School During Covid-19: How to Make Remote Education Better for Students

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images The shift to

School daze.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The shift to remote learning during the pandemic has seriously harmed America’s schoolchildren. The end of in-person instruction last spring reduced expected learning gains by an estimated 50% in math and nearly one-third in reading. With the vast majority of schools in urban districts still closed, low-income students are losing ground they might never make up.

This underscores the need to reopen schools as quickly as possible — which, in turn, will require new funds to pay for safety measures and careful limits on activities that might spread the virus. However, even if reopening moves as quickly as prudence allows, schools will need to rely for a while yet on some degree of remote learning. It’s vital to ensure that this kind of instruction is as effective as possible.

There’s been some progress. Since the start of the pandemic, school districts have increased the number of hours students working at home spend in live video classes — a marked improvement on the chaos of last spring, when teachers struggled to adapt to online instruction. In cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, which initially didn’t make synchronous learning mandatory, schools are now required to provide several hours of live classes for all students, depending on grade.

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