, while white parents wanted to return to in-person learning.
  • In that school district, all students have been completely remote since March 2020.
  • While the school will offer hybrid learning in early January/February 2021, parents can opt to continue fully remote. Statistics on what parents will choose were not yet available. However, accord to the sentiment presented in the above-mentioned school board meeting, it is likely that parents of color in this district will not be willing to send their children to any in-person schooling for the January 2021 term.

Impacts of Remote Learning On Students of Different Races

The current experiment in remote learning, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, may lead to a significant amount of decreased future lifetime earnings for Black and Brown students, as well as a higher drop out rate, as compared to the affects on their white counterparts.

Lost Future Earnings

  • Assuming students return to in-person instruction in January 2021, “the average K–12 student in the United States could lose $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings (in constant 2020 dollars), or the equivalent of a year of full-time work” directly due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their education, according to an analysis by McKinsey.
  • Lost lifetime earnings would be higher for Black and Brown students: “white students would earn $1,348 a year less (a 1.6 percent reduction) over a 40-year working life, the figure is $2,186 a year (a 3.3 percent reduction) for black students and $1,809 (3.0 percent) for Hispanic ones.”
  • This reduction in economic earnings over a lifetime, in turn, would likely negatively affect the health, crime and incarceration levels, and political participation of those students.
  • This could, in turn, affect the US GDP by 2040, when the vast majority of these current K-12 students would be in the workforce. The GDP could be lowered by 0.8 – 1.3% per year, or between $173 billion to $271 billion a year.

Increase High School Drop Out Rates

  • According to McKinsey, COVID-19 related school closures will likely increase the drop out rates for Black and Hispanic students.
  • This is because the pandemic and remote learning has removed many of the supports needed for at-risk students to remain in school, including “academic engagement and achievement, strong relationships with caring adults, and supportive home environments.”
  • McKinsey predicts that an additional 2 percent of students could drop out of school if schools return to fully in-person learning in time for the January 2021 term; that jumps to 9 percent of students if schools don’t return to fully in-person learning until Fall 2021.
  • Teens, especially in low-income households, may also need to care for young siblings or work due to the Coronavirus, which means they may need to drop out of school themselves.
  • Even if students do not drop out of high school, they may choose not to pursue college, instead deciding to enter directly into the workforce.
  • Similar scenarios played out in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and in school closures in lower Manhattan following the September 11th attacks, both of which caused a spike in drop out rates.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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