Educational Equity in our Response to COVID-19, and Beyond

By Kimberly Rusnak, Project Director of The Children’s Opportunity Fund

“We do run the risk that the learning loss students experience now will be the enduring legacy of this pandemic.” - Ralph Smith, director of The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a national advocacy group

During a typical school year, children only spend 15% of their time in school.  For the 2020-2021 academic year, we know that “school” is very different.  Throughout the DMV, all school districts are starting 100% online.  Unfortunately, there are many students who are not fully participating in online learning for a variety of reasons:

  • Insufficient technical support or access to the internet; 

  • Not having a supportive adult on hand for support; 

  • Distractions from pets, siblings, tv, etc.; 

  • Digital eye strain after 3-6 hours of Zoom each day; 

  • Isolation, depression, and mental health challenges; 

  • For older children, they may need to supervise younger siblings; and 

  • Decreasing motivation from not having clarity about academic progress in the virtual setting.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated and laid bare many long-standing inequities.  Unfortunately, without significant intervention specifically focused on the needs of children, the challenges will get much worse.  

Our Regional Response to COVID-19 for education

Several years ago, the Montgomery Public School System (MCPS) and Montgomery County Government partnered with the Greater Washington Community Foundation to create the Children’s Opportunity Fund. It works to plan, launch, and expand strategic investments to close the achievement gap by addressing racial inequities and expanding opportunities for marginalized children and families. 

The Fund’s leadership decided to focus on helping kids build a strong foundation for life-long success after discovering only about 50% of third-graders in Montgomery County were able to read at or above grade level.  Research shows third-grade literacy has been tied to dropout rates, higher rates of anxiety and depression and increased behavioral problems. Therefore, ensuring our kids have a strong start is key to the community’s economic viability.   

In response to the pandemic, the Children’s Opportunity Fund is focusing on important programs for elementary school age children, including tutoring, family supports and early literacy interventions. Moving into the 2020-2021 school year, we’ll focus on building out effective, evidence informed programs to expand tutoring for Elementary School age children in reading and math, providing families with supports such as Equity Learning Hubs and access to affordable childcare options for families who cannot afford it otherwise.  We are also partnering with Waterford Upstart, a national evidence-informed program, to provide a virtual kindergarten readiness program for a cohort of four year-olds in Montgomery County. 

Join Us to Make a Difference

Through our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, we’ve disbursed more than $7 million to local nonprofits—more than $1 million of which supported organizations helping to expand educational opportunities for children and youth, and advocacy around childcare system improvements.

We are proud to help advance educational equity in our region – and hope you will join us in helping to make a difference. 

Provide Critical Support to Advance These Efforts

  • Donate to the Children’s Opportunity Fund.

  • Learn more about and donate to DC Education Equity Fund.

  •  Donate a digital device (or backpacks, activities, and school supplies) to the “Back to School Bash

Learn More