The last two years have heralded unprecedented changes in education. In a matter of weeks in March 2020, students transitioned from attending school in physical classrooms to participating—as best as they could—in virtual classrooms. School leaders and faculty were compelled to figure out, quickly, how to meet the academic needs of students at a distance. All of this was made more challenging in communities lacking robust broadband, in families with multiple students, and in households without internet access or web-enabled devices. Two years later, we take a moment to reflect on the trends in education that are shaping policy, programming, and public opinion.
Technical assistance specialist Kyle Snow and Ohio state coordinators Amanda Trainor and Rose Buckley weigh in on the matter.
Kyle Snow: There are two intertwined trends, I think; a focus on addressing lack of equity in learning opportunities and continuing to address concerns about lost opportunities for learning during and in the emergence from COVID.
Amanda Trainor: I think one of the biggest challenges (and hopefully, it can become an opportunity) is equitable educator recruitment and retention. A lot of the news coverage on this topic points to Covid-19 as the catalyst and suggest that teacher shortages are a problem across the board. I’m interested in what states and support organizations like the comprehensive centers can do to look more closely at the data and find solutions to issues that have been persistent since before the pandemic: recruiting and supporting more teachers of color, supporting teachers to stay at and help transform low-performing schools, and helping more teachers earn essential skills and credentials, like working with English learners and students with disabilities.
Rose Buckley: Public education is facing multiple issues, but the most pressing include the polarizing political turmoil that is spilling over into education causing teachers to leave the field in record numbers. The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated the already present inequalities, especially for historically marginalized and vulnerable populations. Additionally, the pandemic highlighted how schools need greater resources and systems to support mental health needs and enhance social and emotional learning (SEL). Yet some educational leaders are avoiding important conversations about SEL or equity to protect the feelings of powerful political figures while our political figures are failing to protect our schools from rising gun violence.
Contemporary Trends in Education:
- Lack of equity in learning opportunities.
- The need to address learning opportunities lost during the COVID pandemic.
- Equitable educator recruitment and retention.
- Politicization of education.
- Need for school resources to support mental health needs and SEL.