Distance learning has masked (and in some cases caused) a quiet epidemic of students dropping out of school. "An estimated 3 million students may have dropped out of school learning since March, according to Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit that focuses on underserved youth. The group's study cited a lack of internet access, housing insecurity, disabilities and language barriers as major obstacles to attending virtual classes during the pandemic," Lauren Hodges reports for NPR.
Tracking underserved students is a perpetual problem for schools in both urban and rural areas, especially for students with little or no internet access. "They find ways to disappear when they don't want to be found," Karen Smith, a high school English teacher in rural Maryland, told Hodges. "Many of our students and even our faculty and staff don't have reliable internet . . . We experimented with portable wi-fi, and in our neck of the woods, that's not really a feasible thing because you have to have a signal to bounce off of. And in some cases, they're rural enough that they don't have that option."
See the Bellwether report for a state-by-state breakdown of the data, plus recommendations for reconnecting with such students.