October 9, 2020

On today's show, Adrian and Ethan discuss the attendance concerns that come with virtual learning in many schools in this new school year.

Early data for the new school year suggests that attendance in virtual classrooms is down, possibly because students are working or caring for siblings. While many districts gave up on monitoring attendance when the pandemic first shuttered schools, states are expecting them to track the data in this new school year.

When schools closed this spring, non-attendance was especially high in poorer communities, including many urban school systems. In Seattle, elementary school students logged into the learning portal less than half of the time, on average. And in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, a quarter of students were not logging in at all in May. Early data from this year suggests that the problem persists.

Education officials are debating how to approach truancy. The Boston Globe reported that last spring, Massachusetts school officials reported dozens of families to the state’s Department of Children and Families because of their children’s lack of participation in remote learning. The paper found that school districts with large Black and Latino populations filed the most reports.

The persistent achievement gaps that already existed prior to COVID-19 closures are growing and will cause long-term effects on children’s educational outcomes.

Teachers across the nation say they have real issues tracking down masses of students and getting them to sign on for remote learning. Many of these educators suspect that a large number of these students are at their jobs instead of participating in class. Lower income families, especially those with a single parent, are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

I think everyone can agree that under the circumstances, we need alternatives to legal action.

In the midst of everything else going on, we have some incredible kids out there who are making a difference in their communities...

1. Tennessee High School Students Collect 10K Face Masks For Those in Need

A group of Tennessee High school students, led by Ben Beard, set out to make a difference during the COVID-19 crisis by collecting over 10 thousand masks for anyone who can’t afford to buy them.

Sometimes it’s hard at our age to really make a difference. When the coronavirus hit, I knew this was a way I could mobilize fellow students to make a big impact.

He and his friends then discovered the organization Mask Now TN that was distributing masks to underprivileged populations and essential workers. Ben and his friend Ty Anderson led the charge, motivating and equipping fellow high schoolers at Independence High School to gather donations through online fliers posted to social media pages. Then they set up collection boxes.

The effort took about a month and a half to organize with Mask Now TN, but once they began accepting donations it was only three weeks before they hit their goal of 10,000.

2. Teens Tutoring Students for Free

Aidan and Erin Finn heard about parents struggling to work from home and homeschool their children. Focusing on their knowledge of school and screens, they started Tutor Teens to provide support and relief to the parents and children in their Cincinnati, Ohio, community.

Aidan, a junior, and Erin, a freshman, along with about 40 other high school students, work remotely with students in grades K-8. The dedicated teens from area schools offer free homework help, coaching for music and art projects, and other services to keep children engaged and interested in learning. They offer 30-minute or 45-minute sessions, one-to-two times per week.

The Finns hope to continue the service, even after the pandemic.