A YEAR IN CRISIS: EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITY AND COVID-19

Date

2021-12-16

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Abstract

Purpose: The current work seeks to answer the question, “Do principals perceive that COVID-19 has created or exacerbated inequalities in education?” Research Method: In this mixed methods research design, 83,941 K-12 public school principals in the United States were surveyed about crisis management plans, the impact of COVID-19 on these plans, and if inequalities in education were created or exacerbated by the pandemic. Closed-ended questions were analyzed using descriptive statistics, and open-ended questions were analyzed using the constant comparative process of grounded theory. Results: Results from 1,106 responses indicated that COVID-19 exacerbated gaps in existing school inequalities specifically associated with the use and availability of technology, parental involvement, and basic needs lacking at home. Leaders in suburban, urban and rural school settings all agreed that COVID-19 had a disproportionate educational effect by race and/or ethnicity. However, leaders in urban and suburban more strongly agreed that there were disproportionate education effects. Principals of schools with greater African American populations more strongly agreed to the statement pertaining to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic than schools that had a smaller African American population. Conclusion: This study gives a voice to practicing school principals as they discuss how COVID-19 impacted or created inequities in schools. Technology, parental involvement, and the lack of basic needs of students were major themes; however, the socio-economic makeup of the school (Title I status), and the geographical location (suburban, urban, rural) did not impact the responses, while the racial/ethnic makeup (percent of African American students served) did.

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Keywords: COVID-19, crisis management, inequalities, mixed methods, school leaders

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