A year after schools suddenly shut down for the coronavirus, many students found their daily school lives upended. As the end of the 2021 school year approaches, many educators are looking at what the future of education will look like. The Washington Post and educational experts say there are seven areas where change is occurring and will continue to impact the future of learning. These areas are remote learning and Internet use; lost learning, mental health, and air quality; and student attendance and assessment reform.
To provide equitable education and to meet the diverse needs of the majority of students during Covid, districts worked to provide students with many remote learning opportunities. Schools furnished students with electronic devices, wifi hotspots, and often even busses equipped with internet capability. While this new learning style did not work well for all students, others found it very successful. A recent poll by POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey of public K-12 school parents, a total of 29 percent of parents would prefer their children continue with some form of remote learning. A RAND survey of school districts also stated that one in five were considering virtual school options for the future. Some states expect remote learning to be the basis for future education, while other states see it as only a supplement to in-class instruction. To ensure all students have Internet connections, the government has pushed the F.C.C. to provide Internet-home connections in all school districts.
Covid has led to lost learning for many students. Educators believe that the way to help these students is not a remediation program, but instead, “acceleration training” that seeks to make grade-level work accessible to those who are behind through a combination of intensive help and modifications. For many students, being out of school has had a dramatic impact on their mental health. Educators recognize this important aspect of student well-being and have recommended that schools in the future partner with mental health providers. Another aspect of student well-being is physical health that includes clean well-ventilated air inside classrooms. This has forced districts to recognize that the infrastructures of many of the nation’s school buildings need upgrading, and with recent government funding hope to see improved environments for students returning to the classrooms.
In the future, school attendance may be quite different from the past. Funding for school districts depends upon the number of students in attendance, but many districts are using enrollment numbers rather than the previous method in which calculations were based on how many students were sitting in a classroom. The prediction is that students may spend part of a week in the classroom and the rest of the time working remotely. Another adjustment that districts are making involves testing that federal law requires to show accountability. Federal funds have provided a pilot program to look at assessment reform. While testing will be required in the future, it may offer a variety of types that more clearly displays a student’s potential.
School districts, forced to become more creative to meet student needs during Covid, are now moving forward, particularly in the seven areas outlined above, so that schools in the future will offer greater flexibility in meeting all students’ needs.
By: Nancy Rubesch