The new school year is now underway in most communities across the Commonwealth, but in a very different way than in the past. Whether brick, click or both, it has become clear that a long-term commitment to expanding access to resources for underserved students is essential.
School closures in March due to COVID-19 exposed longstanding inequities in our education system, and the pandemic is continuing to adversely affect communities of color. Now, the differences in remote and in-person learning are perpetuating those inequities in learning for Black and Hispanic students. According to The Boston Globe’s recent analysis of data from a new study from The Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for educational equity, roughly two-thirds of Black and Hispanic students live in districts where schools are starting the year remotely. By contrast, most white students —about 70 percent — live in school districts with “hybrid” back-to-school plans that include some learning time inside school classrooms. And according to a Rutgers University Study, by the time they enter kindergarten, Black children are on average 9 months behind in math and 7 months behind in reading.
As one step toward addressing this learning gap, GBH is continuing the digital Distance Learning Center that we launched in mid-March, in partnership with the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to support teachers, students and families. There, we’ve curated assignable, self-paced lessons and activities from PBS LearningMedia.
For families and students with limited or no access to the internet, our At-Home Learning service, broadcast for free, over the air, on television on GBH WORLD from noon-5pm EST on weekdays, continues as well, offering programs on science, language arts and social studies aimed at students in grades 6-12, tied to state curricula. The learning service reached 1.6 million viewers from March-July. For the upcoming session, we’ll be adding math content.
It is critical to create more opportunities for learning science and technology for students of color. GBH recently announced the diverse winners of the Paula S. Apsell/ GBH Stem Scholarship, an initiative that financially supports students who plan to study in STEM fields ranging from biology and medicine to computer science, math, mechanical and civil engineering and aviation.
One of the students, Christina Exilhomme, told us that "Growing up, I did not have a role model who was in the STEM field. Pursuing a career in healthcare will not only give more representation to women and people of color, but it will also help provide excellent care, and allow me to give back to the community."
Core to our mission, public media will continue to do its part to ensure that every kid has an equal opportunity to get the education they deserve.
Sign up for email updates with resources, lesson plans and curricula from GBH’s Education Department.
Watch The State of Race: Education, a virtual conversation on racial disparities in education, hosted by GBH and The Boston Globe, in partnership with the NAACP Boston Branch and WORLD Channel.