New Survey Highlights Inequities in Student Educational Opportunities and Critical Resources That Risk Safety and Learning in State’s Lowest-Performing School Districts
Persistent inequities have not only been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic but exacerbated by it, highlighting the tremendous lack of equity in student learning opportunities and critical resources that jeopardize the safety of students and teachers.
In a new CEA COVID-19 School Equity Survey, nearly 2,000 teachers cited huge inequities between school districts, especially those in the state’s Alliance Districts, the 33 lowest-performing districts in Connecticut.
“Our teachers shared their experiences regarding the lack of school funding; shortages of PPE, cleaning supplies, and learning resources; limited technology and access to the Internet; poor ventilation; and no plans to engage absent students,” said CEA President Jeff Leake, adding, “These are all things needed to keep school communities safe and the staff in place to help students achieve. These issues are most severe in our lowest-performing school districts. We must demand changes in policies, programs, and practices that condone or ignore unequal justice and hinder student success.”
The survey highlighted safety issues as well as the lack of student learning opportunities, resources, and supplies necessary for student learning.
- Air ventilation is a major problem in all schools, but it is more severe in Alliance Districts, with 78% of those teachers saying their buildings and classrooms are not properly ventilated, compared with 66% of teachers in non-Alliance Districts.
- Less than half (49%) of teachers in Alliance Districts said their classrooms are cleaned and disinfected daily, compared with 64% of teachers in non-Alliance Districts.
- Three-quarters (75%) of Alliance District teachers and 64% of teachers in other districts are not confident that aggressive contact tracing measures are in place in their schools.
- Nearly half (48%) of Alliance District teachers and 38% of non-Alliance District teachers are not provided with adequate PPE.
- More than one in five teachers (21%) in non-Alliance District said students are not receiving the accommodations identified in their IEPs; that number jumps to 33% in Alliance Districts.
When it comes to access to resources and supplies, the disparities continue.
- Most troubling across all school districts (61% of Alliance District and 41% of other districts) is the fact that there are no effective strategies being implemented to engage students who are absent or disengaged. Nearly three-quarters of teachers (71% in Alliance Districts and 72% in non-Alliance Districts) have not been provided with student engagement strategies, and more than half (57% and 56% respectively) have not received adequate professional development in remote teaching tools and strategies.
- Nearly half (48%) of Alliance District teachers (25% of teachers in other districts) say students don’t have the school resources and supplies that ensure they can fully access the curriculum.
- More than half (57%) of Alliance District teachers are not receiving the services and supplies for distance learning that enable them to perform their jobs efficiently, compared with 41% of teachers in non-Alliance Districts.
- More than one-quarter (26%) of Alliance District teachers (14% of teachers in other districts) say students don’t have the computer devices they need.
- More than one-third (35%) of Alliance District teachers (14% of teachers in other districts) say their students don’t have access to the Internet.
- “We are witnessing a broader awareness of inequities in our school districts and the dire consequences that come with them,” said Leake. “We must create long-term solutions for addressing and ending the inequities that we have always known to exist, which have been brought to the forefront in this pandemic, and combat the structural factors that prevent mostly black and brown students from receiving equitable educational opportunities.”
Leake concluded, “Connecticut must ensure equitable, high-quality educational opportunities for all children in public schools.”
Here are a few comments from teachers who completed the survey
- My technology is inadequate, but my district is still pushing teachers to fully livestream our instruction.
- Many of the opt-out students seem disengaged, and more services need to be put in place to work and engage with those families.
- CDC guidelines for quarantining seem to vary based on the racial composition of schools.
- We in the inner city are still underfunded and overworked.
- We still need more resources for bilingual students.
- I can’t imagine what other schools who serve disenfranchised communities are going through without receiving the same kind of support that our magnet school has provided. We have the support, and still it is not enough.
- We don’t have a lot of the extra protections some schools have like Plexiglass on desks, refillable water bottle stations, adequate signage on walls and floors, etc.
- We have PPE, but not great quality. I don’t think we have funding to staff full in-person learning with six feet of social distancing, and we don’t have the correct ventilation.
- Everything is on the teachers, from tech issues to buying our own supplies that the district will not reimburse us for to keep our students safe.
- Students who have come to school have received books and other materials for their classes. Student who have opted for virtual learning have not received these necessary materials, and there is no plan to distribute these items to them.
- There is no equity nor a standard protocol taking place in how COVID cases are being handled for quarantining, as it varies at different schools.
- Contact tracing is minimal, and there is no consistency in how cases are handled from school to school.
- Remote learners who require a one-on-one para as per their IEPs are logging in with no support.
- I don’t think remote learning is equitable for English language learners.
- There have been students with COVID exposure who have been allowed into the school building and on buses.
- We are discouraged from talking about air quality, and not all school have the same cleaning products.
- The cleaning product we were given states it is hazardous if absorbed through the skin.
- My classroom is not being cleaned. I am now sweeping my own room.
- There is information about COVID-19 cases not being reported and lack of proper contact tracing protocols. This creates distrust and undue concerns about our health and the health of our students.
- Teaching both students in class at the same time as the students virtually is proving to be an extremely inadequate way to teach and learn. One group is always missing out because the teachers have to split their focus.
- High-risk teachers are not accommodated. Work-from-home accommodation requests from doctors have been denied, and teachers’ only choices are to go to work or resign. Unpaid leave has also been denied, so if high-risk teachers do not feel safe going to work, they must resign.
- While I realize we have many challenges that are unprecedented, my district has done a terrible job in preparing teachers and providing equipment for virtual learning and did nothing but provide masks for at-risk teachers who asked for accommodations.
- Students are overwhelmed.
- Students are not required to wear masks at recess, and they are never six feet apart at lunch or recess. They eat breakfast and lunch in the classroom and are not social distanced.
- Teaching children in front of me at the same time as at home is impossible. I cry every day because it’s impossible to do a great job…I can barely do a good job.
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