LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- TAPintoTV’s Executive Producer Brian Brodeur spoke with Vivian Cox Fraser, President & CEO of the Urban League of Essex County, about high rates of learning loss faced by K-12 students in New Jersey as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A Time to Act,” sponsored by JerseyCAN, is a unique, statewide report on elementary-level student achievement during the pandemic. Their research provides “a baseline of information on the impact of COVID on children and learning loss,” said Fraser. “We know anecdotally that children aren’t advancing and virtual learning isn’t the same as in-class learning. The study really puts the data behind that.” 

“Children may be logged in but they’re not tuned in,” Fraser noted, highlighting the widespread lack of engagement with remote learning. In addition, many children were already falling behind their peers, especially black and latinx low-income students, and the study shows that the pandemic has exacerbated those preexisting achievement gaps. “COVID has not impacted all communities equally, and it has not impacted all children equally,” said Fraser. 

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These families, already reeling with high rates of COVID-19 infection and loss, also must contend with issues like lack of high-speed Internet connections, access to reliable child care and coping with the struggles of remote learning at higher levels than their suburban, white counterparts. 

What recommendations did the study offer to help mitigate this academic slide? First, Fraser said, the loss must be accurately measured and then specific, targeted academic interventions needed to be applied. Fraser pointed out the deep need for intensive summer intervention for children, from which all children, not just those who are falling behind, can benefit this year. 

Fraser said that families can take steps to help with their children’s academic slide. First, she said, “everyone should get vaccinated.” Fraser added, “it’s important for our communities so that we get to herd immunity, which means that we have some level of normalcy.” That normalcy brings with it more in-person learning, returning to work and regaining stability, Fraser emphasized. 

Parents can also look to enroll their children in summer programs with structured academic support, Fraser recommended, along with advocating in one’s school district for additional resources to help alleviate learning loss. “As parents,” said Fraser, “the work hasn’t ended.” 

To read JerseyCAN’s report, “A Time to Act,” visit them on the web at