Survey: White students much more likely to receive in-person learning during pandemic 


March 26, 2021

White students are much more likely to be receiving in-person learning than minority students, revealing yet another form of racial disparity during the pandemic, stark new data released this week show. 

The U.S. Department of Education this week released the first in a series of school surveys aimed at providing a national view of learning during the pandemic. The survey showed that the percentage of students still attending school virtually may be higher than previously thought. 

The surveys are being conducted in response to a series of executive actions issued by the Biden Administration on Biden’s first day in office. Those actions were aimed at encouraging schools to re-open safely. Previously, the Trump Administration had resisted gathering data on what types of learning schools were offering during the pandemic. “I’m not sure there’s a role at the department to collect and compile that research,” former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said last October. 

The new survey found that 43 percent of fourth-grade students and 48 percent of eighth-grade students were engaged in fully remote learning, as of late January and early February. 68 percent of Asian American students, 58 percent of Black students and 56 percent of Latinx fourth-grade students were learning entirely remotely, compared to just 27 percent of white students. 

Conversely, nearly half of white fourth-grade students were learning full-time in person, compared with just 15 percent of Asian American students, 28 percent of Black students and 33 percent of Latinx students. (The numbers do not add up to 100 percent because some students are learning through a hybrid of in-person and online activities.) 

The disparity may in part be driven by geography. The survey found that urban schools were less likely than rural schools to offer full-time, in-person schooling. Such schooling was predominant in the South and the Midwest, but much less common in the West and Northeast. 

The survey, which is being conducted monthly through at least July, found other inequities. For example, although more than four in 10 school districts said they are prioritizing students with disabilities for in-person learning, 38 percent of fourth-grade students with disabilities remained remote, compared with 43 percent overall. 

The survey also asked how many hours of live video instruction schools are offering when students are learning remotely. Most schools said they are offering more than three hours of video instruction a day. But 10 percent of eighth-grade students and 5 percent of fourth-grade students said they were getting no live instruction when learning remotely.  


racial disparities