James Magazine May-June 2020 - Magazine - Page 38
Some districts have been able to pivot quickly and
produce online curriculum and virtual classes. Others
are innovating and using buses to bring lunches into
the community or serve as mobile hot spots. But many
districts, especially those in Georgia’s rural communities and those serving a high percentage of low-income children, have struggled to provide the same
level of continued learning.
In the Georgia Partnership’s
16th and latest edition of the Top
Ten Issues to Watch report, the
overarching theme is what Georgia must do in 2020 to ensure the
state’s economic competitiveness in the future. As reported,
research conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) concluded that due to the impact
of automation and the changing economy, coupled
with the current education level of the state’s population, Georgia is in danger of seeing 1.5 million of its
workers and their children unemployed or underemployed in low-wage jobs by 2030. This, of course, was
before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The aforementioned challenges remain, and the
pandemic has made them exponentially harder to
address. Issues highlighted in the Top Ten, such
as Georgia’s changing demographics, importance
of early learning, assessments and accountability, non-academic factors for learning, as well as
post-secondary access and completion are all impacted by the school closures and related effects
of the pandemic.
For example, Issue 7 in the
report examines the non-academic barriers to learning in
schools. We know that student
success is not only directly
related to academic instruction,
but also to the safety and health of students and the
environments in which they learn and grow. When
students struggle with what best practice research
calls “health barriers to learning,” like uncontrolled
asthma, vision problems, hearing loss, dental pain,
persistent hunger, and untreated behavioral and
mental health problems, they face greater obstacles
to achieving at high levels in the classroom.
At some point, students
and teachers will be
walking back into the
classroom dealing with
trauma, lost learning time,
and loss of resources.
These health-related barriers are often exacerbated by childhood trauma particularly among economically disadvantaged children. The trauma that many
children and their families are currently experiencing
may very well have an increased detrimental impact
on their ability to learn when they return to school.
To date, Georgia’s education and community
leaders have rightfully been focused on meeting the
immediate needs of students and their families. In
some areas of the state those relief efforts are outstanding. However, of growing concern is the longer-term recovery effort. Normally, kids come back to
school with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, but
this coming year will be substantially different.
At some point, students and teachers will be
walking back into the classroom dealing with trauma, lost learning time, and loss of resources as parents lose their jobs or communities enter economic
There are a series of questions that need to be
under consideration right now: How will we, as a
state, make up for this lost learning time, knowing
that some students are not receiving any instructional attention right now? How will graduating seniors
transition to post-secondary? How will post-secondary retention and graduation rates be impacted? Will
students remaining in the K-12 pipeline be ready for
the next grade level? What will the first day back at
school look like?
In short, as Georgia focuses on relief, it is of utmost importance that we also begin to address the
question: How are we preparing for recovery?
Dana Rickman, PhD is the Vice President at the Georgia Partnership
for Excellence in Education.
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