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Insight on Education


In March 2020, school systems were ill-prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic’s mandates for masks, online learning, and closure… especially schools serving high numbers of children receiving free and reduced lunch and Title I services. Title I services include but are not limited to literacy programs to ensure children are reading at grade level by Grade III. Services also include funding for schoolbooks, instructional technology, certified library media specialists, and ongoing professional development for teachers who work with “at-risk” students.

In 1954, The Supreme Court case Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decreed the desegregation of public schools. Unfortunately, the federal government and states continue to enact laws that thwart the intent of Brown v Board of Education. For 68 years, the US has grappled with resistance to the implementation of desegregation. Initially, public schools closed altogether as academies for white school students flourished in southern states.

State legislators and Boards of Education continue to establish legal barriers to quality education for all students under thinly disguised efforts such as neighborhood schools, charter schools, and private academies. Schools remain segregated because neighborhoods are segregated. Black students made educational gains, white students made gains as well, so the achievement gap remains huge—schools where the majority of students are Black and poor experience enormous resource shortages.

This historical overview is essential to a discussion of COVID-19 because any education discussion takes place in the context of the students’ lived experiences. Numerous students lack access to up-to-date computers, software, and printers to benefit from online education. Imagine the consternation of parents suddenly faced with caring for children who usually receive two meals and a snack at school five days a week for nine months? Schools also provide childcare so parents can go to training themselves, work, or seek work.

Low-income adults are working or looking for employment regardless of what politicians want you to believe. Elementary school students should not be left in the care of older siblings who are completing their online studies during the same period.

Initially, families grappled with the equipment needs required for each child to participate in online learning. The average low-income family might own one computer or none. As technology has increased, people conduct most of their business using their I-Phone. Families with multiple children at various grade levels and schools require one computer per student and access to high-speed INTERNET service to comply with online education mandates.

The educational gap between low-income schools and better-resourced schools will increase. In three to five years, no one should be surprised when educational studies document the achievement gaps. The loss of opportunity for another generation of children is foretold right now.

Research will lay the blame at multiple levels. Fixing blame does not change the educational outcomes for low-income children. There are no easy answers. However, unless we acknowledge the issue RIGHT NOW, we will not focus resources and provide supports that promote learning among the students who have been negatively impacted by online learning. We must start with recognizing that while adults are fighting about vaccination versus non-vaccination, masks versus herd immunity, in-person versus online education, the casualties are the children who have lost valuable developmental/educational opportunities.

If children lose two or three years of formal education, this cannot be made up in one school year. Is anyone looking at the social implications of the past two years on young people’s economic and educational future? Are we prepared for 21-year-old high school graduates instead of 18-year-olds because students did not receive a viable education meeting state and federal guidelines? Are we prepared for a workforce that lacks fundamental skills to take on the jobs being vacated by the exodus of senior citizens?

Too often, educational fixes are not intended to improve the students who need them the most. Instead, we become satisfied with limited student improvement. These are the children and families who respond quickly to the opportunity. Unfortunately, this typical approach leaves behind those who need the most educational support over the long term, the parents who do not respond quickly or understand the ramifications of doing nothing, and the students who require discipline as well as educational support.

Parents with multiple jobs and responsibilities are trying to understand educational lingo delivered in ways that scream you are a bad parent; otherwise, we would not be here. Subtleties are indicating, “If you had made better decisions, your child would have the tools they need to function in the new world of online education. The help has to be accepted on our terms. We have too many other kids ready to accept what we have. So…if you really want to help your student, just do what we tell you to do.”

This insight is not an accusation against educators and/or parents but a call for the difficult conversations about moving students toward success. The pandemic reinforced the past 68 years left large numbers of children in crisis relative to a quality K-12 education. Educators, parents, and seniors who are relying on this younger generation for goods and services have to join this conversation. Today’s students are preparing for higher education or employment. If they miss the transition to adulthood, we will have failed at more than managing the COVID-19 pandemic.


-Joyce A. Brown

Joyce Brown is a motivational speaker and author who uses her creative energy to give voice and meaning to the challenges women face in all walks of life. She grew up in Rockford, Illinois in a household of strong women. She graduated from Bradley University with a B.S. and M.A.  Her professional career expanded her reach into Peoria, Illinois; and Battle Creek, Michigan.  Joyce obtained a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University.

She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and has served as a direct services worker, executive director, program director for a major foundation, and entrepreneur. Joyce has experienced many uplifting moments as a professional and as a dedicated parent and strives to bring those events and lessons to life through her characters in the contemporary fiction novels she pens.


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