Addressing Disparities in K-12 Education During the Pandemic: Examples of Policy Options and Guidance

June 2020

Academic Achievement

All Children, with potential for particular relevance to children from disadvantaged groups

New York Public Library Partners With Online Tutoring Service Brainfuse to Give all NY Students Access to Free, Remote, One-on-One Homework Help: The new online tutoring service offers a bank of videos, activities, writing labs, and other enrichment activities 24/7, as well as tutoring via chat from 2 PM to 11 PM, seven days a week, in both English and Spanish. The service is free with a New York Public Library card.

What comes next for public schooling: This article proposes investing in voluntary, multi-week summer school this year (online or in-person, based on the best public health guidance) as well as next year, in addition to other forms of extended learning time to help students make up for lost learning.

AFT’s Weingarten Launches ‘Capstone’ Proposal to Complete School Year amid Coronavirus Crisis: American Federation of Teachers proposes schools have students complete capstone projects to create engagement and demonstrate learning.

NOVA to Offer ‘JumpStart’ Tuition-Free Summer Online Courses for Region’s High School Students: Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is using institutional dollars from the Federal stimulus to launch a new summer schedule of tuition-free online classes for approximately 70,000 qualified Northern Virginia high school students. This is an opportunity for rising seniors through graduating seniors to JumpStart their summers and earn college credit by attending up to two online courses.

Technology/Internet Access

Most Schools Are Not Ready for Coronavirus, But They Can Be: Districts such as Lindsay Unified School District in central California and Morris School District in New Jersey designed and implemented community Wi-Fi programs that give students and parents free at-home internet access. In both cases, collaboration with outside groups was integral to the program’s success.

Community school, tech groups join forces to set up free Wi-Fi network in Sandtown: A neighborhood in Baltimore has begun to create an internet “mesh network” using schools and tall buildings. 

Special Focus on Children from Disadvantaged Groups

Coalition asks MCPS to focus on black, Hispanic students’ needs when schools reopen: A coalition out of Montgomery County, Maryland has proposed tasks necessary to ensure that students, particularly African American and Hispanic students, are not “left behind” after months of learning outside of the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Continuous Education for Students with Disabilities Family Toolbox: Louisiana Department of Education has created a family toolbox for families with students with disabilities.

Distance Learning for ELLs: Privacy Considerations | Colorín Colorado: This site discusses policies to help address privacy concerns specific to English as a second language students.

COVID-19 FAQ: Guidance for Students in Foster Care: Texas Education Agency’s guidance for students in foster care during COVID-19 pandemic.

Physical /Social Emotional /Mental Health

All Children, with potential for particular relevance to children from disadvantaged groups

How Should Education Leaders Prepare for Reentry and Beyond?: Chiefs for Change proposes reorganizing students into small mentor groups of fewer than a dozen of their peers and a mentor teacher, with whom they can learn throughout the year—whether in a physical school building or not.

The Case for Keeping Students With the Same Teacher Next Year: Teachers and some experts propose having students return back to the same teacher when school returns in the fall, but in the next grade level.

Food Security

Child Hunger and the Coronavirus Pandemic – : As part of the recently enacted COVID-19 federal relief legislation, states can give extra food purchasing dollars to all low-income families with children in closed schools on ATM-like cards that they can use at food stores and farmers markets, reducing hunger and bolstering employment in the retail food sector. Some are calling this a Pandemic EBT program.


ASU expert: Plans to reopen K-12 schools will need partnership with families: Arizona State University professor proposes two essential conditions for schools to reopen: (1) Develop statewide plans to purposefully engage families in the local decisions to reopen schools in a safe and healthy manner, and (2) Foster collaboration amongst state officials, local officials and families to collectively mobilize resources, ensuring the health and safety of families and students.

Idaho’s two largest districts call tens of thousands of families to map Internet access: In advance of it’s distance learning curriculum rollout, Idaho districts launched a large communication effort with educators attempting to reach every student household, in an attempt to map which of their 65,000 students had access to computers and internet at home, and who needed those resources.

Gestson: My Arizona School District Contacts Every Student, Every Day, to Check on Families’ Physical, Mental & Emotional Health. Yours Can, Too: In the Phoenix Union School District, its Student & Family Services Division created a framework for staff to reach every student, every day. School leaders then paired each student with a staff member, either someone from the school or another part of the district.

Every Student Every Day Introduction and Resources-Final.pdf: Phoenix Union High School District’s “Every Student Every Day” resource guide to contact and connect with PXU students.

Comprehensive* Approaches to Children from Disadvantaged Groups

Comprehensive = policy that addressees more than one of the following: academic achievement, health services, food security, safety and supervision.

FAQ on COVID-19 and Homelessness: This document provides guidance for schools and districts on COVID-19 and homeless students including around issues of privacy, transportation, food, academics, housing and mental health.

Students Experiencing Homelessness: The Ohio Department of Education is repurposing McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth Program funds and recommends districts provide additional support to homeless students during Ohio’s ordered school-building closures.

Other Equity Guidance/Policies

National Parents Union releases its ‘Family Bill of Rights’ to ensure an equity-infused education recovery: The Bill of Rights includes guidance around keeping children safe and healthy, personalized learning for trauma informed recovery, emergency learning plans, equitable education financing, and investing resources to support families.