By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
New York, NY, July 21, 2021 — The Black Education Research Collective based at Teachers College, Columbia University, has released its long-anticipated research report, Black Education in the Wake of COVID-19 and Systemic Racism: Toward a Theory of Change and Action, demonstrating the effects of Covid-19 and systemic racism on the education of Black children.
The extensive study, conducted from January to May 2021, collected data from an online survey of 440 Black Americans in communities across the U.S and through 19 focus groups, conducted via Zoom, with 82 Black high school students, parents, school administrators and community leaders ranging in age from 14 to over 70 residing in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, New York, Detroit and Boston.
This report is the first in a series of publications examining the impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism on Black education with future research briefs reporting more detailed findings from the focus groups conducted in Las Vegas, Washington, DC, Boston, and Atlanta.
The study, one of 20 research projects funded last summer by The Spencer Foundation out of 1,369 proposal submissions (Source), offers six actionable recommendations for public officials and education leaders to address racial inequity in schools and districts.
“The research speaks to the magnification of the historic systemic failures affecting Black students, families, and communities deepened by the triple pandemics of Covid-19, the resulting economic recession, and heightened racial violence,” said Sonya Douglass Horsford, Associate Professor of Education Leadership and Director of the Black Education Research Collective (BERC).
Professor Horsford also served as Principal Investigator of the BERC study, leading a research team of current and former students and postdoctoral scholars, with whom she co-authored the report.
“It stands as further testimony to the tough conversations and critical work that awaits in the months and years ahead, and why education must be at the helm of leading change in post-pandemic America.”
The report outlines five areas of “significant consensus” among study participants:
- The “disproportionate and traumatic” impact of Covid, racism, white supremacy and racial violence on Black families and communities: nearly one-third of survey respondents lost a family member, friend, or community member to Covid-19.
- The major implications of increased racial trauma and mental health issues for teaching and learning: The majority of respondents were both affected and worried about police and white supremacist violence (Figure 3 in study), the vast majority of respondents (85%) indicated their mental health and wellness was negatively impacted by COVID-19 (Figure 5).
- The erosion of trust in schools and institutions by the governmental and institutional response to Covid, police brutality, anti-Black violence and resulting uprisings, and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol (Figure 7).
- The inability of “ill-equipped schools” to respond to the “social, emotional and academic needs of Black students”: A majority recognized the necessity of holding educational and policymakers at every level of government accountable for ensuring the future “educational needs of Black students” are met.
- About one-third of participants reported job insecurity and difficulty paying bills as a result of the pandemic (Figure 4). Nearly 60% of participants had a member of their household who was an essential or frontline essential worker working in unsafe conditions.
To address the five areas of concern, the report recommends:
- National, state, and local initiatives to “defend the rights of Black students to receive an appropriate and equitable education in a safe, welcoming, and affirming learning environment”
- Significant investments in counseling and mental health services to address the impact of racial trauma as part of post-pandemic education;
- Targeted investments in professional development programs that help teachers and school administrators address the “social, emotional and academic needs of Black students”;
- Modernizing curriculum, pedagogy and student assessment to affirm the academic ability of all students and prepare them for participation in civic life by teaching the truth;
- Investments to bolster and support the number of “culturally relevant educators” serving Black students, schools, and communities; and
- Restoring community trust by “engaging Black students, families, educators, researchers, and community leaders as experts and equal partners in education.”
The study provides important insights and guidance to local school districts as they consider how to spend Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that they will receive as part of the post-pandemic American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed into law last March, the ARP provides $122 billion to help state and local districts to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students.
“As states and local school districts conduct community input and consultation sessions across the country for their ESSER expenditures as required by ARP, it is important that the needs and interest of Black students, parents, families, and communities be among those prioritized given the resounding calls and commitments to advancing racial equity and social justice in our nation’s schools and school systems,” the authors write.
“This includes the building of a new and inclusive civic infrastructure that ensures our schools are equipped both physically and professionally to meet the needs of our ethnically and culturally diverse schools and communities.”