Kentucky Students Identify Opportunities for School Improvement in New Coping with Covid Statewide Report

Student researchers release results from continued study of how Kentucky youth experienced learning during the pandemic and continue to recover.

Media Contact: Rachel Belin, Managing Partner, rachel@ksvt.org, (859) 396-6362‬

LEXINGTON – The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) published the second installment of their Coping with COVID in Kentucky research series, composed of data and narratives from over 20,000 student respondents across the Commonwealth. The report includes quotes from Kentucky youth and underscores that while school districts were forced to quickly pivot to online learning for student safety in the spring of 2020, many could have better addressed both student and educator needs.

KSVT researchers found four main trends from over 20,000 responses and 100+ interviews.

  1. Students' reactions to online schooling was varied but skewed heavily negative.
  2. Most students saw a need for more consistent and collaborative decision-making by school administrators.
  3. Students’ mental health needs and lack of school and home boundaries impacted both their well-being and their schooling.
  4. Sudden loss of social connections with peers and with supportive teachers greatly impacted student learning.

Spandana Pavuluri, a senior at Dupont Manual High School in Jefferson County who has been helping to lead the Coping with Covid research for over two years, underscored the urgency the team felt to listen to their peers and honor their trust.

“Beyond simply giving coverage to students, I knew as a researcher, I had to work to give them justice,” she said. “We had to fight for the struggles they boldly brought to us. We had to advocate for the recommendations they made. We had to humanize each and every student because they are not, and never were, just statistics.”

In addition to Pavuluri, the research team comprises Kentucky Student Voice Team researchers Sofie Farmer, Esha Bajwa, Avery Lenihan, Cadence Brown, Francis Musoni and academic partners Dr. Daniela DiGiacomo and Dr. Beth Goldstein of the University of Kentucky.

Esha Bajwa, a freshman at the University of Louisville, joined the research team recognizing the significance of creating more space for students to be included in conversations about how the educational landscape is quickly shifting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students felt ‘stranded’ in a sense where online schooling was not set up in a comprehensive way meant to stimulate learning,” she said. “COVID truly exposed the underlying shortcomings of the educational system in America where those who ‘fall between the cracks’ or those who simply need a little more support were brushed aside. There is still a lot of work to be done in restructuring schools for the better. People deserve more recognition for being able to continue living a life that has been overshadowed by COVID and its long-lasting impacts, especially considering the fact that teenagers are already in a developmental and uncertain stage in their lives.”
“This research is important to share with the wider educational policy and practice community of Kentucky,” according to Dr. DiGiacomo, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information. “What we learn from how students learned during the multiple transition periods that COVID-19 has ushered in has lasting consequences for how we can design better, more equity-centered learning environments for them now and in the future.”
The report can be found online here. KSVT youth researchers are available for public comment.

About Kentucky Student Voice Team

The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) is an independent, statewide, 501(c)(3) organization co-founded in 2012 by a group of Kentucky high school students. As a collective of young people, KSVT is on a mission to co-create more just, democratic Kentucky schools and communities as research, policy-advocacy & storytelling partners. Learn more about the organization at KSVT.org and follow on social media at @kystuvoiceteam.

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