TEA asking schools to hold in-person instruction for students with unreliable internet

The Texas Education Agency says students from low-income families are struggling with online learning because of unreliable internet and computer access.

AUSTIN, Texas — Many Central Texas students will start the 2020-21 school year by staying home and learning online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But that option isn't easy for everyone.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has pointed out a problem it's calling the "COVID slide." It shows that students from low-income families are struggling the most when it comes to online schooling because of unreliable internet or computer access.

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So, the TEA is asking schools across Texas to offer in-person instruction to assist those students. Some Central Texas districts are still gathering information on which students need this kind of learning.

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The State says addressing the "COVID slide" is one of its efforts to make sure students have equal access to high-quality public education. Additionally, the TEA says kids rely on schools for other things besides learning, like access to food or having a safe space to talk with their teachers.

In a graph, the agency said in the U.S., as of May 24, 2020, students from low-income ZIP codes decreased progress in online math coursework by 55.6% compared to January 2020. The TEA said it cannot allow this public health crisis to become a generational education crisis.

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"You want to make sure that that we're reacting based upon what the health conditions say and not overreacting because [for] a lot of our kids, school is not just a source of academic growth ... we have students who are homeless, students who don't have ready access to food," Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.

A spokesperson for Round Rock ISD said the district hopes it will be able to meet those needs, but if not, it will have central supervised locations for virtual learning. Austin ISD leaders say they are meeting regularly to figure out reopening plans, including how to support all their students' learning needs.

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