Here are 3 of the latest and trending U.S. education news stories.
1. Schools Continue to Remain Remote Amid Vaccine Rollout
After a full year of adapting between virtual and distanced schooling, education systems have found themselves breaking into the long-awaited post-pandemic state of the world. The framework and expectations of an educational experience have forever been reshaped and redefined. Struggles were apparent in the past year characterized by new technology needs, adjusted schedules, and social isolation. Yet, as schools begin to reopen, some are choosing to stay remote.
Schools are addressing the skyrocketing demand for virtual education. Online schools have not only been considered more convenient, but also surfaced as relief from bullying, discrimination, and health obstacles. Remote learning and asynchronous lesson recordings have given self-directed students an opportunity to practice responsibility and stay motivated against potential learning loss. To supplement social interaction, some districts have offered extra-curricular activities held in-person for students.
Approximately 20 percent of U.S. districts reported their schools were considering, planning, or already developing an online school option post-pandemic. Whether teaching an online, in-person or hybrid class, educators will continue to face the pressing challenge of maintaining engagement and re-engaging students through the next school model transition. While schools reopen or remain remote, the priority of educators and decision-makers is to give students an interactive, academic experience.
Education technology-empowered teachers through hybrid learning to master new lesson delivery options and class engagement routines. This technological support for professional development and ultimate positive impact on student experiences drove confidence through the pandemic and has the power to continue to do so beyond.
2. Security Concerns Have Spiked
As digitization increased among schools in the past year, so too did cyberattacks. As a result of schools’ widespread shift to digital operations, students and teachers are more susceptible to these violations than ever before. Beyond “Zoombombing” in work or school environments, cyberattacks can have a variety of long-term damages to a school system. Federal agencies have urged schools to be highly wary of the growing threat. In an effort to understand the full risk at hand, educators, administrators, and IT professionals can adapt accordingly from districts that have previously fallen victim to cyberattacking.
The process of recovering from a cyberattack must address all parties involved as well as all stages of before, during, and after the attack. Physical logistics – what to do with devices affected, with routine class schedules – must be promptly and appropriately communicated with staff and student families. The social and emotional impacts of these violations will require districts to restore trust and confidence with their community and potentially with the media. Meanwhile, costly damages are a likely result of cyberattacks and a long-term challenge for the financial decisions of the school system to come.
Just as school priorities have shifted digital to the forefront, the roles of education leaders have adapted as well. While administrators and board members are making decisions about the technology provided by schools, IT professionals have entered a more leadership-driven role to support instructors to manage new technology, address cybersecurity concerns, and ultimately keep students safe and engaged in remote, physical, or hybrid classroom models.
3. Schools Meet Stimulus
As federal agencies flag school priorities, the federal government is helping fund the next steps. Stimulus dollars have given districts the opportunity to invest in long-term decisions for their schools and student success.
While technology spending is a forefront use of stimulus money, decision-makers must determine how to best allocate funds for not only new tech devices but also for resources supporting staff professional development as schools expect their classrooms to fully integrate new technology solutions.
The U.S. Congress has granted almost $200 billion to schools through the pandemic. In March 2020, the federal CARES Act gave K-12 school districts approximately $13 billion through the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). In December, about $54 billion more was granted in ESSER II funds. The third and most recent relief package, the American Rescue Plan, was provided in March 2021 and is designed to support a range of relevant needs of K-12 students and educators. Approximately $7 billion from this plan is serving student internet accessibility. From mental health resources to education technology, the American Rescue Plan can support the increasing need for cybersecurity insurance or increased preference for online schools.