The world has gone quiet. A duality of quiet. Both peaceful and unsettling. Forced rest and prioritization for haves. Sudden economic devastation for the have-nots. The quiet is disquieting – especially when considering the long-term consequences.
As the COVID-19 virus spreads across our nation, the divisions in our society are widening by the moment. Hourly workers are laid off quickly, as restaurants, shops, and salons are shuttered. 78%1 of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and 59%2 of workers rely on hourly wages. This means that the vast majority of Americans are at economic risk right now. The social determinants of health3 suggest that lower income people are more likely to be more vulnerable to the virus as well.
As families tackle this unprecedented, intertwined stress of health and economics, children hang in the balance.
As middle class families joke about homeschooling while self-quarantined, most of their students are already on or above grade level.
Meanwhile, many children in lower income families are entering this devastating period below grade level. Every day that goes by without intentional learning, the achievement gap4 widens. The educational gap between rich and poor and between races. The gap is widening right now, as schools and families had just days or hours to plan for virtual learning.
Achievement gaps compound over time, and give way to the wealth disparities that make our country fragile and disconnected.
We still have time to act. We are only about a week into most school closures. Public policy has a part to play, with distance learning and radically extending the school year. But individuals can also act. We can volunteer – now virtually or on the other side of this virus in-person – as tutors or mentors. High intensity academic supports from caring adults is proven to close achievement gaps.
At Higher Achievement, our volunteer mentors do this work, with gold standard outcomes. During this time, we are calling and supporting all of our scholars, families, and mentors – and preparing to virtual programming, aligned with their needs.
We can find community and solidarity in the quiet. In solidarity, we build a tighter social fabric that will make our nation more connected, equitable, and resilient.