How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Education in the US

In 2020, our lives turned upside down. Society as we know it shut down, turning our living rooms into classrooms and home offices almost overnight.

Threatened by the fear of the unknown, we kept going. Single, working, and struggling parents tried to keep their families afloat, as 9.6 million people lost their jobs — many while trying to help their kids adapt to the “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soon enough, our country became even more divided. Racial and economic disparities became deafening, and vulnerable communities struggled to stay afloat.

It wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic that caused these disparities — they were already there. Remote learning simply made this inequality louder, clearer, and more damaging than before. 

Remote Learning: A Socioeconomic Divide

The remote learning model assumed every household had childcare. It demanded laptops, tablets, webcams, and homes big enough to accommodate multiple class times at once. It required WiFi, high-speed internet, and Zoom. 

Of course, school districts did what they could to balance the inequity, providing resources and technology for their students. The federal government granted $190 billion in funding for schools.

Yet, low-income districts received nearly the same amount of funding as everyone else, according to multiple studies

Already behind in resources, these districts didn’t receive the funding they needed to even the gap. With fewer teachers, staff, textbooks, and technology, the education divide collapsed even deeper. (Barnum, M, 2022)

Learning & Lockdowns: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Increased Educational Disparities

Every district and state responded differently to the lockdowns. Some families were able to continue learning from home to finish out the 2019-2020 school year, while others picked up in the fall. Limited by funding, family dynamics, and resources, children’s education became even more unequal.

Unsurprisingly, one study showed that the 2019-2020 school year did not provide an equal education compared to previous years. (Kuhfeld 2020). 

Many students likely lost more than they learned due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. 

If children did not have access to remote learning in the spring, they began the next school year with only 63-68% of the education they needed to begin on an equal playing field — and only 37%-50% for math. For some grades, the lost time sent them an entire year behind in math. (Kuhfeld 2020).

“Catching up” is only the beginning. Kids practically missed an entire year’s worth of education simply because they weren’t given the right to an education. 

3 Major Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many children to fall behind, in and out of the classroom. Yet, children limited by the systems were affected even more.

  1. Limited Digital Access

What happened to children without the resources needed to learn? What about the families without the time, tools, and technology needed for students to keep learning with their class?

  • 42% of households with school-aged children had limited digital access at the beginning of the lockdowns. 
  • Black and Hispanic students were 1.3-1.4 times more likely to have less access than white students. 
  • 2 in 5 low-income households had limited digital access. (Simon, C, 2021)
  1. Racial Violence & Community Distress

Racial violence and abuse became more and more recognized during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time when students of color needed to feel safe, they were even more isolated by the systems. 

There’s no doubt that the trauma of tragedies such as the killing of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and Breonna Taylor impacted Black students across the country. These effects are often even more damaging to the local communities and are shown to negatively impact students in the area. 

  1. Poor Funding & Financial Support

School districts work with what they have to ensure students have the support they need. Still, there’s only so much teachers can do when their district doesn’t have the funding needed. 

Research shows that:

  • Low-income students can fall up to approximately 3 years behind high-income students. (Hanushek, 2022).
  • Students of color have the least amount of resources and support for education, especially in math. 
  • There’s a $2,600 average funding difference per student between poor nonwhite and affluent white communities. (Camera, 2019).

While funding is there, it can quickly run out, especially for districts struggling before the pandemic.

Students facing their own financial problems, health issues, and stress likely fell even farther behind in their learning. From homelessness and frequent moves to less technology and educational support, finances affect education. 

The Education Project: Established March 2020

Before 2020, we knew education was an uneven playing field. We knew communities, districts, and families weren’t provided with the support they needed.

But when students transitioned from the classroom to home, we knew students needed our help. From here, The Education Project was established. 

Ran by a team of volunteer college students and passionate professionals, The Education Project was created to help parents and students meet the challenges ahead of them with confidence. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we’ve provided one-on-one remote tutoring and support to students in need — 100% free of charge.

The Power of Tutoring: The Impact of The Education Project

Remote classrooms often take away the personal, one-on-one connection needed for effective learning. In COVID-19 pandemic educational studies, researchers found that the support and attention available from a parent, teacher, or mentor was crucial in whether or not a child fell far behind.

Tutoring gives students the personalized instruction and mentorship they need for higher learning, driving academic success and higher learning.

The Education Project takes this personalization seriously, assigning each student their own personal tutor. Making a difference since 2020, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished:

  • Tutored hundreds of K-12 students across the country.
  • Found hundreds of qualified volunteers from prestigious universities.
  • 100% of parents reported improvement in their child’s learning after 2+ months with The Education Project.

Moving Forward to a Better World & Better Education

We’re here to learn from the past to create a better future for students — our future leaders, innovators, and teachers.

While we’re no longer in lockdown, the education inequities exacerbated by the pandemic still remain. At The Education Project, we’re committed to bringing these problems to light and creating solutions accessible to those who need them most.

If you’re interested in free, one-on-one tutoring & mentorship for your student, sign up here!

If you’re interested in becoming a tutor and joining The Education Project, apply here!


Barnum, M. (2022, August 25). As pandemic aid runs out, America is set to return to a broken school funding system. Chalkbeat. 

Camera, L. (2019, February 26). White students get more K-12 funding than students of color: Report. U.S News and World Report. 

Hanushek, E. A., Peterson, P. E., Talpey, L. M., & Woessmann, L. (2022, January 18). The achievement gap fails to close. Education Next. 

Kuhfeld, M., Soland, J., Tarasawa, B., Johnson, A., Ruzek, E., & Liu, J. (2020). Projecting the potential impact of covid-19 school closures on academic achievement. Educational Researcher49(8), 549–565.×20965918 

Simon, C. (2021, July 19). How covid taught America about inequity in Education. Harvard Gazette. 

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