WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A much lower percentage of Black, Hispanic and Asian secondary school students are enrolled in full-time, in-person learning in the United States than their white peers, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Thursday.
“Even when offered in-person options, many Black, Hispanic, and Asian students, as well as multilingual learners and students with disabilities, are still learning fully remote,” Cardona said in a statement.
He said urgent action must be taken at the national and local level to get more kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools reopened full-time this spring and address the inequities that persist as the coronavirus pandemic abates.
Authorities are monitoring the data closely and reaching out to states and school districts that are not offering full-time, in-person learning, Cardona said in an interview with MSNBC.
“We want to make sure that we’re supporting those states, those districts to find out why they’re not,” he said.
Government data shows that 88% of U.S. secondary schools offered some form of in-person learning in March, with 54% open full-time and in person.
According to the Department of Education, 24% of white students were enrolled in hybrid learning – a mix of remote and in-person education – compared with 19% of Black students, 18% of Hispanics and 21% of Asians.
While 58% of white students were enrolled in full-time, in-person learning in March, only 36% of Black students, 35% of Hispanics and 18% of Asians were enrolled, National Assessment of Educational Progress data shows.
Among students with disabilities, 20 percent were enrolled in hybrid learning and 49 percent were in full-time, in-person settings.
Cardona said he expected all schools to be open full-time and in-person for all students by September.
“Quite frankly, I’d rather have it the spring,” he told MSNBC. “Students don’t learn as well remotely. There is no substitute for in-person learning.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)