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Pandemic is leaving students of color behind

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt schooling across the country, students are falling behind — and none more than Black and Hispanics, a report by McKinsey & Company found.

That will have long-term implications on their earnings and health, said Silicon Valley-based Emma Dorn, global education practice manager at McKinsey and co-author of the report.

“One of the great travesties of this pandemic is that it has hit the most vulnerable among us the hardest,” she said.

“There really is an imperative now to direct those resources to the students who need it most.” 

The report, which looks at various scenarios of schooling and how it may impact students, is an update of its previous one in June.

Heading into the school year, students were already behind due to school shutdowns in the spring. Kindergarten through fifth grade students only learned 67% of the math and 87% of the reading that grade-level peers would typically have learned by the fall, the report said, citing the Curriculum Associates i-Ready platform. 

Yet for schools whose student bodies were made up of more than 50% of people of color, it dropped to 59% in math and 77% in reading. In comparison, schools with more than 50% White students learned 69% of the math and 90% of the reading that their peers typically have learned.

Looking ahead

The good news is that schools have adapted to virtual learning, so conditions have improved significantly since the spring, McKinsey found. Yet, even in the best-case scenario, students will be behind five months on average.

“Learning loss is happening. It is real and it is inequitable,” said report co-author Jimmy Sarakatsannis, a partner in McKinsey’s Washington D.C. office.

“We are doing better than in the spring but we are not out of the woods yet.”

The firm estimates that about 60% of K-12 students started the school year fully remote, while 20% began with a hybrid model of some in-person classes and some remote. The remaining 20% went back to their classrooms full time. 


Read full report here

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