Ed experts fear rise in dropouts as remote learning continues

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Dive Brief:

  • Though graduation rates steadily increased over the last few years, education leaders expect remote learning will cause that trend to reverse in the 2020-21 school year, The Huffington Post reports
  • Last year when schools closed due to coronavirus, most seniors already had enough credits to graduate. This year, however, incoming seniors have already spent months out of school and may miss required credits needed for graduation.
  • Teachers say their students are less engaged during remote learning because some are helping their families pay bills or care for their siblings, while others lack access to technology or internet connections. Many students also face higher barriers to success when learning from home, where they are without the schools’ support systems. 

Dive Insight:

An America’s Promise Alliance survey found nearly 30% of students did not feel connected to adults in the school at the end of the last academic year. Slightly fewer did not feel connected to their school communities and classmates, at 22% and 23% respectively.  

Remote learning puts students at higher risk of dropout due to loss of connection with peers and support staff, reduction in available services and the loss of extracurricular activities and events that help keep students motivated. To reverse these risks, the Colorado dropout prevention framework recommends school personnel identify students who were already at risk of dropping out; offer counseling, mentoring and credit recovery options; create family and school partnerships that help prevent students from dropping out; and create programs that help transition students back into the classroom.

In some cases, it takes relentless effort to find and keep track of distance learning students. Alternative schools are going as far as knocking on the doors of students’ neighbors to track down missing pupils. Alternative school students are disproportionately lower-income, Black or Latino, and are already at a higher risk of dropping out.

For example, the Orange Grove alternative school in Corona, California, has lost touch with about 20-25% of its students. Some educators have adopted a mindset to stop at nothing to keep connections with these students, even if it means reaching out to missing students’ friends or siblings.

Maintaining student engagement is a challenge for traditional schools, as well. In San Antonio, 54% of high school students reported feeling less engaged during distance learning and 64% of parents of younger students reported their children felt the same way. Professional development can instruct teachers on how to boost student engagement during remote lessons. Some teachers are taking cues from entertainers by recording fun, interesting lessons and using social media, such as Instagram, to answer students’ questions.

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