Date Published: Nov 30, 2020
United States Government Accountability Office

Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, almost all school districts rapidly shifted to distance learning in spring of the 2019-2020 school year. This shift laid bare both the logistical and instructional challenges of distance learning, particularly for English learners and students with disabilities, both of whom have faced persistent achievement gaps. This work was conducted as part of GAO’s COVID-19 monitoring and oversight responsibilities under the CARES Act. It examines what is known about the challenges of and lessons learned from providing distance learning to English learners and students with disabilities during school building closures in spring 2020. GAO reviewed distance learning plans from a nongeneralizable group of 15 school districts, selected for their high proportion of either English learners or students with disabilities. GAO also interviewed district officials in four of these 15 districts, selected based on the districts’ detailed plans for distance learning for either group of students; interviewed advocates, researchers, and representatives of associations of school administrators and related service providers; reviewed relevant federal laws including IDEA, regulations, and guidance; and interviewed federal officials.