Researchers from UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and two other universities called Tuesday on elected officials and other leaders to develop a nationwide rapid-response initiative to assist the nation’s schools and to re-engage students who grew disinterested when classes went online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Every school district is reinventing the wheel over and over and over again, and we think it would be wise to have a clear national strategy,” said Ron Avi Astor, a UCLA professor who is a co-author of a study in which 1,275 school social workers in mostly low-income and minority communities across the United States were interviewed about the challenges that lay ahead.
“The reality around this virus is changing day to day,” he said. “We can’t just have one plan at the beginning of the year and wait until the end of next year to find out it didn’t work.”
The survey — conducted by UCLA and research partners from CSUF, Loyola University Chicago and Hebrew University — found that meeting basic needs for a large number of students is the big issue schools face in the fall.
“They’re reporting overwhelming numbers of students who don’t have food, who don’t have stable housing or health services, whose families are suffering,” said Astor, a professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
The research brief calls for a rapid-response team of school professionals from multiple fields to develop a national response to support schools; provide guidance as they weigh in-person, online or hybrid learning models; and prioritize the response to the most hard-hit schools and communities. It also proposes the creation of a national technical assistance center to help schools adjust their procedures if necessary.
The report found that a team of professionals is needed to locate and re-engage students who rarely showed up once classrooms went virtual.
“If our country has trillions of dollars to bail out large wealthy corporations, we also have enough to create a Marshall Plan-like program to rebuild and provide basic supports to the nation’s students, schools and communities,” said Astor, who noted that the recommendations are aimed at avoiding a “lost generation” of students.
The policy brief was penned by Astor and Kate R. Watson of UCLA, Gordon Capp of Cal State Fullerton, Michael S. Kelly of Loyola University Chicago and Rami Benbenishty of Hebrew University.
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