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Poster #86 - African American Family Adaptative Resilience: The Impact of Covid-19 on Rural Youths’ Remote Learning Environment

Fri, March 24, 9:30 to 10:15am, Salt Palace Convention Center, Floor: 1, Hall A-B


The COVID-19 pandemic was met with the need for school districts nationwide to implement remote, virtual school environments for the remainder of the 2020 academic year and the ones to follow. Social media coverage of online schooling illustrates the potential devastation of this learning environment on rural students, as they are disproportionately represented in reports of delayed testing, missed assignments, and inconsistent uploads of completed homework. These educational shifts have implications for hindering learning, thereby compromising students’ capacity to thrive academically in an online schooling versus a stable in person-learning environment (Goldstein, 2020). In the same way, rural residents’ ways of living have been characterized as a “rural code” of behavior, reflecting resilience in the manner in which their strengths and values are the foundational basis by which they respond and adapt to social changes (Brown & Schafft, 2011). Given this, we contend that using a strength-based approach to examine how rural families came together to address challenges associated with COVID-19 pandemic may offer insights on effective ways to highlight strengths of rural communities to address academic disparities of rural students and, in turn, enhance rural education. Data were collected from 57 families (N=114), including caregivers and their children, across critical developmental stages (e.g., middle childhood, early adolescence, and late adolescence) to explore variability in barriers and adaptive responses to Covid-19. Descriptive analyses were conducted to offer greater insights on how the pandemic impacted the everyday life experiences and responses of rural African American families, a phenomenon often ignored in studies documenting the effects of COVID-19 on home schooling and youths’ academic performance. Preliminary results reveal that 28% of rural youth reported that Covid-19 had a negative effect on their life, in three main areas: increased worry about someone having the virus (63.2%), thinking about how many people are dying because of the virus (54.4%), and not getting to go to school (32%). Furthermore, evidence of digital gap concerns emerged, as approximately 20% of the sample reported lack of reliable internet access or digital device, which hindered the ability to engage in remote, virtual learning. While many of their caregivers were essential workers, 77% of youth reported that their caregivers were very or extremely involved, attempting to assist with demands associated with remote learning, and this was more prominent in middle childhood. Finally, having access to internet services to participate in remote learning was positively associated with youth’s achievement attitudes and viewing school achievement as a key driver of academic future possibilities (r = .26, p < .05). While there has been great concern about learning loss, particularly among African American students, a greater understanding of why, as well as geographic context is critically important. In addition, our exploration demonstrated that despite challenges of lack of reliable internet access and the burden caregivers experienced balancing work and educational demands of their children, both youth and caregivers described adaptive processes that are the foundational basis by which rural families respond and adapt to social changes (Brown & Schafft, 2011).