The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted — and deepened — the disparities within the U.S. education system, including for students who take Advanced Placement courses. To address such discrepancies, former Oakland, California, teacher Amanda DoAmaral founded Fiveable, an online social learning platform for high school students whose mission is to “democratize” access to AP courses, especially for students of color.
DoAmaral recently joined Yahoo Finance to talk about about online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic as well as Fiveable’s spike in users.
“A lot of what I did in my classroom was expanding access to tests like AP for my students, especially students of color, and the real way to do that is to make sure that you’re being very intentional about inviting students into the space,” she said.
The education platform has seen a surge in users amid the pandemic. Fiveable saw an 500% increase in users from 2019 to 2020, and the company says that currently about 100,000 students are using the platform each week.
DoAmaral notes that COVID-19–induced virtual learning has led to many students feeling isolated, which can hurt academic performance.
“It’s a really stressful and overwhelming time for students and parents alike. And so one of the things that we are really focused on is supporting students when they’re feeling this sense of isolation and lack of motivation. This really existed before COVID as well, especially in studying.”
DoAmaral says that bringing students together during these trying times is critical for their success.
“Now that students are learning remotely, you’ve kind of lost a lot of those connections at school that really make school a lot more welcoming. And so one of the things that we’ve really focused on is community and creating spaces for students to connect not only on academics but also on topics like mental health politics, climate change,” she said.
“We have an LGBTQ community topic that really allows students to connect in ways that to see them as the whole person and allow them to find students like that have a similar background to them or that they have shared experiences. And it makes everything a whole lot easier.”
DoAmaral tells Yahoo Finance that making learning fun and relevant for students is key to having them take AP classes, and education in general, more seriously.
“I think just making it actually relevant and connecting it to students, real-world experiences, and then also making it clear about how a lot of these different subjects, whether on their own or in combination, can actually lead them to think about different careers.”
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.