Advancing Forward

Posted on: Tue, 09/15/2020 - 12:00

It is easy to talk about the things we are missing due to the pandemic. However, we are also learning things that I hope will guide us going forward.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Adversity is the mother of progress.” The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly created much adversity for our global community. How will we use this adversity to progress?

There are several areas in which I hope we use what we have learned during the pandemic in the public education arena:

  1. One size does not fit all. Most of our educational structures still operate with the industrial mindset of an assembly line. We put students into a grade level based on age and deliver a curricular model designed to meet performance standards mandated for that grade or course.

    As we moved to a virtual model of instruction during the pandemic, it became more obvious that students progressed at very different rates. Some easily adapted to virtual learning, while others struggled without the personal interaction of the classroom. The variation in where students are and what support they need will be far greater when virtual learning ends.

    The individualized approach will be essential to support every student’s progress. Creative groupings to meet students’ needs will be required. Students who thrived in the virtual model need to have that option.

    I hope we will be open to conversations that stretch the boundaries of our current structure for education and embrace the possibilities for personalizing education in the future.
  2. There are many ways to demonstrate what you have learned. During the pandemic, many students have not been able to take the SAT exam. Many colleges have adapted and looked at using grade point averages or class rankings as primary screening tools for admission. These measures often reflect a student’s “body of work” rather than a one-moment-in-time test. And colleges are finding these measures to be strong predictors of academic success.

    In K-12 education, we were unable to administer the federally mandated assessments last spring. Yet, our teachers can tell us how students are doing with reading and mathematics. Through informal assessments and evaluating the student’s “body of work,” educators can determine progress and need.

    I hope the elected officials who feel that annual assessments are the most critical component in judging what students have learned and whether schools are successful will pause and engage in meaningful dialogue regarding the over reliance on testing in the United States.
  3. Access and achievement gaps are community issues. The pandemic put a spotlight on the impact of poverty, lack of internet access, lack of quality daycare, and a variety of other inequities found in communities across the country. There is a fundamental need for systemic policy change in these areas. Schools cannot solve this problem alone.

I intend to work toward a concerted and collaborative effort to find ways to truly “level the playing field” for each and every student in our schools.