How COVID School Closures Have Impacted Students

On the heels of temporary school closures and the shift to digital learning environments during the COVID-19 pandemic, 95 percent of the world’s student population experienced learning disruption and a disconnection from the classroom that are still affecting them today. While these changes were necessary for the safety of students, teachers and those working within schools, this resulted in a severe gap between where students should be in regards to their respective grade level and their current performance. The impact of school closures was harder on colored students than we immediately realized.

For students of color and those in under-resourced schools, many already faced inequity within their educational experience. “A lot of people call it the achievement gap,” said Learn4Life executive director Ken Zeff in GPB. “It’s really an opportunity gap. Achievement gap makes it sound like it’s the student; it’s not the student that is not achieving. It’s the student who’s denied the opportunity.” 

This long-term absence from the classroom and challenges to access to digital resources caused worsened learning outcomes that compounded intergenerational inequalities. This induced mental and physical health issues, even crisis, for some students. The learning disruption and opportunity gap seen in students’ academics has only been exacerbated by additional school closures and mergers happening as a result of a decline in enrollment. 

Impact of School Closures on Students in Metro Atlanta

Atlanta has the highest income inequality among large U.S. cities, with a median household income for white students of $167k, and just $23k for Black students, and that disparity impacts every aspect of the Atlanta Public School (APS) system. During the pandemic closures, students needed access to wifi, tablets, laptops, or other digital learning devices to keep up, and for many lower income families across the city that created a large barrier to education.

Almost 10 percent of Georgia’s students are without internet or a computer device at home, The Atlanta Voice shared. While many schools sought to provide the necessary tools for children, students and teachers within under-resourced APS schools had to contend with broken and outdated technology, as well as shortage of materials at times. 

These hurdles for students of color or students from low-income families lead to a significant drop in their academic achievement. A 2020 study from redefinED atlanta and Learn4Life projected that only three out of 10 historically underserved students will now be on track to grade-level proficiency within Metro Atlanta. 

The predicted impact on childrens’ academic experience was unfortunately proven true. Using recent Georgia Milestone results, redefinED atlanta uncovered that, between 2019 and 2022, APS saw a six percent decline in reading and a 12 percent decline in math for 3-8th graders. For students who entered the pandemic behind grade level, likely due to inequity in education, there was an even greater learning loss.

The Direct Impact on Education for Black and Brown Students

School closures left students months behind the benchmark for where they should be in their learning. During this loss of educational progress, primary school children, especially children of color, were most affected, including struggling to acquire basic knowledge and study methods needed to grow and excel academically. Students of color were also at an increased risk of dropping out of school, resulting in lost opportunities and earning less money over their lifetimes than they would have otherwise, UConn Today cites. 

While students at majority-white schools are closing the gap and are almost caught up, students from majority-black or under-resourced schools are falling farther behind. According to this 2019 report by GeorgiaCAN, it would take 127 years for Black 4th graders in APS to catch up to White 4th graders at current rates. 

The economic impact of the pandemic and school closures have had broader implications for Black and Brown families. “Students of color and their families are more likely to have lost paychecks due to COVID-19, and are also more likely to have rethought going to college,” Best Colleges states. 

Effect of School Closures and Mergers on Students’ Learning

In recent years, a decline in birth rate has led to a decline in student enrollment, prompting school systems like APS to permanently close and then merge schools within the district. An 11Alive article stated that APS officials aimed to free up resources to better serve students, but some argue that the communities affected directly by this weren’t considered or consulted. 

While some of these mergers were proposed prior to the pandemic, school performance following the temporary COVID-related closures expedited these plans for soon-to-be merged schools or delayed newly merged schools’ aspirations to bolster performance and bring equity to their students’ educational experience. New mergers came just as students returned to in-school instruction, meaning students who were still grappling with COVID-related changes now had to deal with changing schools, classes, routines and more.

Additionally, leaders of newly merged schools had their plans derailed by the temporary closures during the pandemic. A prime example of this is the Harper-Archer merger in August 2019, in which two academically challenged schools were reformed as one school at a renovated Harper-Archer School site. According to The AJC, “stability is critical in turnaround schools, and the Coronavirus crisis has upended schoolhouses and homes. The need to close buildings and switch to distance learning will disproportionately harm low-income students who are already behind, experts predict.”

How We Can Help Students Catch Up

As children, teachers, and administrators try their best to close learning gaps, there are ways that parents and guardians can help. 

