Quiet Gaps – A CEO’s Reflection

Posted in News Story

By Lynsey Jeffries

Lynsey Wood Jeffries is CEO of Higher Achievement. She is also a guest speaker in CPNL’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program.

The world has gone quiet. A duality of quiet that is both peaceful and unsettling. Forced rest and prioritization for haves; sudden economic devastation for the have-nots. The quiet is disquieting – especially when considering the long-term consequences.

As the COVID-19 virus spreads across our nation, the divisions in our society are widening by the moment. Hourly workers are laid off quickly, as restaurants, shops, and salons are shuttered. 78%[1] of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and 59%[2] of workers rely on hourly wages. This means that the vast majority of Americans are at economic risk right now. The social determinants of health[3] suggest that lower-income populations are more likely to be more vulnerable to the virus as well.

As families tackle this unprecedented, intertwined stress of health and economics, the future of children hang in the balance. 

As middle-class families struggle with homeschooling while self-quarantined, most of their students are already on or above grade level.

Many children from lower-income families, particularly children of color, are entering this devastating period below grade level. Every day that goes by without intentional learning, the achievement gaps[4] widens. The educational gaps between rich and poor, between races, remains. These gaps are widening right now, as schools and families had just days or hours to plan for virtual learning.

Achievement gaps compound over time and give way to the wealth disparities that make our country fragile and disconnected.

We still have time to act to prevent these harms. We are in the early days of school closure. Public policy has a part to play, with distance learning and radically extending the school year. However, even the average citizen can act, too. We can volunteer – now virtually or, on the other side of this pandemic, in-person – as tutors and mentors. High-intensity academic supports from caring adults is proven to close achievement gaps. 

At Higher Achievement, our volunteer mentors do this work, with gold-standard outcomes. During this time, we are calling and supporting all of our scholars, families, and mentors – setting up virtual tutoring, aligned with school resources.

To help our scholars and communities be stronger on the other side of this crisis, we ask you to consider:

We can find community and solidarity in the quiet. In solidarity, we build a tighter social fabric that will make our nation more connected, equitable, and resilient.

Additional articles in this series, Leading in Times of Hyper Change, can be found on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/#34383e5b4f10

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-are-hourly-workers/

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm

[4] https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/gaps/