Imagine it’s August 2021, and the kids are finally able to go back to school without fear of a global pandemic. Parents rejoice. So do teachers. We all give thanks to the medical and logistical experts who rolled out an unprecedented vaccine distribution.
These pressing issues, along with a host of non-pandemic-related ones that have gone unresolved, will face President-elect Joe Biden and his nominee for secretary of education, Miguel Cardona.
The time to start preparing for the next academic school year is now. Throughout the pandemic, we have been falling behind, reacting (understandably) to the crisis of the moment, instead of building capacity for the next year. There’s very little that can be done to fix this February; but a better August is still on the table.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a middle-school student I know. He very bright, but he’s never done well in school. He had trouble staying focused in the busy classroom — getting distracted or tuning everyone out — and then forgetting to turn in work. His perceived failures crushed his sense of self-worth. Now he sits down every day next to a parental figure, opens his laptop and gets straight As.
We need to keep the flexibility we’ve developed on the fly for kids like him. The Department of Education can provide guidance on maintaining that flexibility, articulating the rights of students when it comes to mode of delivery for their educations, and convening (and funding) experts to look at successes and to figure out how to build on them.
And yet this winter is arguably harder than last April and May, when most schools went remote for the first time. Everything — from work to remote schooling — is likely to get harder to manage as our daily infection and death toll continue to rise though this dark winter. Standardized tests should be canceled wherever possible, with schools encouraged to wipe the year away (or at least offer to do so) from the GPA of all students who are struggling.
Across society, the pandemic has intensified preexisting inequalities and, perhaps, made them more visible to folks who weren’t paying attention previously. The problems in our schools exacerbated by a year of distance, lockdowns, fear and unequal access aren’t new. But as we transition out of the Trump presidency — and then, eventually, the pandemic — every school, every official, every state education department and especially the Biden administration has an opportunity to ease the burdens of a lost year and to try to do things better in the future. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to squander.
- Mass vaccination event planned for educators, Walz to make ‘sweeping’ announcement today – KARE11.com
- Let’s Be Number One In Public Education – The Chattanoogan
- Georgia Dept. of Education announces 2021 legislative priorities – WALB
- Gov. Hutchinson launches ‘Ready for Life’ education and jobs program – wreg.com
- Live Updates: Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education – Inside Higher Ed
- Board of Education union calls on Gov. Lamont for a ‘clear’ COVID-19 policy for schools – FOX 61
- COVID testing pilot in early education underway in Massachusetts – MassLive.com
- US Department of Education Announces Additional College Scorecard Updates, Providing Greater Transparency on Borrower Repayment Progress and Postsecondary Costs – U.S. Department of Education
- Ohio Education Association asks state school board member Kirsten Hill to clarify her role in U.S. Capitol pr – cleveland.com