Reimagining the future of public education after COVID
New US Secretary of Education Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaCDC to reconsider latest guidelines amid backlash, spike in cases on Sunday – Officials gear up for Jan. 6 anniversary Education secretary engaged in in-person learning, expects ” bumps in the road ” is absolutely right when he says we would be missing out on a great opportunity if our goal is to reopen our schools to look exactly like they were a year ago today, before the pandemic. Better it said, is to ask, “What do we want our system to look like?” “
While discussions around the reopening of schools seem focused on downsizing and sanitation, we need to think bigger as a country. We now know that education can be more flexible than we thought and meet different needs and preferences. For example, charter schools have experienced registrations are increasing because they quickly adapted to distance learning and offered tailor-made education adapted to the needs of their students. They listened to parents and communities, who were more or less comfortable sending children back to class, and understood the logistics.
Just as the pandemic accelerated the changes that were slowly occurring in other parts of life, it also changed education. We have a unique opportunity to redesign our schools to meet the needs of the future. Let’s start with five areas.
- The one-size-fits-all model of education should disappear. Full-time virtual learning came with challenges, but we’ve proven that education can happen anytime, anywhere if kids have access to laptops, Wi-Fi, and an adult who can help them stay on track. States can push progress further by replacing attendance time requirements with skill-based requirements that allow students to work at their own pace, whether that is past their age or grade level, or by taking more time on topics or concepts when they need it.
- We need to broaden the definition of school infrastructure to include wearable technology. No topic has received more attention in the past year than the Numeric fraction – the gap between students who have easy access to a reliable Internet anywhere, and those who do not. From now on, the Internet and connected objects will be as essential to education as books and desks (perhaps more). We need to make sure every student has access to technology that allows them to learn at school, at home, or anywhere in between.
- Prolonged school closings and virtual role models have taught us that if parents are not happy with what is available to their children, they will make changes. Large school districts that were slow to adjust lost students and record numbers of parents decided to home school. Some have used learning modules – where parents come together to educate their children at home, often with a hired monitor. While this new idea quickly gained popularity, it has also become another example of the inequalities that beset education. Parents want and students need options beyond what is offered to them by school districts. With over $ 120 billion With the federal government’s PreK-12 education COVID relief funding, districts have the opportunity to innovate and deliver education more equitably.
- Schools with more flexibility – such as charter schools – and districts like New Orleans adapt more quickly to the needs of their students. But seeing the bigger picture, states and school districts should give all of their school leaders more flexibility and autonomy to pivot their teaching models and practices according to the needs of their students.
- The traditional school calendar is meaningless and could in fact be harmful. Students went from year to year last fall with no reliable data to show whether they were ready to do so. Now, as more schools resume face-to-face teaching, students will almost immediately be expelled during summer vacation. Borrowing again from the charter school sector, it’s time to rethink school calendars – not having kids in school 52 weeks a year, but, for example, creating learning blocks throughout. throughout the year, with breaks in between where students can catch up before falling too late. The ability to do distance learning well makes this more possible than ever.
State and local leaders have a historic opportunity – and a demand from Sec. Cardona – to re-imagine educational delivery for the modern era. The past year has proven that educators, students and families can be resilient and adaptable and it has given us new clarity on what students and parents want and need.
Let’s not reopen schools as if last year never happened. Let’s use what we learned during the pandemic to make education definitely better for all.
Nina Rees is President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and a former Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the US Department of Education.