The Virtual Reality of COVID-19

The U.S. now has the highest total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally affected and changed Americans’ daily lives. The pandemic has certainly disrupted the education system with many schools announcing building closures and halting in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year. 

Research shows that cases of this new strand of coronavirus are not evenly dispersed across the country. The people most likely to say the disease threatens “day-to-day life” in their communities are those living in urban areas in states that have seen relatively high numbers of cases. It’s clear that students living in urban communities are impacted the hardest. This should remind us that barriers still exist.  

COVID-19 has merely exposed and widened the achievement gap. The National Education Association (NEA) broadly defines achievement gaps as the differences in academic performance between groups of students of different backgrounds with respect to poverty, English language proficiency, disability, and racial and ethnic background.

Concentric Educational Solutions understands that this gap is now potentially widened due to urban schools lacking the technological resources needed to successfully transition to a virtual educational experience. Further, the additional in-person support provided to students who illustrate a need has been eliminated.

Concentric has responded to this lack of resources by directing its attention towards a virtual experience. We understand that 3.1 million households (14.1%) with school-aged children don’t have a broadband connection and are more likely to use mobile data plans. Therefore, instead of taking the same approach as platforms like Google Classroom, See Saw, and Classroom Dojo that provide a virtual experience best used on a computer, Concentric uses a mobile application to provide support virtually and instantly connect with students and their families. While the application provides a method for communication and data collection, Concentric uses the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) model, The Six Types of Parent Engagement Model, and the Home Visit Framework to engage students and families, increase academic performance, and address chronic absenteeism.

We applaud the school leaders across the nation who are heroically grappling to implement online learning and feed children typically on free and reduced lunch and address many other issues such as continuing SEL support and meeting the needs of special education students. Conversely, educators must consider how we will answer the questions that challenge us to address how we will provide an equitable educational experience. For example, how will educators address the already gaping achievement gap with this transition to a virtual experience? What extra resources are going to be provided for students that are already behind? How does this impact chronic absenteeism, student disengagement, and student re-engagement once the pandemic is over? 

Shifting back to student support – our students with disabilities, from low-income families, English language learners, etc. exhibit specific needs that must not be overlooked. Accordingly, equitable educational opportunities must continue to be available even during this time of crisis. There is a need now more than ever for schools to go beyond the school walls to impact their students. 

Moreover, schools must quickly expand and engage their networks of support. Concentric Educational Solutions started with the belief that all students deserve a quality education. Concentric’s goal is to not just give its clients theoretical solutions, or even just to help implement them, but rather embed its solutions within the structures of the organization so that the changes are lasting and meaningful.

This pandemic is a reminder of the importance of the work that Concentric does. Concentric supports schools and districts in implementing an effective Multi-Tier System of Support. This three-tier system of support is designed to intervene early enough to address potential academic, attendance, and socio-emotional issues. Providing resources for schools and students that face the greatest challenges is essential to reduce achievement gaps. This pandemic is a reminder of the importance of the work that Concentric does.

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