A nationally renowned research organization has released a glowing case study of the ‘pandemic pod’ learning environment the African Leadership Group ran during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the after-school tutoring program that continues to run to this day.
The Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington found that the pandemic pod, which served an average of 12 students from grades 1-10 from three school districts during part of the 2020-21 school year, not only kept vulnerable students from falling behind but in some cases accelerated their learning.
“The structure and schedule of the pod, along with tutoring, also helped some develop stronger study habits and become more self- disciplined students,” the report says.
Researchers recount how over the years, ALG has created a strong program of educational advocacy, helping the families of African immigrant students – and others – advocate effectively for their children.
“COVID school closures threatened the gains families had made in these areas,” the study says. “Their language or educational backgrounds sometimes limited how much they could help with American schoolwork. Though ALG had never contemplated operating anything resembling a school, its leaders stretched their vision and resources to do just that when they opened the doors to a pandemic learning pod in August 2020.”
The pod succeeded in large part because of ALG’s work over the years to build strong relationships with African immigrant families, the study says, even as the composition of the immigrant community shifted “from predominantly French speakers from West Africa when Papa Dia first arrived in the Denver metro area to non-French speakers.”
ALG’s Education Program Coordinator Ousman Ba supervised the pod, and was praised in the case study for his agility in pivoting to meet student needs. The structure of the pod, which brought students together in a socially-distanced room, not only allowed parents to go to work, but helped students from feeling as isolated as they might have otherwise.
“One student acknowledged what some parents reported: being together motivated students who were easily distracted at home or otherwise less interested in school to complete and submit assignments, and tutors provided one-on-one individual attention that students needed but often did not get in school,” the report says.
“And, parents said, even if students were all tied to their laptops for much of the day, being around other children helped counter the isolation their children felt during the pandemic and improved their social well-being.”