April 7, 2021 coronavirus news

Mirna Sanchez walks down the halls stocked with a sanitizing station and social distancing markers during the first day of partial in-person instruction at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland, California, on Tuesday, March 30. Garfield Elementary School partially re-opened for students in grades kindergarten through second grade on Tuesday, March 30. Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

The nation’s school districts are making strides in their efforts to reopen, but new data shows that many more students are still learning fully remotely than fully in-person. 

Just 39% of fourth-graders are attending full-time in-person school and just 29% of eighth-graders, according to data released on Wednesday from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The data comes from a nationwide survey of school districts, looking at Grade 4 and Grade 8, assessing mode of instruction available, what proportion of students are using each method, a breakdown of instruction method by race, attendance rates, as well as what percentage of teachers have received a Covid-19 vaccine.

About three-quarters of US public schools are open for full time in-person or hybrid learning, but this new data shows that the percentage of students actually attending in-person is still the minority.

Here are some more key findings of the study:

  • For the mode of instruction available to fourth-graders, 51% of schools were open for full-time in-person, and 32% were open for hybrid. 82% of all schools surveyed offered a remote learning program. 
  • The survey said for the month of February 2021, 39% of fourth-graders were attending full in-person, 18% attended hybrid, and 42% were fully remote.
  • For the mode of instruction available to eighth-graders, 46% of schools were open for full-time in-person and 38% were open for hybrid. 78% of schools offered fully remote for those students who chose it.
  • Among eighth-graders, just 29% were attending full in-person, 24% attended hybrid, and 45% were fully remote.

“This is encouraging early data, covering the month of February, and shows progress toward the President’s goal to have K through 8th grade schools open five days a week,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response at Wednesday’s Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

Regionally, the NAEP’s data shows that more districts in the South and Midwest are open for full in-person instruction than those in the Northeast and West.

“These survey results show we are moving in the right direction,” Mark Schneider, the director of IES, the research, statistics, and evaluation arm of the US Department of Education. “There was a decrease in enrollment in remote-only learning and an increase in hybrid instruction at grade 8, providing evidence that more students are walking through school doors again.”

The data also shows the racial divide in students who are attending in-person. “More than half of Black, Hispanic, and Asian fourth-graders learn fully remotely, while nearly half of White fourth-graders learned full-time in-person, in school,” according to the study.

“Although White students continue to enroll in full-time in-person instruction at higher rates, we are beginning to see shifts toward full-time in-person learning for other groups,” said Peggy G. Carr, associate commissioner of the assessment division at NCES. “The percentages of Black students at both grades four and eight enrolled in full-time in-person instruction increased between January and February, and more children with disabilities at grade eight also enrolled for in-person full-time learning.”

The data was collected between March 17 and March 30 with 2,200 schools reporting on fourth-grade, and 2,100 schools reporting on eighth-grade. The next update will be in May.


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