USC Researchers: Remote Learning Spotlights Racial, Economic Gap

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - When schools moved from classrooms to computers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a learning gap immediately opened between middle class families and low-income and minority families, USC researchers said today, asserting that this setback afflicts 25,000 families.

Stay-at-home mandates to minimize spread of the coronavirus forced 1.5 million K-12 students in Los Angeles County to online classes, according to a USC statement citing analysis by Hernan Galperin, associate professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

Galperin and his team examined household availability of two key components of distance learning: a residential internet connection and a desktop or laptop computer. The research showed one in four K-12 households in L.A. County lacks those resources, according to the statement. The problem worsens among Los Angeles Unified School District students, as one in three live in households without high-speed Internet or a computer.

“The closure of school campuses is laying bare the disparities in household resources for effective distance learning,” Galperin said. “Without aggressive initiatives from schools and local or state governments, low income and minority students will fall further behind as a result of COVID-19.”

Other key findings reported in the USC statement include:

-- Only about half of the K-12 families in the bottom fifth of income distribution are prepared for distance learning. That compares to 90% preparedness for families in the top fifth.

-- Households lacking distance learning resources are clustered in South and East L.A. In those communities, less than half of families have the necessary technology resources for distance learning.

-- Regardless of income, students of color are less likely to have the technology resources for distance learning. For example, the gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students at the same income level is as high as 20 percentage points. The reason is likely because minority students, regardless of income, tend to live in communities with underfunded schools and less advanced broadband infrastructure.

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