The pandemic has had a significant impact on K-12 education, with evidence suggesting that some students have been set back in their learning by several months. Addressing the educational impacts of the pandemic is a key step towards helping these students, but this can be a challenge, as many educational inequities have been amplified in the past year. These inequities affect students from low-income backgrounds more than their wealthier peers, resulting in a significant learning gap that impacts achievement at all grade levels.
One key inequity that the pandemic brought to light is the broadband gap, prompting districts and communities to take steps to remedy the situation so students could learn remotely while schools were closed. The broadband gap has garnered significant attention and action from leaders nationwide, making great strides on this issue that reverse the growth of this inequity and are beginning to close the gap. Unfortunately, the broadband gap is not the only inequity that low-income students face but is rather one of many educational disparities they experience.
What is the Curriculum Gap?
While the broadband gap has naturally gained a lot of attention during the pandemic due to the sense of urgency to get students connected and learning remotely, there is another key inequity that leaders need to address: The Curriculum Gap. The curriculum gap is created when students from high-poverty neighborhoods lack access to Advanced Placement® (AP®) courses, computer science curriculum, and other courses that can set them up for success that are available to their peers in more affluent schools.
According to Code.org, low-poverty high schools are nearly twice as likely as high-poverty high schools to offer a computer science course to students. This statistic greatly affects the STEM college and career opportunities of students in high-poverty schools, as students are unlikely to pursue professions to which they have not been exposed.
Computer science isn’t the only subject where this disparity exists: Students in high-poverty high schools have less access overall to courses that can prepare them for college, according to a 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office. This includes courses such as calculus, AP® courses, and enriching electives that can enable students to explore their passions or challenge them through complex subjects.
Addressing the Curriculum Gap
Students from low-income families are less likely to have access to opportunities to take courses that challenge them and can lead to high-paying careers. Unfortunately, this is perpetuated by high-poverty schools’ struggle to afford or attract teachers who have the expertise to develop and teach these specialty courses.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: Schools can partner with an e-learning provider to instantly extend the reach of their curriculum by offering courses to students online that they can’t provide themselves. For students to have a rich and rewarding learning experience, it is important to choose a provider that offers a high-quality program consisting of engaging curriculum and frequent interaction between online teachers and students, and between the students themselves. School leaders should also choose a provider with a low student-to-teacher ratio and compliance with industry-recognized standards, and most importantly, one that provides comprehensive support to schools who will be offering their students these new learning experiences. Nonprofit VHS Learning provides all these features and more, offering 250 unique online courses, including 24 AP® courses, credit recovery and enrichment courses. For 25 years, VHS Learning has partnered with schools to help provide equitable access to educational opportunities that engage and inspire students, regardless of geographic location or economic circumstance.
To read more about key inequities highlighted by the pandemic and how school leaders are addressing these issues, read While We’re Tackling the Broadband Gap, Here’s Another Key Inequity to Fix on page 36 of the May - June 2021 Issue of Equity & Access Pre K-12 Journal.