How BGCB Is Taking Aim At Pandemic Learning Loss Disparities

Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston is uniquely positioned to address learning loss disparities throughout the communities of Boston and Chelsea. 

Since the global health crisis began, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB) has continuously adapted to meet the needs of its members and surrounding communities. It began by pivoting to an all-virtual program curriculum back in Spring 2020, and transforming Clubs into local distribution hubs for food, hygiene products, and school supplies. Then came the reopening of Club locations for summer programs, led by forward-thinking staff who developed safety guidelines that exceed state and federal guidelines. Now, with schools in Boston and Chelsea largely operating with remote or hybrid learning models, Clubs have extended their hours into the early morning, welcoming members in to take their classes virtually with staff supervision. 

This most recent adaptation to provide Daytime Learning Support is taking direct aim at one of the most consequential and enduring impacts of the coronavirus pandemic: learning loss and disparities in academic opportunity. 

Learning Loss Disparities Nationally and in Massachusetts 

Recent analyses of testing data by McKinsey & Company reveal that students learning remotely during the pandemic have lost an average of three months of education so far. Schools that predominantly serve students of color returned more disturbing results showing their students have lost between three to five months of education. 

Looking ahead, McKinsey & Company also shared that Black and Hispanic students will “continue to be more likely to remain remote and are less likely to have access to the prerequisites of learning—devices, internet access, and live contact with teachers.” 

Students are feeling these consequences too. A recent survey conducted by Gallup for the Barr Foundation among 1,000 high school students across Massachusetts revealed that about one out of three high schoolers learning remotely or in hybrid models reported feeling behind academically. Beyond this, the idea of life after high school is becoming more and more intimidating as nearly half of all juniors and seniors learning remotely who were surveyed feel their school hasn’t adequately prepared them for college or career plans. 

How BGCB is Addressing Learning Loss Disparities 

With 89% of BGCB members living in low or very low income households and 86% of members identifying as a person of color, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston is uniquely positioned to address learning loss disparities throughout the communities of Boston and Chelsea. 

Since BGCB has extended its hours to include Daytime Learning Support for students attending school remotely, nearly 500 members from hundreds of different schools throughout the Greater Boston area have been attending Clubs on a daily basis. These members have been grouped into 43 different learning cohorts based on key criteria like school and age. Each cohort is proctored by staff members, who are available to assist with any technical issues members face. 

BGCB has invested heavily in technology to ensure members have access to all of the necessary pre-requisites for remote learning. All members receive a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone in order to ensure successful participation in virtual classwork. Additionally, Clubs have invested heavily in internet connectivity and firewalls to support hundreds of students logging into Zoom calls simultaneously. 

While members have traditionally relied on their school to provide them with up to two meals each day, BGCB has ramped up its Club kitchens to close that gap and offer members breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. 

On top of educational support, BGCB rolled out a new virtual campus for its Ready to Work initiative. The campus is designed to  offer productive, educational, life changing experiences, mentorship, and internships that will lead to meaningful work and careers. 

All of these efforts combined are providing youth in communities that are predominantly people of color throughout Boston and Chelsea with the resources they need to succeed in their classes. In the midst of the ongoing global health crisis, BGCB is taking aim at learning loss, and adapting to ensure all members are prepared for success in life after high school. 

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