Addressing the needs of new teachers affected by the twin crises.
Over the past year, COVID-19 created an uncertain landscape that deeply impacted our nation’s educational systems. Compounding the effects of the pandemic, another crisis emerged—racial injustice. These twin crises together have generated new obstacles and exacerbated those that have long been a concern of the educator community. As we reopen schools and return to in-class instruction, teachers face unprecedented challenges toward “getting back to normal,” including safety concerns, the need to address learning loss, and the social and emotional well-being of their students—a daunting undertaking for even the most experienced teacher.
This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is reprinted with permission.
Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This sentiment resonates to many as the education of our children resurfaces from the pandemic. Teachers and schools have been challenged by this unexpected enemy and emerged remarkably strong. Looking toward the future, the education of our children has taken on great significance since COVID-19, but it also will face unexpected—in addition to the familiar—obstacles.
There are so many good things happening in education today. Front and center of all that is good is the funding that has been given to education at the federal level through the CARES Act and from other COVID-19 relief measures. Most schools are planning for face-to-face instruction in the fall, and many are providing summer sessions to help students make academic gains lost during the pandemic. Most graduations this spring proceeded in typical fashion, with some caution and adjustments, to the delight of students and families.
“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Rahm Emanuel, Former Mayor of Chicago
In the past year, our nation’s educational system faced an epic crisis brought about by the pandemic, leaving education leaders wondering when relief would be in sight. That relief arrived on March 11, 2021, when the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) was passed by Congress, allocating approximately $130 billion for the K-12 education system and nearly $40 billion for the higher education system. As the Biden-Harris administration launches into action with the massive rollout of unprecedented education funding, school districts now have the financial resources and the opportunity to collaborate with educator preparation programs (EPPs) to tackle a long-standing crisis—the shortage of professionally qualified educators.
Illustration by Paige Vickers
This opinion article by AACTE Dean in Residence Leslie T. Fenwick was published in Politico and is reprinted with permission.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated harmful educational inequalities in the preK-12 public education system. The nation’s poorest students, Black and Latino students, and our disabled students have been the most negatively impacted by school closings necessitated by the pandemic. Black students in high poverty schools have been especially hard hit because of the racialized, historic, and ongoing disinvestment in the education of Black children and youth.
The COVID-19 pandemic made a profound impact our nation’s education system. In most states, educational policies have been implemented to promote the wearing of face coverings, physical distancing, virtual instruction, and intermittent school closures based on the rise of positive COVID-19 cases reported in local communities. Despite the many challenges educators face during this unprecedented time, there are lessons learned and a call for transformation that make this the best of times to pursue a teaching career. Here are some reasons why.
It is clear that the pandemic had a profound impact on teacher education, and clinical practice in particular. The closing of virtually all K-12 schools in the spring of 2020 cascaded back to teacher education, greatly reducing (and certainly altering) the clinical practice experiences of student teachers. This continued into the 2020-21 school year as schools in many communities remained closed for in-person instruction.
To examine how the COVID-19 crisis affected the teacher preparation pipeline in the state of Washington, we surveyed 29 state-accredited educator preparation programs (EPPs) from April to June 2020. The findings showed that more than 80% of responding EPPs waived or reduced the length of time required for student teaching in their undergraduate programs, graduate programs, or both. These reductions raise concerns about the preparation of recent cohorts of teacher candidates to join the teaching workforce.
This article originally appeared in the Opinion section of The Columbus Dispatch and is reprinted with permission.
I applaud Ohio University—together with more than half of four-year colleges nationwide—in adopting a test-optional pathway for admission for first-year applicants.
All institutions of higher education should lead the efforts to reverse structural roadblocks to potential students and provide access to the promise of an enriched life that education can provide.
For too long, standardized testing has been overused and misused in ways that either knowingly or inadvertently set up structures akin to institutional and structural inequities. Structural inequities consist of laws, rules or official policies in a society that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people—deep patterns of socioeconomic inequalities and disadvantage due to socioeconomic class or racism.
Though institutions of higher education should have standards for admission, they have an obligation to eliminate barriers for students and expand access to higher education. Newly proposed standards—such as those by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation—will succeed in this mission without negatively impacting academic quality or student
This article originally appeared in University Business and is reprinted with permission.
As we enter the new year, many education leaders are questioning the impact of the pandemic on educator preparation programs (EPPs) and the pipeline of new teachers entering classrooms in 2021 and beyond.
Will colleges and universities expand and invest in their education programs to meet the demand for new teachers as educators retire due to COVID-19 health concerns? Will they downsize their education programs due to budget cuts resulting from the pandemic? Will they find innovative ways to collaborate with other institutions to sustain their education programs?
While there are many uncertainties, what we do know is that if educational programs are scaled back or terminated, the national teacher shortage will be exacerbated.
During the virtual AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting, attendees are invited to join their peers at the Learning Lab session, Preparing Educators for Equitable Family, School, and Community Engagement on Thursday, February 25 from 3:45 – 4:45 p.m. AACTE member Gail Richmond of Michigan State University addresses this topic in the following thought leadership article.
