In looking at the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the world of education, it is easy to see that education infrastructure needs an update. Individual schools will need to evaluate and improve their sanitization and custodial efforts, even once the pandemic has begun to slow down. The differentiated response of school districts across the country in maintaining some continuity of learning, with some providing robust digital materials for students with devices and connectivity at home while other students received work packets that may never be graded should be a call to action. However, this effort and so many other necessary ones will be impossible without assistance from local, state, and federal policymakers.
Increasing stimulus legislation for education would undoubtedly lead to extraordinary benefits, but such an increase is not in our immediate future. What we should consider in the short-term, then, is repurposing our education funding. Provisions offered to public institutions foster development for all different students in all different stages of the academic experience. Students with specific needs related to socioeconomic status, ability, and similar factors are entitled to the same quality of education as their more affluent counterparts. However, they require more resources to avoid inequity.
The Center for American Progress suggests that Congress should provide funding so that schools can maintain their quality standards while their budgets are “pinched by the effects of the crisis.” Furthermore, the Center understands that the amount of funding and the administering of said funding are equally important. While the Department of Education takes care of that matter, collaboration with Congress and state governments can guide and monitor the usage of those funds.
Without a hefty body of research to understand the exact impacts of COVID-19 on the state of America’s education system, schools and educators may be at a loss for how to proceed. Such widespread school and exam cancellations of this caliber are unprecedented. While current edtech is useful in the short-term, we must understand what implications these cancellations will have on student success now and in the future.
Colleges and other high education institutions are relatively familiar with blended learning and online education. However, students at those institutions are not working in the same academic environment as K–12 students. Not only will new technology be essential for K–12 studies post-coronavirus, but so will online education and classroom strategies. Additionally, addressing the lack of connectivity for the poorest students is an issue that should not fall only on public education to solve.
In order to fully understand the scope of this change, however, a bright light needs to be placed on the significant digital divide. After all, if students lack the technology and digital access necessary to earn a quality education, they are bound to fall behind if schools are forced to stay closed or get shut down again. It is shameful that all too often, students who come to school with less get less at school. In the world of COVID-19, the equity gap is widening, and research and immediate actions to overcome this situation are now more important than ever.
No blanket solution exists for education in the wake of coronavirus. What we need to overcome this crisis and mitigate future ones is research, funding, planning and a commitment not to allow a return of normalcy where such inequities exist for the most vulnerable children. The time has come to reshape K–12 education. This is a call to action and it must not go unheeded.