AUSTIN (KXAN) — The COVID-19 pandemic has severely and permanently impacted the educational system—and a slew of researchers at the University of Texas are working to protect already vulnerable students from maximum harm.
“Challenges that already existed in the system have been increased by COVID-19,” said Charles Martinez, Dean at the UT College of Education during a Tuesday panel for UT’s COVID-19 Conference.
Martinez says Texas students were already at a disadvantage nationally. He says in Texas, schools are twice as likely to lose Black and Latinx students—even before the pandemic. That’s in addition to students who are economically challenged.
“Only 47% of Texas graduates are college-ready, and that’s only 36% among economically disadvantaged students,” said Martinez.
Martinez urged educators and districts to think about the social and emotional needs of students and teachers going forward in this new, changed environment.
That’s something Cynthia Osborne, of UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, has a lot of experience with. Her work focuses less on what happens inside the classroom and more on what happens outside it.
She said factors like income, domestic violence and high levels of stress in the home can all contribute to learning difficulties. Osbourne says students who have warm and stable homes during their most formative years (3-5) have less difficulties learning later on.
Her aim is to help them get assistance earlier through means of parenting help, intervention and making sure parents have paid time off.
Osborne said these students who are being left behind are “… born with such potential. But because of this adversity, they’re unable to achieve what they’re meant to.”
These panelists said adjustments to programming and outreach are an absolute necessity to prevent an entire generation of vulnerable students from slipping through the cracks.
Through Wednesday, the University of Texas is hosting its COVID-19 Conference, a preview of some of its most cutting-edge research on COVID-19.
The UT COVID-19 Conference features keynote speakers, panels and more. To register for the event, click here.