Expert: COVID-19 to blame for growing education gap between Black, white students

New research shows the gap is growing among Black and white students in Wisconsin -- and the pandemic is to blame.

Some students are slowly being phased in. Others are still learning from a distance, with formats that may be here to stay -- even once the pandemic is gone. 

"You can use this technology to organize lessons that are done in person and create space online using the same technology to provide resources for your students," said Dr. Curtis Jones, the founding director of the Office of Socially Responsible Evaluation in Education at UW-Milwaukee.

Dr. Curtis Jones

Dr. Curtis Jones

But while that may work in some cases, Jones said looking ahead, it is imperative students get more engagement -- as those who are learning virtually may be losing their connection.

"We have a lot of students getting failing classes that wouldn’t have failed classes before. These are disproportionally students of color," Jones said.

Jones' research over the past year shows an impact. 

"They are not coming to online learning," Jones said. "In math, you are looking at about half as much growth in ELA 2/3 as much growth."

 Jones adds that underserved communities are bearing the brunt of the negative impacts.

"The typical black student in Wisconsin is 3 ½ years by 7th or 8th grade below grade level in reading," Jones said. "That’s normative. You are piling on top of that this past year."

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An unfortunate normal Jones said we do not need to go back to -- but instead change.

"What can we do over the next year to figure out how to fix our school system so that students have equitable opportunities," Jones said.

Jones said the next steps need to be focused on reducing the learning gap -- and graduation rates need to be a priority.

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