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Survey Results Published on the Impact of COVID-19 on American Indian K-12 Students

San Diego, CA

The Covid-19 crisis has brought with it an educational inequity crisis in the United States and California. Data from a recent survey assesses American Indian student academic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and results show how broad the pandemic's impact on education for this community might continue to be. The survey was led by the nonprofits California Indian Education for All California (CIEFA) and  the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center (CICSC), in partnership with, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center (CIMCC) and the San Diego  County Office of Education (SDCOE). 

A CIEFA survey found that one in four American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) students in  California does not have access to a computer and reliable internet access.  

“Advocacy is critical because Covid-19 has made visible the structural inequities that plague our education systems and nowhere is that more evident than within our California AIAN student  populations, said Nicole Myers-Lim, Director, The California Indian Museum and Cultural  Center. 

CIEFA research team found that childcare has been an ongoing challenge for families with  nearly half of all those surveyed experiencing gaps. The summary findings, released were based on an online survey in an effort to support  AIAN students in California who have been historically underserved. The survey was conducted  from May to June 2020 and represented 97 Tribes. The research study received Instructional  Review Board (IRB) approval in accordance with the California State University, San Marcos IRB  procedures for research involving human subjects.  

The survey underscored that extensive research is needed to determine the rate of learning  disabilities and differences throughout Indian Country.  Over all one in eight students receives special education services in the state of California. Additional data is needed specific to AIAN students. During the pandemic, it is critical that AIAN  students and parents have increased access to and resources for assessment, diagnosis, and  distance learning support if we are going to effectively work to counteract these negative  outcomes.  

  • The survey found that 44% of respondents reported a learning difference or disability.
  • 13% of respondents indicated they had no access to specialist for their special needs’ child due to COVID19. 
  • 19% of respondents indicated they had limited access to specialist for their special  needs’ child due to COVID19. 

For many AIAN families in California, COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning are impacting  students’ ability to access consistent nutrition and counteract social isolation through  connection to their teachers, peers, and community and cultural activities. 

  • More than 40% of families surveyed rely on their school for meals.  
  • Nearly one in 10 families said there is sometimes or often not enough to eat at home.
  • 36% of students’ psychological well-being has worsen due to COVID-19. • Survey found that nearly 70% of students are not getting enough physical exercise as a  result of COVID-19. 
  • Survey found that 45% of families experienced a decrease in income during the COVID 19 pandemic. 

Many Tribes and tribal community organizations are working to increase protective factors to  address both the educational and emotional and physical well-being needs of AIAN students, as  well as counteract negative outcomes of historical trauma. This will take enormous resources,  infrastructure and strategies to fill the gaps caused by COVID-19.  

“I want to thank all the organizations who participated in this review of COVID-19’s path of  destruction in our communities. Their findings revealed what we suspected – the disease was  especially vicious among communities of color. In my own American Indian Alaska Native  community was almost two times that of White people. The study also begins the process of  digging deeper into why these communities suffered disproportionately to their populations. It is critical that studies like these continue so that we can undertake the difficult work of  remedying disparities.” Assemblymember James C. Ramos  

It is clear that our American Indian families in California are experiencing disproportionate  impacts and as educators, policy makers, and advocates, immediate action and investment is  needed.

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Survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on American Indian K-12 Students in California