Coronavirus and Education
As communities nationwide grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, educators are struggling to provide young people with meaningful opportunities to continue learning even with most public schools now closed. In this installment of Word on the Beat, we look at how digital tools are being put into quick action for K-12 education — and how that’s creating both opportunities and challenges for teachers, students, and families.
Keep Calm and Report On
In any health crisis, the news media is a critical source of information for the public. Education reporters can, and should, play a key role in their newsroom coverage, given that schools are a significant factor in efforts to contain and limit the existing outbreak of the coronavirus.
The pandemic-driven recession has forced states to slash their education budgets. School funding experts worry districts will have to make devastating cuts if the federal government doesn’t help soon.
Despite widespread concerns, two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job.
Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it’s time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.
One of former boxer Mike Tyson’s most famous maxims is that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.
In the 2019-20 academic year, standardized testing — and just about every other aspect of school — is “getting punched in the face by COVID,” said Scott Marion, the executive director of the Center for Assessment, invoking the heavyweight champion at a panel on testing and accountability during the Education Writers Association’s 2020 National Seminar.
American colleges botched the pandemic from the very start. Caught off guard in the spring, most of them sent everyone home in a panic, in some cases evicting students who had nowhere else to go. School leaders hemmed and hawed all summer about what to do next and how to do it.
Pandemic-Driven Disparities Seen in After-School Programs
As coronavirus wears on, what role will out-of-school providers play in meeting community needs?
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a disproportionate toll on the education of low-income students and people of color. Stories abound on the situation, especially when it comes to remote instruction and plans for school re-opening. But even after the school day ends, the disparities persist.
For years, students in Richmond Public Schools have scored among the lowest in Virginia on state math exams. The district recently adopted a new math curriculum, “Eureka Math,” in an effort to turn those scores around.
‘Don’t Get Gaggled’: Minneapolis School District Spends Big on Student Surveillance Tool, Raising Ire After Terminating Its Police Contract
Minneapolis education leaders have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year to surveil children online, even after the district ended its police department contract and launched school safety reforms that officials said would build trust between adults and students.
Emily Oster is a professor of economics at Brown University. She’s also known for her data-driven approach to parenting, which she’s outlined in her two books, Expecting Better and Cribsheet. Earlier this year, Oster brought her parenting approach to an email newsletter that was supposed to cover everything from baby carriers to allergies.
But when the coronavirus upended everything, Oster started writing about making decisions during this time of uncertainty. Like: is it safe for kids to see their grandparents?
Madeline “Madi” Portes keeps a bucket list full of things like visiting Paris and taking violin lessons. But No. 1 was always to get her college degree, and she never forgot that as the years went by.
Portes, of Clermont, failed several times to finish her schooling, coming from poor roots and unable to afford her classes as a working adult. Maybe this was her shot at age 61 to finally get it done when Walt Disney Co. announced in 2018 it would pay tuition upfront — and books, too — for its hourly employees.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, public university cupboards were already pretty bare.
Two decades of declining state appropriations and repeated financial crisis left schools struggling. The two-year state budget impasse that ended in 2017, when schools limped by with limited state funding, nearly did some schools in.
And now, the pandemic.
Faculty at the University of South Florida learned Wednesday that the university will be eliminating its College of Education, a program that had once been the fifth largest college of education in the country.
The school plans to phase out its bachelor’s of education degree over the next few years, as the current students enrolled in the program finish. The master’s program will be shifted into another college, and the university will close the door on its College of Education.
The State University of New York at Oneonta on Thursday announced the abrupt resignation of its president only weeks after it experienced the most severe coronavirus outbreak of any public university in the state.
The departure of the president, Barbara Jean Morris, is one of the most high-profile over the coronavirus crisis, which has thrown many colleges and universities across the country into turmoil as they try to maintain some semblance of campus life during the outbreak.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a significant toll on school enrollment in Wisconsin – especially in the youngest grades.
Public schools experienced an about 3% decline in student numbers this fall – compared to less than 1% decline last year. The biggest drop is in 4-year-old kindergarten. 4K numbers fell by about 16% this fall. Regular kindergarten enrollment fell by about 5%.
How to Get Voters to Care About School Board Elections
School board races are even more crucial during the pandemic
School board races typically get short shrift in election coverage. On ballots, they’re often relegated to the last pages, along with district court judges and densely worded ballot measures.
But school board members play a key leadership and oversight role in local public schools. During the pandemic, that includes an important new responsibility: largely deciding whether (and when) shuttered campuses will reopen, as well as setting the parameters for remote or hybrid learning.
As schools scrambled to create remote learning plans and adjust to the new online reality, parents worried about the increased access to their children’s online data. An early summer survey of approximately 1,200 parents by the Center for Democracy and Technology found widespread worries about children’s online safety and privacy. But only 43 percent of parents said someone at their school had discussed student privacy with them.
‘Right Now, All Students are Mobile’: New Pandemic Data Confirms a ‘Massive Event’ Disrupting School Enrollment
The Greenville County Schools in South Carolina was expecting enrollment to increase by about 1,000 students this fall, continuing a recent pattern driven by affordable home prices and accolades for “livability.” But instead of hitting the estimate of 78,000 students, officials are predicting a precipitous drop to about 74,000.
About two-thirds of Volusia County middle and high school students taking part in remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic have at least one D or F grade, according to progress report data from the district.
Read the full story here.
On the Road With NPR’s Higher Ed Reporter
A nationwide road trip yields insights, first-person accounts of postsecondary life in the coronavirus era
(EWA Radio: Episode 250)
Who takes a cross-country reporting road trip in the midst of a pandemic? NPR’s Elissa Nadworny decided it was the only way to find out for herself what life is really like on college campuses these days, and how students, faculty and administrators are dealing with a new world of logistical challenges.
Three weeks into the academic year, Veronica Macario’s 10-year-old son had yet to attend class at Manzanita Community School. He had a laptop from the school. He’d received directions on how to log into classes. “But since he doesn’t understand English,” Macario explained in Spanish, “he didn’t understand anything.”
Congress and Trump Administration Remain Deadlocked Over a Bill That Would Provide Billions for Schools
As talks over the economic recovery package remain in jeopardy, public schools may once again lose out on tens of billions of federal aid, money they say they desperately need to reopen as they face mounting costs and shrinking budgets.