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Improving Early Literacy Outcomes for All Children

COVID has created the need for learning recovery programs

As our education systems move from scrambling to adapt to school closures and distance learning towards something approaching normality, many are asking questions about how to recover what was lost. How have children been impacted by this unprecedented gap in their learning? Will there be long-term effects? Will they suffer socially and emotionally from the “COVID slide?" And what can be done to make up for lost ground?

While these concerns are valid—and vast amounts of federal funding have been allocated to the effort—gaps in academic outcomes are nothing new for many of our children. Children of color, from underserved communities, and those who face learning challenges, have always been subject to a persistent gap in reading outcomes relative to white and more affluent peers, a systemic failure that contributes to our country’s dismal reading proficiency record: In 2019, only 40 percent of all American fourth-graders and eighth-graders were proficient in reading, but 45 percent of white students are proficient compared to just 18 percent of Black students and 23 percent of Hispanic students. And unless learning recovery programs focus on quality and equity at both the individual student and systems level, they run the risk of exacerbating these kinds of education opportunity gap, as well as adding to the disparity in access to quality schools and the resources that all children need to be successful.

Obstacles to learning can be genetic or biological in origin—as with neurologically based learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD—but they can also be environmental. Children, particularly students of color, who attend poor-quality schools in low-income areas; students who are English learners; students who have experienced trauma; or students who live at the intersection of one or more of these categories can confront significant learning challenges that will limit their potential if not addressed. Opportunity gaps often lead to disparate outcomes, which are too often dismissed as failures of achievement.

Please select this link to read the complete article from SSIR.

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