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.
More ‘Monster Walks,’ Fewer Water Fountains: How Two Cleveland Schools Stayed Open Through the Pandemic With Few COVID Cases and More Learning Opportunities
Staff at St. Stanislaus elementary school in Cleveland have spent the school year constantly reminding students to keep masks up over noses, to keep safe distance, and sanitizing everything, including the Easter eggs given to the youngest students.
They even had students do the “monster walk” – walking between rooms with arms stretched out in front of them to create social distance, and placed jugs of water in classrooms instead of water fountains.
More than a year into the pandemic, how students are faring, and how much they’re learning, has drawn intense attention. Billions in federal aid are coming to schools to address “learning loss” — an academic concept that has seeped into the national consciousness as educators, families, and students measure the impact of the unprecedented disruption.
More school districts are turning to digital surveillance to keep tabs on students during remote learning. That has some families, educators, and privacy experts concerned, reports Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk.
Emily Tate of EdSurge explains why some guidance counselors are taking steps to address their implicit biases, and how that could improve services for students going forward.
Like many students taking college courses during the coronavirus pandemic, Alexis Lopez struggled with a poor Wi-Fi connection and professors who didn’t offer much support.
“They couldn’t really help us. They didn’t really know what to do for us,” said Lopez, who remembers becoming so frustrated in front of her computer that she burst out crying. “We had to do everything by ourselves.”
In 2017, as many as 4.5 million young people—or 11.5 percent of young adults ages 16 to 24—were neither in school nor working, according to the nonprofit Measure of America. By the summer of 2020, the organization estimated, the ranks of these “disconnected” young adults had swelled to 6 million.
Read the full story here.
Sleep-deprived adolescents — forced for generations to wake for school before the chimes of their circadian clocks — have had an unexpected break amid the anxiety and losses of the pandemic. Remote learning has allowed many of them to stay in bed an extra hour or more, providing a “natural experiment” that sleep experts hope will inform the long and stubborn debate over school starting times.
Read the full story here.
Let’s Talk About Teachers’ Unions
In Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, the high-powered UTLA labor organization was a key player in determining how, and when students continued learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
(EWA Radio Episode 265)
The growing clout of teachers’ unions is becoming one of the nation’s most attention-getting education stories. Before the pandemic, successful “Red for Ed” unionized teacher strikes and demonstrations won long overdue funding increases for schools and pay raises for instructional staff.
Some of the children in Room 132 have turned nine years old since I last saw them in-person in October.
The Level 3 (like third grade) students at the Josephine Hodgkins Leadership Academy in the Westminster Public School District are thrilled to be back in class after going through remote learning part of November and all of December.
The kids crowd around me at recess to catch up, bursting to tell me about what remote learning was like, how they think they’re doing in school now, and what it feels like to be back.
One Texas Town, Two School Districts, Clashing Mask Policies: How Science and Politics Collided in New Braunfels’ Classrooms
In what quickly became a conversation about science, personal liberty, and the role of government, the town’s two school boards, New Braunfels ISD and Comal ISD, landed on opposite sides of the face covering debate earlier this month after Gov. Greg Abbott announced the statewide mask mandate would end March 10.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, districts have been bombarded with unexpected costs: iPads for remote learning, jugs of bleach to disinfect classrooms, Plexiglas for safety dividers, hazard pay for janitors, and PD for remote teaching.
But the public school system’s fiscal infrastructure is infamously rigid, making it almost impossible for administrators to pivot suddenly and spend large chunks of money on anything other than big-ticket items such as teachers, administrators, and curriculum.
Six years ago, barely a third of the students at East High School, in Rochester, N.Y., graduated on time. Students were being suspended at a rate of more than 2,000 each year. More than half were chronically absent, and more than three-quarters couldn’t meet the state’s academic benchmarks.
In 2015, at a time when East High—one of the city’s oldest and biggest—had been deemed New York state’s worst-performing school, the district’s board let the University of Rochester take the reins.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to Speak at EWA’s National Seminar
Confirmed speakers include educational leaders, researchers and experts.
The Education Writers Association is delighted to announce that U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will speak – and field questions from journalists – at the virtual National Seminar to be held May 3-5, 2021
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its recommendations for social distancing in K-12 schools Friday, saying 3 feet of space between students who are wearing masks is a sufficient safeguard for safety in most classroom situations.
Many educators and policy makers viewed the agency’s previous recommendation of 6 feet of space as a major hurdle to a full return to in-person school during the COVID-19 pandemic. And some feared the more rigid guideline could affect schools’ ability to return to fuller in-person operations in the fall.
Few issues this year have been as rife with division and drama as the on-again, off-again efforts of school districts to restart in-person learning. President Biden vowed to open most public schools in his first 100 days—but his pledge was quickly scaled back to only a majority of elementary schools.
The nearly $2 trillion stimulus package President Joe Biden signed into law last week contains an historic infusion of federal aid for schools, colleges and universities. Education journalists will play an important role in shedding light on the uses and impacts of that funding – over $125 billion for K-12 and nearly $40 billion for higher education.
Where exactly will the money from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 go? How will it be used? Will the funds “rescue” the schools and students with the highest needs?
‘Panic Mode’: Austin ISD Needs To Evaluate 800 Students For Special Ed. It Doesn’t Have The Staff To Do It.
More than 800 students in the Austin Independent School District are being denied their legal right to a special education evaluation.
An evaluation is the first step in the process to get special education services. Without one, there is no official help in class. So if a child who struggles to read out loud never gets a diagnosis of dyslexia, she can’t work with a reading specialist. Her teacher might not know to give her more time on reading assignments.
A new study adds to the mounting evidence of lost learning due to school closures during the coronavirus pandemic, with the ability of students in early grades to read aloud quickly and accurately about 30 percent lower than normal over the past year.
The research released Tuesday by Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent research center based at Stanford University, examined 250,000 oral reading fluency scores for students in first through third grade last spring and fall in over 100 school districts across 22 states.
Los Angeles students are a critical step closer to a return to campus beginning in mid-April under a tentative agreement reached Tuesday between the teachers union and the L.A. Unified School District, signaling a new chapter in an unprecedented year of coronavirus-forced school closures.
When the Child Care Gap Is a Chasm
How the COVID-19 pandemic worsened existing shortages of early learning and child care programs, slowing down the economic recovery and putting some kids at risk (EWA Radio Episode 264)
In many communities, the demand for reliable, affordable child care has long outstripped the number of available spots. The coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the shortage, and many mothers have left the workforce to stay with their young children. In central Washington, the situation is taking a bite out of…
Who Will Actually Go Back to School? Many Families of Color, Kids with Health Issues don’t Feel Confident
The polarizing debate over how and when to reopen schools has revolved around an argument that children — especially students of color — do better when they’re learning in school buildings. But some families are pushing back against that idea, finding that their children are doing just as well, and sometimes better, when learning from the safety of their own homes. Not because online learning has been great, but because in-person school was awful.