The Corner

Education

Teachers’ Union-led School Closures Are Disproportionately Harming Black and Hispanic Children

With an ally in President Biden, leading teachers’ unions have been digging in their heels when it comes to returning to in-person teaching. By doing so, a growing body of data show they are disproportionately harming black and Hispanic students.

The most recent data from the Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences show that while 52 percent of white fourth-graders are receiving in-person instruction (which is far too low to begin with), just 32 percent of Hispanic students and 30 percent of black students are receiving in-person instruction.

This makes sense. The teachers’ unions are the strongest in and around large liberal cities, which have been holding out the longest in reopening schools, and those areas tend to have a higher concentration of blacks and Hispanics.

The problem is magnified by the fact that when children are forced into distance learning, the loss of learning is more significant among minority groups.

This was already apparent in the fall, when McKinsey & Co. looked at testing data and found that “students of color were about three to five months behind in learning; white students were about one to three months behind.” More specifically:

The disparities in basic conditions for learning are reflected in the results of formative assessments taken this fall. We analyzed assessment data from the Curriculum Associates i-Ready platform1 and found that students in their sample learned only 67 percent of the math and 87 percent of the reading that grade-level peers would typically have learned by the fall.2 On average, that means students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading.3 The learning loss was especially acute in schools that predominantly serve students of color,4 where scores were 59 percent of the historical average in math and 77 percent in reading…

This experience is consistent with research into racial gaps in summer learning loss during regular times. And if this was the case in the fall, one can only assume that the numbers are even worse now in areas where schools remain closed. Indeed, there are places where children have not seen the inside of the school in over a year.

It’s also worth noting that private schools — which are able to operate without the burden of teachers’ unions and have been a way for parents to find in-person learning — are two-thirds white nationally.

So, to sum up: Black and Hispanic students are more likely than whites to be in closed schools, and their learning suffers more from being remote. Yet even as liberals pride themselves on looking out for the interests of racial minorities, they are deferring to unions on a policy that has caused incalculable harm to these very groups.

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