Parents fear local achievement gap could widen with start of virtual learning

Lodischools 3
A swingset sits unused at the playground of Lodi Elementary School on Aug. 22, 2020. The Lodi School District has opted to provide online instruction for most students at least through November because of the pandemic.
Photo by Will Cioci of Wisconsin Watch

MADISON, Wis. — As the majority of Dane County students prepare for a virtual return to class, the concern for a widening of the achievement gap is front and center for both community organizations and parents.

Jacquelyn Hunt is a mother to eight who all went through local schools. She now has several grandchildren enrolled for virtual school this fall, and her concern for their learning extends beyond just family.

“I’m worried about Black and Brown children who are already facing a huge gap in achieving academically here in Madison being presented with even more challenges,” she says.

Her concerns are well-documented. A study by Mckinsey and Company shows students will lose, on average, almong 7 months of learning if they don’t return to class until next year. That number grows to 10 months for Black students. And a survey by Axios shows 49 percent of parents of color say their kids don’t have access to the technology needed for online learning, compared to 17 percent of white parents.

The Urban League’s Dr. Ruben Anthony is aware of these statistics.

“My biggest concern is that students of color won’t have structural support at home to be able to succeed in school,” he said in an interview on the topic.

So his organization is stepping up. The Urban League’s long-running tutor program is going online, offering up to 500 tutors for students in Madison and Sun Prairie schools – at home, via Zoom.

The organization is also launching a Parent Academy, with the goal of helping moms and dads get the technology they need and the know-how to run it. All these initiatives are thanks to a $70,000 grant from Evjue to hire a fulltime coordinator for the project, Anthony said.

“All the things we expect the school to do – that expectation is being shifted to the home front,” Anthony said. “We have to make sure they have the resources at home and support at home so parents and families can meet these expectations.”

As for Hunt, she has her own plans to help out this fall.

“When I see challenges and problems, I automatically begin to start searching for solutions,” she says.

She’s busy putting together a back-to-school forum to get students and parents’ questions answered and to help fundraise for school supplies. She also has some words of inspiration for any parents looking ahead with anxiety.

“You have made it through 100 percent of your roughest days. There is no reason to believe you won’t make it through this.”