In the Spring of 2020, our community of literacy service providers was forced to suspend in-person programming. The impact has been devastating for kids, disrupting learning and eliminating thousands of hours of instruction in and out of school.
We reached out to some of our core partners and literacy service providers in June and again in September to understand how programming in the Spring was impacted. Many of these organizations provide direct tutoring and small group instruction for students during the school day and after school. While this represents only a fraction of the organizations working in Oakland, it points to an overall picture of profound disruption. In a period of just three months, surveyed organizations reported a loss of between 3,000 to 9,000 hours of instructional time, an average of 70 hrs per week. This represents thousands of children unable to meet with tutors for weekly academic and emotional support.
While it is difficult to assess a total picture of the loss of instructional support hours from our diverse service provider community to Oakland children, a few patterns have emerged.
1) Resource Inequity
Challenges: Student access to online learning is disrupted by the increased need for technology and resulting in inequitable access to resources. Major challenges for students include technological and wifi access and finding space to study. The shift to virtual learning has resulted in programs and resources reaching fewer students. Organizations continue to look for technology resources and knowledge to support families.
Recommendation: Increased funding for the technological needs of families and agencies (including upgrades and Zoom licenses). Additional spaces to facilitate peer learning to elevate best practices in virtual learning and meeting the needs of students.
Coalition Response: Additional peer learning and workshops prioritized sharing strategies and resources to elevate best practices for virtual learning. The OLC continues to focus on adapting to distance learning in the new year and supporting promising practices to meet the many needs of all children.
This summer, we distributed 18000 books through schools and community partners to support learning at home and reimagined our reading celebration mini grants for the fall to focus on filling requests for high quality books for students.
Challenges: Consistent communication and engagement with families outside of school settings & coordination of varying school schedules. Without the direct support of school partners, organizations seek to engage with students without overburdening families’ time or competing with school priorities.
Recommendation: Support our community to link with schools to plan together and increase family engagement for direct support to children.
Coalition Response: The OLC increased monthly virtual convening for members to create opportunities to network and build community partnerships for productive communication with schools. Our Summer Quarterly Meeting led by The Oakland REACH and Springboard Collaborative focused on effective virtual learning through strong student and family engagement.
3) Building supportive relationships
Challenges: Maintaining relationships with students virtually & Meeting the social emotional needs of the whole child while keeping a rigorous focus on academics.
Recommendation: Prioritize building authentic relationships with families remotely and striking the right balance between academic and social emotional support, while recognizing the stress families are feeling.
Coalition Response: The OLC added workshops with a focus on social emotional learning and support, like our Fall Quarterly Meeting with the OUSD Social Emotional Learning department. In February 2021 we will be hosting a 2-part workshop going deeper into social emotional learning with a focus on distance and virtual learning.
We look forward to continuing to learn from and empower each other as we find new ways to connect to children and support literacy. Through collaborative learning, we see a potential for organizations to strengthen their online capacity.