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What is new normal system of education?

What is new normal system of education?

Winston Churchill once said:

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,”

And this can apply directly to the COVID-19 pandemic that has currently taken over the world. Due to the risks associated with contracting and spreading the virus, the United States has needed to adjust various societal standards. Many of these changes made from necessity have shown positive results and have led the world to wonder why these changes were not made earlier. Furthermore, whether certain aspects of student education that were once the societal norm would be deemed obsolete  forever.

At the center of attention is how the education system will need to be altered for the time being and the foreseeable future. The state of secondary education has been adjusting with the advancement of technology and shifting social priorities. Now, with modern technology, opportunities to reimagine and reform the education system to ensure equitable and effective  outcomes, such as removing the requirement of standardized testing and compulsory attendance  laws, is achievable. 

The Coronavirus pandemic has already changed the basic way schools do their work. 

Most schools have either shifted to “old-fashioned correspondence schools, with majority of interaction happening by written mail or trying to recreate the school setting using online resources such as Zoom” (Harris 2020). Others have adopted a hybrid schedule between online and in person teaching. In all these cases, the shift is thought to be a temporary solution until the  world and education return to normal. The issue is that there has been precedent set as to why  returning to normal may prove to be impossible.

After the devastating hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, many houses were destroyed, and the city’s population was forced to relocate to wherever was available. How would this affect each school’s attendance zones? “Attendance  zones assign students to the schools they attend based on where they live,” (Harris 2020) and these zones made it illegal to try to attend a school outside of your designated zone. Because  families were constantly moving from one temporary home to another these zones would have  required the students to constantly change schools. Also, the returning population after the  disaster was too dispersed to have enough students in any one attendance zone.

To solve this issue, New Orleans decided to allow “school choice”. Giving families the option to send their children the school of their choice no matter their current attendance zone.

Long after the city recovered from most of the effects from Katrina, the city of New Orleans kept the “school choice” laws in place.  

Early childhood education through USAID in Ziway, Ethiopia

This is because families quickly got used to having a choice which to them was an overall improvement compared to the previous laws (Harris 2020). The same can be forecasted in 2020 and moving forward. During the COVID-19 pandemic, similar problems are occurring concerning access to traditional schooling.

In this case it is not because the schools are destroyed. It could be argued that the COVID-19 schooling situation is more severe and apt for change because there is no access to every school, whereas during hurricane Katrina many schools survived. Either way, if more effective and efficient ways of teaching in secondary schools are discovered, such as the allowance of school choice in 2005, or the removal of standardized tests or the inclusion of more career based technical skills in 2020, it is highly  unlikely that the nation would move backwards when the pandemic concludes. 

In order to make appropriate changes to the education system, specifically with secondary schools. As a result, it is essential to understand what is flawed and what is working well in the current system.

A large concern from the public is: how fair the standardized tests are today? 

that were required by colleges for many years really are. Standardized tests such as the ACT, which was founded in 1959, and SAT, which was founded in 1926, have been used to assess student learning, and how prepared and qualified one is for college since the mid-19th century 

(Association, 2020). These tests were a tool used to try to create an objective measure for a  student’s intelligence level and ability to critically think under time pressure. Because schools  have different grading systems and different levels of rigor from class to class, grade point  averages were not accurate indicators of how ready a student truly was when coming out of high  school. The consensus for many years was that the ACT and SAT were effective in helping  colleges find the best suited candidate for their higher education facility. The issue with these  standardized tests which have been brought up by educational reform groups for many years is  the “inherent advantage that wealthier students because their families can afford expensive  coaches and prep exams” (Vigdor 2020).

Some colleges have begun to make these tests optional for applicants from high school due to the unequitable nature of the tests. A standardized test’s goal is to ensure fairness and equal opportunity to succeed.

Historical Madrasah(school) in Baku, Azerbaijan

However, if students in affluent areas have tools and hours of practice to maximize their performance while many students in less affluent areas have little to no access to these tools, then the results are not a reasonable judgement of intelligence. In addition, because the test favors the wealthy, it in effect puts “minorities and groups such as the disabled at a large disadvantage” (Joshua 2020). Due to the Coronavirus which caused many high schools to switch to teaching remotely or closing altogether, and in order to reduce spread of the virus, “more and more universities are waiving standardized test requirements for 2021 applicants” (Vigdor 2020). A pivotal option arises from this development.  If the pandemic concludes, these inherently racist tests may be reinstated by colleges or permanently removed from requirements. 

