Jul 12, 2022 - World

Study: Pandemic-era remote learning hit English-language learners especially hard

Illustration of a student being held from walking forward by an arrow cursor piercing their pant leg

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The abrupt transition to online learning at the beginning of the pandemic was especially harmful to English-language learners in U.S. schools, a new report finds.

Driving the news: The report, released Monday by UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, found that the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on most Latino students, but especially on those learning English.

The big picture: Latinos have made massive gains in education over the past few decades, data shows.

  • But advocates say the setbacks students experienced when the pandemic forced classrooms to go remote are threatening those gains.

By the numbers: English learners failed to read at grade level at a rate 1.5 times higher than their peers, 2021 data from the U.S. Department of Education shows.

  • They also experienced 3% higher rates of disengagement than their peers during the pandemic, the DOE found.
  • Teachers of English learners in kindergarten through 5th grade who went virtual were 2.5 times more likely than other teachers to report having students who were regularly behind academically, according to a government report cited by UnidosUS.
  • The number of English learners has grown over the last several years to over 5.1 million students, three-quarters of whom are Latino, said Amalia Chamorro, director of education policy for UnidosUS.

What they’re saying: “As we emerge from the pandemic, which we know really hit the community of Latinos very strong, our goal should be to create an educational experience and reimagine what education can look like,” Chamorro said during a news conference yesterday.

  • Chamorro said research shows English learners perform better when they have access to qualified teachers, high-quality learning materials, and schools with adequate resources.

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