Coronavirus and Education

Overview

Coronavirus and Education
How schools and colleges are responding to COVID-19

The rapid spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — which the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic — has big implications for P-12 and higher education in the United States. Education journalists around the country are playing a vital role in helping communities understand the situation, from school closures to plans for remote learning and making sure high-need students maintain access to wraparound services like health care and meals.

Education Week is tracking state-level K-12 school closures, which includes the closure of both the buildings and in-person instruction. 

While the response to the health crisis is fluid, it’s clear that educators will have to rethink teaching methods. Challenges include adopting new methods of digital learning and instruction if bricks-and-mortar classrooms remain closed for an extended period, as well as helping families struggling with child care issues or mandated quarantines.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — which the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic — has big implications for P-12 and higher education in the United States. Education journalists around the country are playing a vital role in helping communities understand the situation, from school closures to plans for remote learning and making sure high-need students maintain access to wraparound services like health care and meals.

Education Week is tracking state-level K-12 school closures, which includes the closure of both the buildings and in-person instruction. 

While the response to the health crisis is fluid, it’s clear that educators will have to rethink teaching methods. Challenges include adopting new methods of digital learning and instruction if bricks-and-mortar classrooms remain closed for an extended period, as well as helping families struggling with child care issues or mandated quarantines.

Highlight

Word on the Beat: Remote Learning

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.

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Five Tips for Education Reporters Covering the Coronavirus

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.

Latest News

The ‘Terrible Trickle Down’ Of School COVID Protocols

Nine-year-old Landen Sapien started off fourth grade this year with a lot of hope—at first, anyway. His school was one of few in Florida with a mask mandate, after the Hillsborough County School Board defied the Governor’s order that there would be no masking in schools. But amid Supreme Court battles as the first few weeks of school unfolded, his classmates stopped wearing them. Landen says he was disappointed, because no masks meant it would be unsafe for him to go to school, which makes him feel frustrated and sad. 

Latest News

Classes to Go Remote on December Fridays in Detroit schools 

The Detroit school district is moving to remote instruction for three Fridays in December in an effort to slow the spread of COVID and give the staff time to deep clean schools. The move was announced Wednesday on the district’s web site. It comes as the state is leading the nation in new COVID cases.

Latest News

Why There Hasn’t Been A Mass Exodus Of Teachers

Sarah Caswell is stressed about her job every day. The science and special-education teacher in Philadelphia sees things going wrong everywhere she looks. Her high school students have been falling behind during the COVID-19 pandemic, the students and even the teachers in her school rarely wear masks, and a shooting just outside her school in October left a bystander dead and a 16-year-old student in the hospital with critical injuries.

She’s unhappy. But her solution isn’t to quit — it’s to get more involved. “We need to double down,” Caswell said.

Latest News

How do We Help America’s Children Get Back on Track in Reading After Pandemic Setbacks?

Kids have long struggled with learning to read. And then the pandemic hit — disrupting classes, pushing lessons online and ushering in an era of masks, all of which makes it even more difficult to acquire the sounds and syllables that build up language.

The pandemic put learning gaps in the spotlight, as teachers, families and policymakers debated whether the disruption of the last two years will set kids back long term and widen gaps. But even before COVID-19, our schools were in crisis over how to teach students how to read.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

How to Put the HBCU Story in Context
Journalists share strategies for reporting on the chronic underfunding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

If the disparity in underfunding Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) could be told through two schools, consider Texas Southern University (TSU) and the University of Houston (UH). Both started around the same time with similar missions, serving populations with similar economic backgrounds. The colleges were even located across the street from each other.

EWA Radio

What Happened to $190 Billion in School COVID-19 Funds? 
New investigation raises questions on spending priorities of local districts  and whether states are prepared to effectively track the federal aid (EWA Radio Episode 280)

Reporter Annie Waldman and Reporting Fellow Bianca Fortis dug into the data from 16,000 provisional reports from state agencies and determined half the money was spent on programs, services or goods categorized as “other,” meaning no specifics are readily available.

Latest News

CPS Enrollment Continues to Plummet: ‘I would have Never Imagined Seeing this Steep of a Decline’

Chicago Public Schools enrollment has dropped again, this time to 330,411 students, about 10,000 fewer kids than last year, according to numbers the district released Wednesday.

“When I was in CPS my first year, in 2003, we were just under 440,000 students. Even then I was seeing declines of about 3,000 students or so. I would have never imagined seeing this steep of a decline,” new CPS CEO Pedro Martinez told reporters.

