Leveling the Playing Field

In Summer 2021, KidsVoice held an initiative called "100 Days of Summer" to support our ongoing efforts to level the educational playing field in the wake of the pandemic. Learn more about why this initiative was important below.

The pursuit of children's educational rights doesn't take a holiday.

KidsVoice represents more than a thousand students in 70 school districts in Allegheny County and beyond. We implemented a COVID-19 Learning Crisis Response that developed relationships with administrators and addressed our clients' most pressing needs.

We have pursued remote learning plans to accommodate special education IEPs to every extent possible, made sure students had access to laptops and other technology for remote learning, stayed in close contact with high school seniors to make sure they had everything they needed to graduate on time, and pursued COVID Compensatory Services that were not being implemented during school closures.

In Summer 2021, we implemented a five-part plan to help close the gap:

  • Allocate increased staff to addressing educational needs
  • Gather research to address disparities
  • Share best practices with school districts and community partners
  • Advocate aggressively on each client's behalf
  • Influence policy and spending to address the disparity

Children in foster care are at an educational disadvantage.

Data shows that foster children lose 3-6 months of academic progress each time they change schools, through lost credits, repeated work, and adjustment to new settings and rules. Foster children average 1-2 placement changes each year.

Additionally, children in foster care disproportionately have special education needs when compared to the general population. Among KidsVoice clients, 1 in 3 students require special accommodations in school, double the rate of U.S. public school students across all demographics.

The pandemic has only widened the gap.

For many KidsVoice youth, remote school means being cut off not only from education but from a place of safety, perhaps their only meal of the day, mental health counseling and support, physical and occupational therapy, school nurses, and services for developmental delays. Pre-existing educational inequities widened in the pandemic, with low-income, minority, and/or special education students most heavily impacted by COVID-19 learning loss.

Read Edward's story here.

A 2020 report found that, on average, teachers reported being able to contact only four out of every five students. Another report noted that, even as schools began to have success with hybrid approaches and conducting more effective remote learning, most students are falling behind, and students of color are falling further behind. Students of color are also twice as likely to have no live access to teachers, even as part of remote learning.

Children are falling through the cracks, and KidsVoice clients in particular are at a high risk for falling behind their peers.

“The pandemic has forced the most vulnerable students into the least desirable learning situations with inadequate tools and support systems to navigate them.”

Dorn et al. in COVID-19 and learning loss—disparities grow and students need help

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