Now, don't let the title mislead you, I am not attempting to attack the No Child Left Behind Act (2002). Ever since the law was passed by Congress, it has been referenced multiple times when talking about the importance of making sure that all children receive the same education, especially those that are seen as disadvantaged. Any time I hear that phrase, I think about what the education system is doing to make sure that those kids who are facing barriers are not, well, left behind.
With the COVID-19 pandemic changing our lives, I can't help but think about how it will affect those very same kids that the system swore to not leave behind. With school transitioning to remote learning, there are several things that are obviously going to be different. The changes will highlight barriers that students endure and heighten the chances of them not being able to learn like their peers.
The number one issue that has always come up with education is internet access. Not all households have the luxury of having internet at home. This will of course cause issues with an education system that currently relies on internet. While some schools, like my younger sister's school, have developed a plan to accommodate those who do not have internet access, it still leaves room for issues. A shared internet hotspot can cause connectivity issues, slow processing times, and maybe even internet crashes. These all can prevent a student from effectively learning.
Take my younger sister's third grade class as an example. On the first day, multiple kids, including my sister, were getting kicked out of their video call. The teacher was not sure what the problem was, but she told them to just keep rejoining the session. This slowed down the class and there was not much learning happening. Although technological issues are expected on the first couple of days of school, there is no way to guarantee that everyone will be able to solve their issues. I had to give my sister my computer to use for her class because it kept kicking her out every 10-15 minutes. Not everyone has a personal computer to loan to their kids, and they have to power through the issues that a school-provided computer brings.
The learning transition also places an immense amount of responsibility on the teachers. In order to provide the same quality of education that every school in the nation is promising, teachers are expected to have a proficient level in technology. They are also in charge of teaching an average class of thirty students the skills needed for an online class. I have witnessed my sister's teacher guiding the kids through everything, like splitting the screen, adding a chrome extension, and opening up an assignment on google classroom. She takes about 5-10 minutes explaining the process to everyone and then another 10 minutes repeating the same information to multiple students because they don't know what to do. Sometimes, parents join the class and help their kids. That is another issue that unfortunately not everyone can help solve. Parents have to work or are too busy to be around the kids when they are in school. Other times, even if the parent is there and is willing to help, they can't because of their lack of education or a language barrier.
The first two days, I was able to be in the living room and help my little sister if she couldn't do something. However, I will no longer be at home because of college and having to fulfill my own responsibilities. My older sister will be working and taking her college classes as well. My dad is at work until the evening. That leaves my mom, who does not speak enough English to help my sister out, even though she wants to. I know that my mom is not the only parent that has this issue and many immigrant families struggled with this language barrier, even before the pandemic hit. Now, it's hard to help a child change the spotlight tool on a videocall if they don't understand what spotlight even means.
These issues, among others, cause the classes to slow down and create problems with the students' ability to focus and to want to learn. I've had firsthand experience with my younger sister. The connectivity issues that she kept experiencing made her frustrated with the computer and the class. Then when she was using my computer and everything was working fine, her teacher was helping other students and she became very easily distracted by everything happening in our home. It all made it easier for her to miss things that the teacher was explaining, and she often found herself trying to catch up. That is her experience with two English speaking siblings who go to college, internet access, and my computer. What will happen when we are both unavailable and she has to use her school computer?
Remote learning will be a bumpy ride for everyone. However, it is important that we all know that some will have it harder than others. In this pandemic, we really need to remember that schools cannot fully provide a classroom setting for the children. No, it will not be the same quality of education that schools are promising, simply because it is not all in their hands. Whether we like or not, and whether schools want to admit it, some of the responsibility lies at home. Not every household can provide the same productive atmosphere needed for children to learn through an online setting. We need to understand that and make sure that those that lead our education system are doing more than just supervising the schools. If we don't, there will be children left behind.