Why schools are taking a ‘U-turn’ on in-person learning

In a December survey, 31% of districts were full remote learning—the highest percentage of fall 2020
By: | January 15, 2021
Urban school districts were more likely to have shifted back to distancing learning late last year. (GettyImages/intararit)Urban school districts were more likely to have shifted back to distancing learning late last year. (GettyImages/intararit)

Joe Biden and Kamala Harri wants to reopen schools within the first 100 days of their administration, but many districts are “moving in the opposite direction,” a new report says.

In an analysis of 477 districts in December, 31% were in full in remote learning mode—a larger percentage than at any other time during the fall, according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education’s “U-turn” report.

Urban schools were more likely to have shifted back to distancing learning. Students in three quarters of urban districts were fully remote.

Many districts that brought students back in certain grades or adopted a hybrid model were forced to shut down again due to community spread and other issues, the report found.


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“High case rates, parent and teacher concerns, the rise of a new and more contagious variant of the virus, and a slower than expected vaccine rollout threaten the return to in-person learning in the short term,” the authors of the report wrote. “But school districts can continue to push to provide more intensive support to students wherever learning happens right now.”

As of December, only 44% of districts were offering fully in-person instruction, the lowest percentage of the 2020-21 school year.

The report also sought to gauge some of the impact on learning. For instance, less than half of the districts surveyed reported using assessments to tailor instruction and resources to student needs.

And less than a third of districts said they had offered childcare or learning hubs for students during remote learning.

“As Congress and states continue to contemplate new financial resources to assist school systems throughout and after the pandemic, resources to support quality assessments and provide students safe supervision and meaningful support—wherever their learning happens for the rest of this school year—must be high on the priority list,” the authors concluded.


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