Coronavirus has been bad for schools. There is no way around that fact. Between having to cancel in person classes, being forced to establish e-learning on the fly, and disrupting the normal processes of feeding children and providing them wrap around services, COVID-19 has proven to be a challenge to the structure of our educational system at every level. However, there has been somewhat of a silver-lining for government leadership and school administrators: leeway.
Because of the aforementioned obstacles, many people are now more understanding when it comes to the education students are getting or lack thereof. But as we return to school, it is important to remember that the public school system was failing well before COVID-19.
We often talk about the problems COVID created, but in truth COVID did not “create” new issues. It exacerbated the ones we already had.
- COVID-19 didn’t create the digital divide it; just brought it to the forefront.
- COVID-19 didn’t cause the gap between inner-city and affluent schools; it just widened it.
- COVID-19 didn’t create the food scarcity problem; it just took away the main ways we fought it.
- COVID-19 didn’t cause the school social worker shortage; it made the job more challenging for the ones we have.
… and the list goes on … and on.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about going back to school in-person. It means we should be realistic about the gaps that our students faced before the pandemic because those will still be there when we return. Many schools are going to use shifting to e-learning after spring break as their primary reason for failing test scores when their students were not on track to pass them in the first place. Some schools are going to use hybrid scheduling or delays in starting in-person classes as their excuse for why students are behind when the facts show those schools have turned out students that were behind for years.
Don’t let officials and administrators use four months of e-learning as an excuse for an 8th grader doing math on a 5th grade level.
Don’t let them tell you COVID-19 is the reason a 4th grader doesn’t know letter sounds and sight words.
This isn’t to minimize the damage that the pandemic has done or to undermine school leaders as students return to physical buildings. It’s just to remind people that we had a long way to go prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 moved back the starting point, but we were never even close to the finish line.