With rumors swirling around about when LAUSD and SMMUSD will return
to school, it’s interesting to think about how students will interact after the return.
After all, students have had vastly different experiences while at home. While some parents have shelled out for private tutors, personal printers, and extra online courses, others parents have been lucky to get food on the table. The emotional, physical, and financial stress of a pandemic has proved vastly different depending on socioeconomic factors.
One student I interviewed claimed that on the 2020 AP exams, many students simply had tutors take their exam. Another student mentioned widespread cheating on exams by students who had two computers. Almost every student I interviewed complained of the mental toll from switching to online school. As one student succinctly put it, “We’re getting the same amount of work, the same tests, and much worse instruction.”
Even issues such as reliable internet service, computers to complete schoolwork, or sharing electronics with other members in a household will have a lasting effect on students. According to (NCES), 14% of children ages three to 18 don't have internet access at home, while 17% of kids live in households without a laptop or desktop computer. California’s wealthiest households are 16 times more likely to have home internet access than our poorest ones. One student I interviewed spent four months completing online school spent four months completing online school work on a cell phone. He nearly failed two of his classes, but a schoolwide policy made it impossible to fail students. Since then, he has gained a computer and a hotspot, and his grades have improved. But, there are many kids who are completing school in similar situations.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve sat in a classroom. The longer schools remain closed, the harder it will be for some students to catch up. When students return to school, the effects of parents who could help with homework and students who couldn’t get any support will lengthen the gap in school performance between different socioeconomic levels. At the end of day, students can only do so much.
Coronavirus does discriminate; perhaps not in who it infects, but most certainly in who it affects academically. Looking at the faces of students on my screen, it’s difficult to guess at what their circumstances are; perhaps the student taking notes will have a tutor take his test later or the student with his camera off is at a public coffee shop, desperately using his wifi. The digital divide, often an ignored problem, has now been thrown into the public eye with online school.
Normally, school evens the playing field. Your grades are determined by how hard you work, and tutors or test prep have a stunted impact. With online school, that playing field has been skewed; only time will show how much.
By Julia Abbott