Signs of hope and progress in the restless-filled back-to-school season

In my 25 years of education, I can’t remember a more irritating-filled school time than now. On Monday, more than half of our country’s children will return to school. For billions of children, they have stepped into the classroom for the first time in more than a year.

The school to which they are returning has changed forever. Last year, An unprecedented number of families left the public system, While schools wrestled to develop their online learning muscles while trying to ensure that their most vulnerable students were given diet and emotional support. Educators bravely asked Hercules for a system that had long been under-resourced.

The kids are also coming back to change. The one-year zoom classes and the cancellation of sports and social events had an adverse effect on their mental health. Screen time doubled, Although it was not all passive. Many have increased their investment in the online world of gaming, Investment And entertainment because they discovered new connections to cope with isolation.

There are signs of another shock at the start of this fall. Schools that started due to the growing number of coward cases have already returned to remote notifications. Patchwork of inconsistent security protocols has pitted schools against state authority over methods such as masking. As the country wrestles with how to teach its history, the curriculum has also become a pawn of bias.

This is a crucible year for our schools, as it is for our public-aided institutions. But unlike last year, when the challenges weren’t ready for the system, we saw what a difference it really makes in supporting our teachers and students. What we have learned gives me hope, and schools have never had a great opportunity to rediscover themselves from the inside out, in a way that is aligned with what our children need and the demands of our democracy.

One key element is the value of virtual schooling, and it will continue to grow. For decades, online schooling has grown under the category of “independent study” in the shadow of our public school system, usually reserved for children with illness or disability. Not wanting to divert their attention from individual education, the districts often outsource independent studies to third-party vendors such as Connection Academy and K12 Stride. Meanwhile, families began pushing the boundaries of virtual schooling by connecting with online content and other homeschooling children.

The epidemic forced traditional brick and mortar schools to adopt virtual education and put their efforts behind the systems, materials and pedagogy needed to provide schools remotely. The learning curve was sometimes high and painful, but the muscles were still built. Many families now feel that schools should offer virtual education as an alternative Indefinitely.

New infrastructure, including state legislation promoting home virtual schools, has spread new virtual academies across the country. In fact, 133 of the 200 largest school districts Are offering their own virtual academies.

An optimistic decision is that districts will eventually have the resources and freedom to create new models that combine new technology and the best technology and the best personal education. A more pessimistic view is that as dollars lag behind students, districts will give them virtual academies to keep at home, but not put much effort into their quality.

I am optimistic. The employees who lead the creation of this virtual academy are often innovators looking to create their entrepreneurial energy new and special. They are building on what they have learned during the epidemic With lower limits. These virtual academies can become laboratories through which the best ideas are conveyed to the districts.

Improved technology infrastructure can make it more convenient for districts to work with remote teachers for instruction, mental health care, and special interventions. Also New opportunities open up for them Who prefer to teach remotely for lifestyle or safety reasons. Schools are expanding their support village for students and bringing in remote teachers to provide 24/7 homework help, reading experts, guidance counselors and therapists.

This is a big change for our public school system, because so much inequality is driven by geography and low resource locations. In the future, schools will not be limited by the staff and professionals available at driving distances.

Another important learning is that socio-emotional learning has become a priority. Children’s mental health has been declining for the past decade. From 2009 to 2019, the percentage of high school students who experienced persistent feelings of sadness or despair Increased from 26 to 37 percent. Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated during this time. Last November, the CDC reported an increase in this amount Emergency department visits related to mental health In children under 18 years of age. Two-thirds of parents were worried About the long-term effects on their child’s mental health.

School leaders are taking action. Each ESSER III plan (part of the American Rescue Plan) was submitted to the Federal Department of Education Includes references to mental health support. As they invest more in resources and staff for intervention, schools are also turning to a language, culture and environment that enhances mental health. As the adoption of technology-enabled support and the pace of change increases, the role of schools is increasing towards increasing self-awareness, emotional balance and mental resilience.

Next year will be as challenging for our public school system as ever. But never before have they had the funds, regulatory independence, technological infrastructure and the right to social restructuring.

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