When initiating social change, half measures, where injustices are not fully abolished or changed, should not be taken.

The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has the potential to change teaching forever. Schools have had to quickly generate ideas and plans for how to continue to effectively educate the students. Initially many schools switched to virtual learning.  Schools in wealthy areas, who had access to computers and Wi-Fi, were able to adjust and continue their education at a similar trajectory. However, students in lower income areas, who have minimal access to electronics and other means of virtual learning, had no way of maintaining the same level of education.

A viable solution to this disparity is to end compulsory education laws. In 1852 when Massachusetts became the first state to enact a compulsory education law, which required every city and town to offer primary school education. Since then  “all children across the US are required to attend public or private schools from the age of six to  sixteen” (Joshua 2020).

The pandemic has brought up an argument for ending the mandatory obligation for all children to attend school.  

Temporarily ending or altering the requirements for the compulsory education laws would then allow parents to have the option to take their children out of school for a year. It may seem unwise to halt a child’s education in the middle of their developmental stage of life, but there are clear benefits. For example, students who are not receiving adequate education through the new virtual environment can fall behind in class.

This creates massive stress for the student and their parents who are likely dealing with their own economic issues due to the COVID-19 virus and its effects on the economic status of struggling families. This “gap year” would also allow students of a variety of ages to still gain experience outside of the traditional classroom setting, and “high school age students could even find work for the year to help the family economically while gaining valuable professional experience” (Joshua 2020).

Although removing a child, especially in elementary or middle school, for a year may seem counterproductive because those years of learning are crucial.

Moreover, it would compare to holding that child back a grade. Because that child would have a really hard time receiving a proper education, the child could be put into learning pods or other developmental programs outside of  the school so they would still be receiving some sort of education. A natural issue with children  not going to school is that schools receive funds based on the number of students attending.  These funds go directly to teacher’s salaries among other necessary investments so a reduction in  attendance would likely mean teachers would need to be fired in accordance.

This problem could be solved with an increase in federal funding by either reallocating funds towards the public education systems or raising taxes. Similar to the relief packages given out by the federal government, a temporary relief plan for schools would allow a reduction in students while keeping the necessary number of teachers employed.

For example, taking a small portion of the large military funding in the United States, could make a substantial difference for public education institutions.

A positive externality for this plan would be that schools would naturally  have freed up space, making socially distancing easier. The safety of students and teachers is  paramount, so it is another added benefit. The federal government would be making a decision that benefits the country if the compulsory education laws were temporarily or even permanently removed.

In accordance to the previous recommendations that should be accelerated due to the  current climate with the pandemic, there are changes to secondary schooling that would benefit  the United States society and can be accelerated by the switch to virtual learning. One of these  changes is a move towards an education system with a greater emphasis on career training. In  2020 and moving forward, the workplace demands a “just-in-time” skill set which includes more  technical skills and partnering closely with industry so the curriculum helps develop skills that  are directly transferable to the modern world. Technological advancements are “outpacing  academic advancements creating a natural but worrisome skills gap” (Legeron, 2020).

The solution to this skill gap is currently in development and generating promising results.

Career and technical education programs are already in effect across the United States in many schools.  These programs worked well in a traditional classroom setting, but the move to a virtual setting has allowed for these programs to become easily available to students nationwide. These programs function as a class taught by a qualified teacher in subjects varying across fields such  as architectural drafting, welding, and graphic arts, depending on what the school wants to  include.

The key to the success of these programs is that the “skills being taught to middle school and high school students are tied to viable industries,” (Legeron, 2020) which then allows students to come out of high school with desirable skills on their resume. Also, with the switch to online learning it has become evident that some students may work well with a more flexible schedule, but the majority need a fixed schedule to remain focused and generate the best performance possible (Legeron, 2020). The common denominator was found that students  learned and performed better with a teacher giving live instruction which allowed for questions to be answered as they were thought up by students.

Because of this schools should make sure that whenever there is a choice, live instruction is chosen over an asynchronous method of teaching. 

