By Josephine McNeal
Homeschooling, once a fairly niche form of education, rose to new heights during COVID-19, especially among Black families who made the switch at a remarkably high rate.
Fall 2020 U.S. census data shows that the number of Black families choosing to homeschool their children quintupled. Although reports from the National Center for Education Statistics show that homeschooling has been a historically white practice, the demographic change is unsurprising to experts because nationwide disruptions to student achievement were uneven.
COVID-19 worsened preexisting gaps between historically marginalized public school student groups and their more privileged peers. White, Asian, and higher-income students still show much higher test scores than Black, Latino, and lower-income students.
One example comes out of San Diego’s school district. The district’s annual state standardized tests represent the first district-wide picture of how the pandemic impacted student achievement. The jarring 2022 scores show 34% of Black students meeting standards in English language arts, and only 19% met standards in math.
Red flags are also waving nationwide about absenteeism from school. The pandemic complicated attendance tracking, especially because required quarantines and COVID-19 illness kept many students out of school for stretches of time.
The option and resources for homeschooling are not available to every family, but steps for keeping every student safe — no matter how they are being educated — are accessible for all.
Dr. Joan Prince, vice chancellor of Global Inclusion and Engagement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a nationally renowned advocate for equity, said in a recent statement that it is important for the parents of Black children to understand that COVID-19 vaccines are still a critical tool in the fight against the virus.
“An original vaccine for those that have not yet engaged, and the updated vaccines for all approved age groups in the family, along with face coverings are powerful weapons that can assist students in regaining normalcy with inside and external activities,” Prince said. “Following these simple steps can reverse the negative impact of the virus on school attendance and achievement.”
COVID-19 vaccines have been crucial to resolving the absentee issue, keeping students active in extracurriculars and allowing them to be around peers.
Here are some facts about vaccines:
• Updated vaccines that provide extra protection from the Omicron strains of COVID-19 are available for anyone age 5 or older who received their last vaccine dose at least 2 months ago.
• COVID-19 vaccines help protect people in your community – including the most vulnerable community members — from the worst outcomes of COVID-19.
• Vaccination reduces the risk of getting long COVID by preventing COVID-19 in the first place. Getting vaccinated is a safer way to build protection than getting sick with COVID.
• COVID-19 can be unpredictable in children, with some experiencing severe outcomes or lingering symptoms. Getting children ages 6 months and older vaccinated for COVID-19 can help keep them protected.
Every student can have a fair chance of having a healthy, successful school year.
Jospehine McNeal is the public relations specialist at CMRignite, a strategic marketing agency and a partner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services We Can Do This COVID-19 Public Education Campaign.