  • Partner with your child’s educators to see how your child is doing academically and what they recommend your child needs to grow. 
  • Use any supplemental resources, like in-school tutoring programs, that may help your child get the individualized attention they need to catch up and excel.
  • Lastly, use your voice at school, district and community meetings. Making a public comment at APS Board of Education meetings is one way to share what your children need to succeed directly with APS leadership. When advocating for progress or stopping unwanted change, grassroots and community efforts can make all the difference. 

Are you interested in using your voice and making a difference for your children, but don’t know where to start? redefinED atlanta can help.

Understanding What Educational Equity Is and Why It’s Important

What Is Equity in Education?

Equity in education can’t be achieved without first understanding the meaning of equity. Equity is the pursuit of fairness and justice, used to create balance. This also underscores the imbalance in what people have access to from the start.

Educational inequity is the unequal distribution of academic resources such as books, technology, school funding, facilities and qualified educators. Historically disadvantaged or oppressed communities such as Black and Latinx families are often victims of these practices.

Equality vs. Equity

While both are important and deal with fairness, there is a difference between equality and equity. Equality requires that all receive the same. Equity takes this a step further by recognizing where each group started and ensuring that balance and justice is restored.

Equality in education is achieved when students are treated equally and have access to similar resources. Equity is achieved when students in marginalized groups receive the resources they need, even if they need more support than another school, so they graduate prepared for success after high school.

An Example of Equity in Education

Imagine two schools both have textbooks. On the surface, this seems fair because both possess the same type of resource. However, upon closer examination, one school has brand new textbooks while the other has 25-year-old textbooks and learning from old materials.

For there to be equity in their education, the students with old textbooks also need access to the newest ones. Learning from older materials means that students might be learning outdated information rather than a version incorporating new teaching methods and insights on making the material clearer. Access to the newest materials can give students the best shot at success in and out of the classroom, ensuring grade progression and minimizing potential learning gaps.

Using the textbook example above, if each school receives the same year textbook, all students have equality in the classroom. But, this doesn’t consider that, in previous years, students were learning from outdated textbooks. For there to be equity in their education, these students may need additional support to close the learning gap that inadequate resources created.

The Need for Equitable Education

The importance of equity in education is profound and the impact is exponential for Black and Latinx students and students in under-resourced areas.

Equitable academic outcomes:

  • Ensure high outcomes for all students
  • Remove predictability of success or failures associated with social or cultural factors
  • Discover and utilize unique gifts and talents in students

Educators in under-resourced schools have to focus precious energy and efforts on finding necessary resources to help students catch up to their thriving counterparts. When students are given access to equitable resources and opportunities, their growth accelerates because they have what they need to excel and their efforts are put fully toward learning.

How to Identify Students Who May Be Underserved

Educational inequity exists everywhere—often between different communities—but it can also exist within the same classroom. Identifying who may need additional support is the first step to restoring justice and equity in education.

Typically, historically marginalized and oppressed communities, under-resourced areas, or first-generation students have not received equitable access to education. Racism, homophobia, and other social risk factors impact whole communities—including education systems. Many schools in these areas have been discriminated against, excluding them from funding, resources and experiences.

Promoting Equity at the School and Classroom Level

Communities hold the power to affect change and promote equitable education for all students. Here are a few ways to take action:

  • Address systemic issues—recognize and spread awareness that systemic injustices exist in the educational system, and address these issues head-on.
  • Talk to the other parents in your community about what you are seeing and get their thoughts on these issues. Set up time to discuss this with your students’ teachers or administrators.
  • Address the roles of leadership and administration—school leadership can be a larger part of the systemic issues or be unaware that they exist, but as they are in positions of power and influence, they need to be a part of the solution. One way to hold your school’s leaders accountable is by attending school board meetings when they are held and speaking about the needs of your students at those gatherings.
  • Remove current barriers—create change through community awareness and school system policy changes. Use your vote and your voice to create change whenever there is a chance to vote for school board members or on policy changes at community meetings.
  • Understand how technology has a larger role in a student’s education—currently, equitable access to technology is one of the biggest barriers to student development as not every student has access at home.. Reach out to and petition school district leaders and board members to seek ways in which access to technology is available to students.

Empowering All Students to Succeed

Building an equitable learning environment empowers all students to maximize their potential, including those with diverse educational needs. Leaning into and prioritizing personalized learning opportunities can give each student the time, accommodations and resources they need to meet their educational goals.