Maximizing the introduction of the career and technical education programs into secondary schools allows for more “work ready” students coming out of high school. For example, a middle school in Santa Rosa County, Florida has “had five out of the eight seventh and eighth graders who went through the career and technical education programs that have passed the Florida CAPE CompTIA IT Fundamentals and Remote Certification test and achieved certification” (Legeron, 2020).

This program is taught with some theory, but mostly hands-on workshops for industry linked skills. This test is normally taken by adults looking for technical jobs such as programming or engineering. For a 13-year-old child to be able to pass the test and gain certification shows the effectiveness of these programs. Students with this certification are now given another option when choosing what to do after graduating from high school.

Many students cannot afford a college education. Moreover, others are trying to find a viable alternative to accumulating unsustainable amounts levels of college debt.

Randy Ramos, the founder of the  hybrid online learning system ACCELETRAIN which has completed career and technical  programs in numerous secondary schools has stated that “students who graduate with the right  certifications can easily make 30,000 dollars a year or more straight out of high school” because  business are willing to hire people of all ages with desirable skills (Legeron, 2020). Secondary  schools themselves should want students to be leaving their education facilities with the best  post-graduation success probability.

In addition, the programs themselves are constructed in a  way that the school is rewarded based on how successful its students are within the program.  This is because when students pass the certification test, “the school gets the money they spend  back, and the teacher receives a bonus” (Legeron, 2020).

Therefore, schools that offer career and technical programs will automatically be incentivized to have their students be as successful as possible. An additional positive externality would arise from schools having high certification pass rates. These schools would become in higher demand by parents and would increase immigration into the areas creating a shift towards a better environment.

With the shift to full or partial virtual learning for the time being, the timing for the mainstream introduction of the career and technical education programs is perfect. 

 First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama delivering a guest lecture at Peking University, Beijing, China

The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented negative effects on the United States and the entire world. Like Churchill famously stated, a crisis inherently has negative effects, but there is opportunity to find positive potential outcomes. The current education system has clear problems and these problems such as unfairness in standardized testing have already been fought against for years.

The pandemic putting a halt on the requirement of standardized testing by colleges may end up being the push the country needed to make permanent beneficial change.  Secondary schools, which have been adjusting to natural technological and societal changes, are beginning to embrace a transition into a more effective and equitable learning environment. With the current state of the country due to the pandemic requiring immediate changes, schools have been forced schools to alter their approach on educating children. With changes in motion due to COVID-19, the education system can try to reform negative aspects of secondary schooling under unforgiving circumstances.

Written by Andrew Birenbaum

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What is new normal system of education?

What is new normal system of education?

Bibliography 

Association, National Education. “ESSA and Testing.” NEA, 23 June 2020,  www.nea.org/resource-library/essa-and-testing.  

Chen, Grace. “A Relevant History of Public Education in the United States.” Public School  Review, 22 Jan. 2012, www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/a-relevant-history-of publiceducation-in-the-united-states. 

Harris, Douglas N. “How Will COVID-19 Change Our Schools in the Long Run?” Brookings,  Brookings, 24 Apr. 2020, www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center 

chalkboard/2020/04/24/how-will-covid-19-change-our-schools-in-the-long-run/.  

Joshua A. Barocas, Jennifer E. Lacy. “The Pandemic Is an Extraordinary Opportunity to Reform  US Education.” Vox, Vox, 7 Aug. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/8/7/21358422/schoolclosure covid-19-gap-year-standardized-tests

Legeron, Claire. “Rethinking Education For Changing Times.” The Fox Magazine, 9 Aug. 2020,  thefoxmagazine.com/dreaming-bigger/rethinking-education-for-changing-times/.  

McCall, Ashley. “What If We Radically Reimagined the New School Year?” Chicago Unheard,  1 Sept. 2020, chicagounheard.org/blog/what-if-we-radically-reimagined-the-newschool year/?fbclid=IwAR38iloa4n u86YqtAy67mZDRkcdfyKHFrM6OXPlK9iH6w1cLiAKtFFceI. 

Vigdor, Neil, and Johnny Diaz. “More Colleges Are Waiving SAT and ACT Requirements.” The  New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/article/sat-act test-optional-colleges-coronavirus.html. 

What is new normal system of education?