MIT Associate Professor Justin Reich co-authors a new report on reimagining K-12 schools for a post-pandemic world

3 questions: Making the 2021-22 school year work for students

MIT Associate Professor Justin Reich co-authors a new report on reimagining K-12 schools for a post-pandemic world

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the MIT News site.

What’s the best way to get K-12 students across the U.S. to bounce back from the pandemic? MIT’s Justin Reich has an idea: Ask them. Reich, an associate professor in MIT’s program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, has co-authored a new report on the return to the classroom in the 2021-22 school year, based on interviews with over 250 educators and 4,000 students, in addition to 10 charrettes involving students, teachers, parents, and school administrators.

A core finding of the report is that the changes students and teachers would like to make to schools are less about Covid-related issues and more about uncomfortable learning environments, resource deficits, stifling curricula, and overly strict behavioral rules. 

The report, “Healing, Community, and Humanity: How Students and Teachers Want to Reinvent Schools Post-COVID,” by Reich and Jal Mehta, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has just been released; it also contains material readers can use to set up their own interview and research process in schools. Reich notes that the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 might make a return to normal schooling “a slower process than we had anticipated,” but hopes stakeholders everywhere will keep thinking about how schools can keep evolving. MIT News talked to Reich about the report.

Q: What was the genesis of this study and report?

A: At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the default genre for advice to schools had been the checklist: Here are 175 things you might do to prepare for the coming school year. There’s a purpose to those things, but the obvious missing piece was: What are the two or three most important things school leaders ought to be thinking about? That led us to release our first report in July 2020: “Imagining September: Principles and Design Elements for Ambitious Schools During COVID-19.” Our new report is a follow up to that initial work.

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