Recovery. Our approach to returning to school in September 2021 has to be one of recovery. The challenge faced by educators is that recovery must be as unique as the impact of the pandemic was on each child. Mental health is as much of a concern as is unfinished learning. Teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, and administrators must all work together to determine best practices. This is a never before traveled path by current participants. There must be slow and measured steps taken as the best route for each child is determined.
Renewal. The age-old system of grouping children by grades may need some overhauling or renewal. As children of the same grade level return to school with varied levels of participation in learning during the past year, there will be many gaps in their proficiency. The grade a student is in will now mean less that ever before. This is a crucial opportunity to find new pathways to address learning gaps such as multi-age mastery-based groups independent of grade level. The key will be creative thinking in this matter.
Reports. Educators have reported that there have been many students not enrolled in online learning this past year, and that has been especially prevalent among kindergarteners. These reports could likely lead to a larger that normal kindergarten enrollment which may bring about more split age classes of kindergarten and first grade as well. Such classes could possibly present a wider range of abilities and skills than ever before experienced by these primary educators.
Remote Learning. COVID-19 brought about the necessity for educators to adopt new approaches to instruction and assessment. Educators rose to the challenge and implemented remote learning, applying their creative and flexible attributes as they always seem to do. Nearly all teachers now expect to continue using digital tools at least some of the time when they return to the classroom.
Research. Research must continue to determine impacts of COVID on student learning. This data will be used to inform recovery policies in our schools. Research will continue to explore national trends in student learning as well as examine variation across subgroups and modality of instruction.
Recognition. As the pandemic progressed, many school districts recognized that traditional grading systems needed to be removed or adjusted because they were placing undue pressure on students. More grace was given to students with extended time or the ability to reassess to demonstrate their learning. As we go forward this school year, re-evaluation of the “A – F” system should occur; does it really demonstrate genuine learning?
Relevance. How relevant are the current accountability and assessment tools to school systems? These need to be re-evaluated and re-aligned to true and substantive learning. How can interventions be equitably applied? The stimulus package received by public schools should help with the research and implementation of new and varied methods of identifying gaps in learning outcomes and growth and using the appropriate evidence-based interventions, while still holding those in charge accountable.