Despite grade level, some students may have difficulty learning in certain subject areas, different reading levels or language barriers. Personalized learning and supplemental materials make all the difference for these students and students with greater needs. Allowing school leaders to have more autonomy to source the appropriate materials, resources, and training enables them to create an equitable learning environment.

Make a Change for Equitable Education

Equity in education impacts students’ academic success and entire communities alike. Equitably funding and providing resources to all schools, ensures the best possible outcomes for students and honors their unique gifts and talents. This learning environment allows educators to personalize student learning, which benefits students and gives them a more positive view of learning and their potential, shaping them into more confident and prepared adults.

Students are the future, and they deserve a more equitable and just school system. Interested in making a difference? 

Use Your Voice + Vote for Atlanta Education

Importance of Voting

Georgia’s general elections are on Nov. 8, 2022. These elections will decide races for the key positions that will impact not only our educational system but our city and state as a whole. You will have the opportunity to vote on the critical role of the State Superintendent, which is the person with the power to determine the school districts and budgets for the entire state, setting the future of Atlanta schools.

You might ask yourself, “does my vote even matter?” Of course it does! Voting is a critical way to be civically engaged and help shape the future of education in Atlanta. We believe that the knowledge, experiences, and strengths of community members, like you, are essential in building a brighter and more sustainable future for our young people.

Whether you’re the most civically engaged person or growing in your role of motivating your networks to vote in every election, not encouraging your neighbors and friends to vote comes with consequences. Two things that come to mind are A.) The continued achievement gap between minorities and disadvantaged students versus their white counterparts and B.) Ongoing income immobility. Children having access, or not having access, to education determines their future outcomes.

Additionally, you will be able to vote for U.S. Senate and House representatives, state Senate and House representatives, Georgia governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and other state executive offices, as well as several state high courts.

Make a Voting Plan

With such an important election coming up, making a plan to vote will ensure that your voice is heard.

  • Registration
    The first step to making a voting plan is registering to vote or check your registration status. You can register online or by mail if you are eligible.

If you are already registered to vote, it is important to check your registration status to ensure that your information is still correct in the system and to know where your polling location is if you choose to vote in person early or on election day. 

The deadline to register for this election is Oct. 11, 2022. Please note, if you are not registered by that date, you won’t be able to vote in the November election.

  • Absentee Ballot Voting
    Absentee ballots are an option for registered voters who prefer not to vote in person or will be out of town on the election day. You do not need an excuse to request an absentee ballot, but you must request an absentee ballot in order to receive one in the mail.

Once you receive your ballot, you will fill it out, and follow all instructions to submit it. Your County Registrar’s Office must receive your ballot before the polls close on election day to be counted.

  • Early Voting
    Early voting helps voters avoid crowds or find a time to vote that’s better for their schedules in the weeks prior to election day. This is done in person in the same way that one would vote in person on election day. Early voting in Georgia is Oct. 17-23.

The assigned voting location for early voting may be different from your assigned location for election day voting. Be sure to check where you will need to go to cast your ballot.

  • Voting in Person on Election Day
    Voting in person on election day requires individuals to arrive at their assigned polling station on Nov. 8, 2022, to cast their ballot. Be sure to check your registration status to ensure you go to the correct polling location between the hours that the location is open.

Many employers in the state of Georgia are required by law to give you time off to allow you to vote on election day. Paid administrative leave for voting is available to employees when their work schedule does not allow them at least two hours, including travel, to vote either before or after work. Employees who are scheduled to begin work at least two hours after the polls open or end work at least two hours before the polls close are not eligible to request paid leave for voting. Administrative leave for voting is not available for voting mid-day.

Discover Candidates’ Stances and Nonpartisan Resources

Information is a powerful tool. After you’ve made a voting plan, learn more about the candidates fighting for a seat and explore nonpartisan resources to be fully informed as you cast your vote. These resources can act as a guide for you to discover who is running for each position, as well as how each candidate feels about important issues to you and your community.




Look, voter fatigue is real, but local elections are just as important as presidential elections, especially with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. Arguably, they are even more significant because the people elected are making decisions about your typical everyday operations like getting clean water to your home, ensuring your trash is collected, and in the case of children, the overall quality of schools and public education.

At redefinED atlanta, we are committed to partnering with you to advocate for an equitable public education that provides students with the knowledge and tools to pursue their passions, realize their full potential, and better their community and society. This vision is not possible without the voices and votes of our collective community, especially during such a pivotal election for our state.

Together, we can shape the future of Atlanta education for the better.