Nearly one year ago, schools across the country abruptly shut their physical doors due to COVID-19. In spite of heroic efforts on the part of teachers and administrators, the pivot to online learning was uneven and chaotic at best. The Pew Research Center estimates that only half of students have successfully engaged in distance learning while at home, with students from lower income families, in particular, losing ground.
One report predicts the pandemic will cause the average student to fall behind at least seven months, while students from low-income families could see more than a year of learning loss.
The stakes are high, with major implications for racial and economic justice. According to the federal government, as of 2019, high school graduates, even if they don’t go on to college, earn over $8,000 a year more ($154 more a week) than students who don’t complete high school. It’s not just income, of course; health, life expectancy, civic participation, and the ability to avoid the criminal justice system are dramatically impacted by whether or not a student graduates from high school. School success matters—a lot. And reducing class and race inequality in the US requires having a public education system that directly remedies these gaps.
A report written nearly a decade ago by the local community foundation emphasized why nonprofit community supports are so important in keeping students in school and reducing education disparities: “The causes and the effects of a high school dropout are not confined to the school, therefore the solutions to fixing the dropout problem can no longer be confined to the educational community.”
As Givs says, “The sector of out-of-school-time programs and providers can be broad and varied. I don’t think there is a deep understanding across the education ecosystem of the value that community-based nonprofits bring to the table. In DC, there are dozens of OST providers out there and almost none of us are at capacity right now. The pandemic-related challenges we face create an opportunity for school systems, funders, and community-based nonprofits across the country to collaborate on developing forward-thinking models of support that can empower students to succeed now and thrive post-pandemic.”
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