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.

Highlight

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘You Can’t Change Anything If You Don’t Talk About It’
Chastity Pratt sets the agenda as the Wall Street Journal's first education bureau chief.

As the new education bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal, Chastity Pratt says her personal experiences as a student in, and then a longtime reporter at, Detroit’s under-resourced public schools are helping her shape coverage that guides the finance-oriented readership into appreciating the profound societal and economic impacts of educational inequities. 

Key Coverage

What Missouri Schools Can Learn From How Germany Has Handled School Reopenings

In St. Louis, many public school districts are just beginning to bring students back for in-person instruction. Saying it’s still not safe, other districts continue to offer only a virtual model. But in Germany, things look much different. School was in session last spring, and it resumed in person again in August — and not just for little kids, either.

Key Coverage

How German Students Have Been Back At School Since Spring, While Missourians Are Just Returning

It’s halfway through the fall semester, and many students in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas are just now trickling back into classrooms. Thousands are still learning from home. Meanwhile, in most of Europe, schools have been open since August with students attending in person daily.

A robust public health system, hygiene measures and targeted quarantines of students and staff exposed to the coronavirus get the credit. But that early success could soon be put to the test as cold weather arrives along with a resurgence of cases of the coronavirus.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

COVID-19 Disruptions Raise Questions on Future of Testing, Accountability

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 2020-21 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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

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.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

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.

Student Privacy in the Era of Remote Learning
Webinar

Student Privacy in the Era of Remote 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. 

photo of Elissa Nadworny on location
EWA Radio

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.

Colleges Struggle to Serve Mental Health Needs During COVID
Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Colleges Struggle to Serve Mental Health Needs During COVID
One challenge: Differentiating between COVID anxiety and mental illness

Mental health is an increasingly important issue on college campuses, yet it is a topic that does not get enough coverage from education reporters, speakers said during a panel discussion on the topic during the Education Writers Association’s 2020 Higher Education Seminar.

Steindorf Steam School Sign indicates school Is closed
EWA Radio

‘Left Behind’ By Remote Learning
In Baltimore and other cities, COVID-19 school closures are widening opportunity gaps for vulnerable students
(EWA Radio: Episode 249)

Was the decision to close schools and send students home for remote learning influenced more by politics than the science of what would keep kids safe? That’s the central argument made by ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis in a new story co-published with The New Yorker. MacGillis, who tells the story in part through the experiences of a 12-year-old in his hometown of Baltimore, shows how vulnerable Black, brown, and poor children are most likely to face long-term consequences for lost learning time.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The Top 11 Higher Ed Stories Likely to Make Headlines This Year
Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik highlights COVID, Title IX, affirmative action and more

COVID-19 will continue to be a major story topic for the 2020-21 school year, but reporters should also look at the future of affirmative action and race on college campuses, according to Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik.

Jaschik, veteran higher education journalist and editor, listed his top 11 topics he thinks every higher education reporter should be ready to cover.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

From Processing One Crisis to Covering Another: A New Ed Reporter’s Story
It is an 'incredible time' to be a journalist, says Charlottesville Tomorrow's Billy Jean Louis

Billy Jean Louis is no stranger to writing in times of crisis. As a young teenager in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the 2004 coup d’etat completely shifted the world around him. At the time, many people didn’t feel safe speaking about what was going on in the country due to the lack of press freedom in Haiti.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

School Budget Cuts Amid COVID-19: Eight Areas to Watch
Public schools are 'on the brink of a financial disaster'

School is back in session for approximately 50 million students that attend public schools and over 3 million teachers, but the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way those institutions operate. District leaders are left to substantially nip and tuck their budgets during a pandemic-driven recession.

Three Story Ideas on Students With Disabilities in the COVID-19 Era
Webinar

Three Story Ideas on Students With Disabilities in the COVID-19 Era

Schools opening their doors this fall are bringing back students with disabilities in the first wave of in-person learning. These students are prioritized because online learning isn’t meeting their particular needs, and parents working from home while supporting their children with disabilities face an additional hurdle: they aren’t professionals trained in alternative learning methods.  

Covering Student Absenteeism in the COVID-19 Era
Webinar

Covering Student Absenteeism in the COVID-19 Era

Learning in the pandemic has its challenges, but for a lot of students the problem is more fundamental: They are missing out on school altogether this fall, or showing up sporadically.

Schools that have opted for virtual learning are struggling to get every student connected online and consistently in class. Recent news coverage in Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere has highlighted thousands of students missing from online classes, though intensive outreach has helped reduce the problem. 

illustration of magnifying glass and dollar signs
Tip Sheet

Follow the K-12 Money

This tip sheet was compiled during an EWA 2020 National Seminar caucus on Following the K-12 Money. Participants, led by facilitator Tawnell Hobbs of the Wall Street Journal, shared strategies for tracking how school districts are spending money and budgeting dollars during the pandemic. 

image of students
EWA Radio

A Different Kind of College Rankings
The Washington Monthly uses unique metrics to measure quality, including return on investment, strong outcomes for students of color, and effective civic engagement.
(EWA Radio: Episode 248)

When choosing a college, students and families often turn to popular rankings to help inform their decisions. Rather than focus on test scores and how difficult it is to gain entry, The Washington Monthly gives schools points for factors that benefit society as well as individual students, like upward mobility for low-income graduates and encouraging civic engagement on campus and after graduation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Understanding How Race Affects Reporting Is Crucial for Education Journalists
Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones to white reporters: Study race intensely

The fusillade of insults and threats aimed at The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project” is evidence of the power journalism has to create change, Nikole Hannah-Jones told a remote audience during an appearance at the Education Writers Association’s recent National Seminar.