The COVID pandemic is illuminating how systems such as healthcare, housing, and education have never served low-income communities of color well and we witnessed inequities widen substantially in 2020. While Outschool saw demand for online classes explode during the pandemic, we knew we could do more to ensure that learners from traditionally marginalized communities were better represented in the Outschool community.
As a result, we launched Outschool.org, a nonprofit partner to Outschool, in 2020 to provide low-income learners, particularly from communities of color, with greater access to Outschool classes. We wanted to ensure those learners have enriching experiences that are academically and culturally relevant in meeting their needs. To date, through our family assistance program, we have provided $2.3M million and 120,000 hours of Outschool classes to low-income learners. More recently, we awarded two sets of grants totaling an additional $1.8 million in devices, wifi access, and free Outschool classes for schools, districts, and non-profit organizations across the country. These grants have helped spur innovations, so these institutions can better serve their most vulnerable learners.
Addressing Unfinished Learning
Outschool.org is seeking to engage more deeply with the Outschool educator community in our ongoing efforts. We’re piloting a series of “virtual academic camps” to directly address unfinished learning faced by many learners during the 2020-21 school year. Our goal is to provide learners who might be behind with the support they need to engage in grade-level content during the 2021-22 school year.
While we’re still crafting all the specifics, we aim to start the pilot during the summer and continue throughout the new school year. We plan to employ educators to guide a group of learners throughout weeks of focused learning (1-2 hours a day). Learners will also get more support (other Outschool classes, tutors, and digital resources) so their instruction is personalized, engaging, and sufficient to achieve grade-level performance.
We hope that the summer pilot will inform ongoing models of support for low-income learners of color. We will continue to refine our model through our partnerships with community organizations, districts, non-profit organizations, and Outschool educators so that we can keep providing this important instructional experience to Outschool.org families.
Executive Director, Outschool.org