We’re delighted to announce the release of our edFocus Industry Summit Report 2021: The Impact of COVID-19 on K-12 Education.
The edFocus Summit, co-hosted by edWeb.net and Eduscape, provided an opportunity to listen firsthand to leading educators about how the industry can help schools find solutions to the unprecedented challenges created by the coronavirus. You can read the report and listen to the podcasts here.
Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, opened our conference with the observation that, from March to June of 2020, we experienced a sudden shift that has been like an earthquake in education with seismic aftershocks that have brought us where we are today. This is an important moment in the history of education to address what has happened over the past year, and what we hope for the future.
We hosted panels with leading educators in different roles—superintendents, tech leaders, principals, teachers, and librarians—and asked three primary questions:
- What is the biggest challenge you face right now?
- What do you see as the biggest opportunity coming out of the pandemic?
- How can industry partners help?
We were able to listen to the unique challenges facing educators in different roles and also learn what they’ve observed and recommend in common. An important goal of the conference was to bring together leading educators and industry leaders to be in the same virtual rooms together. The ability to use technology to bring people together has been cited as one of the big wins of the pandemic.
To hear their responses to these challenges has been informative and inspiring. Being a good listener is one of the best ways to be a better partner, and this conference provided deep insights into educators’ needs. There were commonalities voiced by educators across the different panels:
- Running two school systems at the same time with the same staff.
- Managing constant change and switching from in-person, to remote, to hybrid learning.
- All teachers were novice teachers this year.
- The social-emotional health of all of the humans in the system.
- Addressing the whole child, but prioritizing social-emotional wellness.
- Administrator and teacher anxiety and stress and self-care.
- Exposing the inequities in the system, especially for historically underserved students.
- More self-directed learning and agency for students.
- More agency, autonomy, and virtual professional learning for teachers.
- Higher parent engagement with virtual conferences and support.
- Rethink the school schedule so it better meets the needs of students and families.
- Rethink learning. We see how we can make education better.
- Be a partner not a vendor.
- Listen and respond to district and educator needs.
- Get rid of deficit language. Focus on acceleration, not remediation.
- Revise curriculum, products and materials to reflect the diversity of schools.
- Make solutions more interoperable so they fit into the overall environment.
Throughout the conference, the presenters talked about the value of collaboration and conversations and how those opportunities help them learn from each other. As one educator said, “I was really blown away by everything everyone else is experiencing. So often we’re in our own little silo, in our own little zone, so it’s really been eye-opening for me as an educator. Thank you so much.”
Schools have been coping with the crisis created by COVID-19 for nearly a year with very little funding and support compared to what is needed. Fortunately, there is better news and real opportunity on the horizon:
- Effective vaccines are now in rapid production and educators have been prioritized to receive them.
- Schools are looking forward to reopening soon.
- The American Rescue Plan Act provides significant funding for transformational change.
- Educators have offered many ideas for how we can improve schools and learning for all students.