This debate hasn’t touched older students for the most part — and even the newest classroom reopening guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says elementary schools and younger are the safest to reopen.
Whether out of necessity or overcautiousness, the closure of classrooms has the biggest impact on students from underserved communities. They are more likely to have unreliable internet access, or a caregiver who is affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic. Their world has been turned upside down, 그리고 그, educators say, can make school fall down the priority list, especially for teenagers.
The fear of an increased dropout rate is easy to find in any major school district. This is what it sounds like in New Orleans.
The persistence of distraction
“Many kids hate online school
,” Justin Ross-Hillard
, co-principal of The NET: Central City
, a New Orleans high school
, CNN에 말했다. “알 잖아, a lot of kids are not programmed to do school virtually.
To start, distractions are all too easy when learning remotely, especially for teenagers who can always find other things to occupy their time with.
Audie Cerrato, who tracks down students who haven’t shown up for class in New Orleans, says when asked about the mind of the teenager during the pandemic, “I’ve always looked at it as like, ‘if I’m doing virtual schooling at home, 처럼, I have everything I want at home. I can leave when I want, I wake up and I’m in bed. I have my PlayStation. I can, whatever, now ’cause I’m at home, I’m comfortable.'”
Those are the distractions of any high school student with nowhere to be and a game console. But add in caregivers with front line jobs who may not be home to supervise the remote learning shift from bed to class, or life in places where the virus has hit harder, or homes where jobs have been lost, and the distractions pile up even higher.
Fewer resources and the persistent digital divide mean students may miss school simply because they can’t get online. And early data does suggest the students fairing the worst in the pandemic are the ones who were underserved before the pandemic — poorer students and students of color.
The economic impact of the pandemic means some older students may have had to take a job to make up for one lost by a family member. Or they’ve had to step up to handle child care for siblings or their own kids. Educators in New Orleans told CNN the attendance numbers are a challenge for all high school grades.
“Attendance rates are down across the board. Enrollment is down across the board,” said Jessica Irving-Marin, who helps high school students who can’t or won’t go to traditional school pass the equivalent of the GED administered in Louisiana. “Students that were thriving before the pandemic are struggling right now.”
As the pandemic exacerbates social inequalities, a dropout crisis among high school students becomes ever more real.
Trying not to get lost
“I’m calling my sister, 나의 가장 친한 친구, telling them they have to go to school. 그들은 마치, ‘well, I need money right now,'” said Kenya, a 17-year-old student at The NET.
There were times during the pandemic she fell way behind. It’s not hard to see why: Her house has 14 people in it, and she had to help her 10 younger nieces and nephews get through their own virtual school days.
“Taking care of them while at home is like a big part of the pandemic,” 그녀가 말했다. “So even when I was getting up for school to get ready, I had to make sure that I fed them, clothed them and just make sure they were all OK and set up for school.”
Kenya is on track to graduate now — her biggest worry these days is whether to go to community college first or risk an expensive move-in to a residential college that may close because of an outbreak — but she sees many of her fellow students still struggling.
“I just feel like they don’t have enough support behind them honestly,” 그녀가 말했다. “A lot of students are definitely going to get lost.”
Getting lost can have big consequences. These are the final months before another summer break. Some students may not have been fully engaged since the last summer break. 그래서, students who get lost now might stay lost, educators say.
“What we know is statistically students who miss a semester or are not successful in a semester, their likelihood of dropping out or not returning to school does increase every semester that they are unsuccessful,” said Ross-Hillard. “What we’ve adopted as a mindset is that we’re going to continue to chase after you.”
How to talk a teenager into going to school
On a recent Tuesday, CNN trailed Cerrato as he made his rounds, traveling to six homes across New Orleans to find high school students who hadn’t made it to class. One said she couldn’t get transportation. Cerrato said he’d find her a ride. Another said she had to work. Cerrato said school could work around her schedule.
He says that his job is really about making sure students know school is there for them, no matter how far behind they have gotten. Teenagers need to feel listened to and supported, 그는 말했다.
“The ones that I’m up there trying to get, 알 잖아, to get back enrolled in school, they just feel like a mistrust. It’s just like, ‘it’s not worth it.’ And that’s what gets me going, 권리?” 그는 말했다. “처럼, like I want to show you that there is someone, that one person, even if it’s me, or like everyone else here that we care, 알 잖아, we want you to succeed in any way that works for you.”
Experts like John King, President Obama’s last secretary of education, warn that good intentions will not be enough to bring students left behind by the pandemic back to school. He testified before Congress in June, and said schools need to be prepared to lay out significant resources to bring students from underserved communities back up to speed. His proposals include more days in school, longer school days and tutoring programs.
On the ground in New Orleans, Cerrato says he can only do so much.
“After the pandemic and everything probably goes back to, I don’t want to say normal because it’s, it’s so like, 알 잖아, but it’s when it just goes back to just school, I feel like schools are going to have an issue with attendance or just like population and enrollment,” 그는 말했다. “그래서, 네, I’m trying to cut that deficit.”