After a rollercoaster year, schools are slowly reopening—and keeping with them some of the surprising positives that emerged from COVID

7 predictions about pandemic learning

Top 10 of 2021: This fall, back-to-school practices will look different as the COVID-19 virus surges across the nation--here's what to expect

Each year, we share our 10 most-read stories. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Top 10 focused on student engagement and online or hybrid learning strategies related to pandemic teaching. This year’s Number 1 most-read story focuses on what back-to-school looks like during pandemic learning.

As schools across the nation open their classrooms for a return to full in-person learning, educators, parents, and stakeholders are wondering what the fall will bring. Concerns about COVID surges and a return to remote or hybrid learning aren’t far from educators’ minds.

When schools across the country started shutting down in-person instruction in March of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 virus, much of the nation’s focus turned to COVID’s immediate and long-term impact on students.

Educators, parents, stakeholders, and policymakers wonder how much learning loss occurred, how schools can mitigate the impact on students, and–perhaps most pressing of all–what back-to-school will look like in the fall.

As schools begin the 2021-2022 school year, researchers and executives at the nonprofit NWEA are sharing predictions about the short- and long-term educational impacts we can expect to see.

1. Back to school will not mean “back to normal”: “If we expect back-to-school to be back to normal, then we missed the mark. Nothing about the past year was typical. Each student was impacted by the pandemic differently so our approach to recovery must be as unique as them. And it can’t just be about catching kids up by cramming more into the following year or holding them back. We must focus on the critical areas of unfinished learning while also attending to the mental well-being of our kids: many of whom completely disconnected from their teachers and peers for an entire year and may just now be returning back. The arc of their education will look very different (and it must) than for students who had continued access to learning. We must also recognize that we’re still at mile one of a massive marathon. While the pandemic may be subsiding as more and more vaccines are available, the long-term impacts of this past year are yet to be fully understood. From a kindergarten bubble coming this fall to better, more equitable approaches to grading policies – our education system has and will continue to be fundamentally changed. It’s time to challenge what returning to normal means and ask, ‘What will it take to truly commit to the success of all kids?’” – Chris Minnich, CEO, NWEA

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