Some KC educators worry achievement gap could widen as kids learn online

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s concern that the achievement gap could widen while the COVID-19 pandemic is causing many kids to learn online.

Educators at Operation Breakthrough have been helping kids with online learning since the start of the pandemic in March. Employees said if students aren’t getting the proper support, the achievement gap could get worse.

“We could only have a small fraction of the kids we serve here, and kids that didn’t have support at home, they really struggled,” CEO of Operation Breakthrough Mary Esselman said.

Esselman has had firsthand experience with online learning and the achievement gap.

“During the spring of last year when COVID started, we really saw the learning gap widen for kids,” Esselman said.

That’s why Operation Breakthrough opened its doors during school hours.

“For a lot of kids, they need multiple ways to learn to be able to access information,” Esselman said. “They also need multiple ways to show what they’re learning.”

The extra help is great for students like Ja’Mez Dixon, a kindergartner whose mom works a full-time job while he’s learning online.

“I’m not there physically to be there every day like the teachers are, so it’s like wonderful,” Ja’Mez’s mom Jahmanda Dixon said. “A great help.”

But having someone hold a student accountable isn’t the only problem some kids face. Esselman said its resources as well.

“Well, some of the first types of support are just having devices and connectivity,” she said.

Esselman said the best way to help students at home is what she calls setting the stage for the day.

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