Latest News

We’re Losing Our Humanity, and the Pandemic Is to Blame

The stories of cruel, seemingly irrational and sometimes-violent conflicts over coronavirus regulations have become lingering symptoms of the pandemic as it drags through its second year. Two men on a Mesa-to-Provo flight got into a cross-aisle fight after one refused to wear a mask. A Tennessee teenager asking his school board to impose a mask mandate in honor of his grandmother who died of COVID-19 got jeered by the crowd.

photo of office worker
EWA Radio

The Real Story Behind Teacher Shortages
How the pandemic is impacting districts already short on highly qualified teachers, and could slow efforts to spend federal pandemic relief dollars earmarked for student programs and services (EWA Radio Episode 278)

Across the country, school districts are grappling with staffing shortages that are making it tough to recover from the disruptions of the COVD-19 pandemic. Matt Barnum, a national reporter at Chalkbeat…

Latest News

How Across America, Schools Cram for Their Covid-19 Tests

The United States has struggled with Covid testing since the earliest days of the pandemic. Now, nearly two years in — and weeks into another Covid-disrupted school year — school systems across the nation are struggling with the role of testing in keeping children safe and in class.

Latest News

Big Ideas for Education’s Urgent Challenges

Welcome to the start of a new school year and the 2021 edition of our Big Ideas report.

While returning children to school buildings safely and making the year as normal as possible is driving you and your work, we understand how much more complex your job has become.

The cover of this year’s report and the 10 essays inside reflect this complicated moment and the constellation of emotions we know you’re experiencing: hope, excitement, grief, urgency, trepidation, and determination.

Latest News

Education Department Investigating Mask Mandate Bans in Five States

The Education Department on Monday announced investigations into five states that have imposed policies prohibiting schools from imposing mask mandates.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said Monday it sent letters to the chief state school officers of Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennesse and Utah informing them of the investigation into whether the policies discriminate against students with disabilities and health vulnerabilities who face a heightened risk of COVID-19 infection.

Online Learning Will Continue This Fall. What Do Reporters Need to Know?
Webinar

Online Learning Will Continue This Fall. What Do Reporters Need to Know?

Although school districts nationwide are expected to offer full-time, in-person instruction during the 2021-22 academic year, millions of students are poised to stick with online learning, with the number of virtual options growing. This raises a host of important questions for families, communities, and educators.

Watch the Education Writers Association’s timely webinar on remote learning. Experts identified critical questions education reporters should be asking in their local communities and provided some early answers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

With Schools Reopening Full-Time, What Pandemic-Driven Changes Will Last?
Get 7 story ideas to help you cover K-12 and higher education shifts that may have staying power.

Despite the many hardships the pandemic caused, the COVID-19 disruption also sparked – or in some cases accelerated – changes to K-12 and higher education that leaders say should stick.

The speakers pointed to the power of flexibility, the need to focus energy and resources that will serve the “whole student,” and how increased outreach and new communication strategies with students and families could be transformative during a plenary at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar. 

Will the Pandemic Propel ‘Competency-Based’ Education Into the Mainstream?
Webinar

Will the Pandemic Propel ‘Competency-Based’ Education Into the Mainstream?
Instructional model replaces 'seat-time' requirements with focus on mastery of content, skills

The pandemic forced schools to switch from in-person to remote learning nearly overnight, raising questions about the relevance of “seat time” as a standard measure for earning course credit. Now, as schools move into education recovery mode, an alternative model known as competency-based learning is getting a fresh look and is expected to see more widespread adoption.

Participants
Multimedia

How Schools (and Reporters) Can Better Connect With Parents
'Talk to us,' parent organizers urge

The grand experiment with remote instruction in the pandemic hasn’t just impacted teachers and students. It has also changed the relationship of parents to their children’s learning, and provided a firsthand look at the virtual classroom experience.

During a May 4 session at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar, parent advocates and researchers explored how the role of families in education may shift, and ways schools and others can support the change. 

How Schools (and Reporters) Can Better Connect With Parents

Click here to download the transcript of the 2021 family engagement session

The participants were: 

  • Sarah Carpenter, Memphis Lift
  • Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union
  • Vidya Sundaram, Family Engagement Lab
  • Rebecca Winthrop, Center for Universal Education
  • Katherine Lewis, independent journalist (Moderator)