Effective educators see themselves as more than just employees in a building. They consider themselves to be contributing members of a greater community. Educators do so much more than teach children academic lessons; they play a very important role in helping families and preparing young people to lead healthy and productive lives and to make their communities supportive and safe places to live. The more teachers know about the needs of their students, their families, and the communities in which they live, the more responsive they can be to those needs.
Powerful professional learning is the result of identifying and addressing relevant problems specific to individuals based on their own development and needs. Powerful professional learning also enables teachers to expand their perspectives and to refine their teaching strategies in order to be responsive to the students they educate, their family members, and the greater community.
During the virtual AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting, attendees are invited to join their peers at the Deeper Dive Session, Leading in the Time of Crisis: Responding to COVID19 and Social Justice Movements, Wednesday, February 24 at 4:00 – 5:15 p.m. AACTE member Andrew J. Schiera of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education addresses this topic in the following thought leadership article.
Our world has never experienced anything like it did in 2020. Last year, we found ourselves at a major crossroad. Amidst fighting a global pandemic, our country also experienced intense civil unrest and protests due to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. We have all been deeply affected by these events, and our nation’s teachers have been thrust into a world unknown. They must not only become practical-minded, on-the-ground social justice educators but must learn how to do so effectively in an ever-changing virtual environment. Now, more than ever, we must dig deep into what we know as teacher educators and to listen, anticipate, and plan rather than reacting to barriers (both expected and unexpected) that emerge along the way.
This article originally appeared in Diverse Issues in Higher Education and is reprinted with permission.
As we embark upon a new year, it is important for education leaders to reflect on 2020 in order to assess what we got right, determine what went wrong, and then set a course for a more equitable education for all students in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the multiple and complex inequalities that exist in our schools. In remote learning environments, students who were already disengaged from school, in some cases, became more detached and harder to reach, particularly the population of historically underserved and marginalized PK-12 students. Undergraduate programs in higher education experienced similar issues, as some students felt more marginalized and isolated due to not being in classrooms. The pandemic has taught us that educator preparation programs must instill in teacher candidates the importance of building relationships. If educators don’t develop healthy and sound relationships based upon mutual trust with their students, then it’s harder to teach—and definitely harder to reach—those students for whom school is not a positive experience.
This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is reprinted with permission.
“American educators — It is a great day for y’all.” I was struck by this sentiment that was shared by President-elect Joe Biden in his speech to the nation on the evening of Nov. 7. Biden was referring to his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, a community college professor in Virginia. Dr. Biden spent her career as an educator and, now as first lady, will bring the focus of education directly into the White House. It indeed was a welcomed sentiment, particularly for public education, including pre-K-12 schools and higher education.
However, this is not the first time former educators have occupied the White House. Ten former presidents had some type of teaching experience in their backgrounds. For example, President Lyndon B. Johnson was a dedicated history teacher. Many first ladies also had teaching experience in their pasts, including Laura Bush, who was a teacher and a librarian.
But somehow, this feels quite different with Dr. Biden. Perhaps one can attribute the difference to the serious issue the pandemic has caused for educators across the nation. Young children to college-age students have felt the impact of online teaching and the disruption of what once was considered normal schooling for them.
Have you visited the AACTE online News Room lately? While the News Room is the primary tool used by AACTE to increase the visibility of the educator preparation community, this resource is not only for journalists. AACTE has designed its news hub as a virtual repository of articles, information, and trends in the field to help its members stay up to date on timely education and educator preparation topics.
As a member-based organization, AACTE is keenly positioned to be a collective voice for the educator preparation community. When you want to know how the Association leadership is responding on behalf of AACTE to national events and federal issues that directly impact education and educators nationwide, visit the Press Release & Statements section. Read AACTE’s public comment on actions that range from the push to reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic to the most recent statement on the Administration’s restriction of federal funding for critical race theory training in education. This section also houses news releases, offering you updates on the work your Association is generating to assure educators are profession-ready when they enter the classroom, such as research reports, partnerships with other educator preparation-based organizations, and AACTE professional development events (Annual Meetings, Leadership Academy and Washington Week).
“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
As educators, we have confronted monumental challenges this year, and yet, have managed to still make great strides. In mid-March, while closing our classrooms due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we found ways to educate our students virtually. Amidst mounting challenges, educators united to ensure that our nation’s children were able to continue learning.
Then, just as we were discovering coping mechanisms to live amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we bore witness to incredible injustice and racial bias with the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. Educators heeded the call for justice, uniting with the community at large, to show that racism will not be tolerated. But despite having met these challenges head on, we cannot rest upon our laurels. The battles that lie ahead are too important and necessary to protect the core of our democracy.
In early spring, when the coronavirus (COVID-19) shut the doors to classrooms, there was an optimistic belief that by fall the obstacles of the pandemic would disappear and in-class instruction would return to normal. However, as states began to lift emergency orders and school districts prepared to reopen schools, it became evident that education leaders would still be grappling with the unpredictable public health crisis this fall.
With COVID-19 spreading more rapidly in some regions of the United States, each state must assess whether they can safely open schools. Recently, some school districts that deemed it safe to reopen have reverted to remote learning when students and/or teachers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Certainly, navigating the current crisis is complicated, and it is having a profound effect on educator preparation programs (EPPs).
Due to PK-12 school closures in the spring, many teacher candidates were unable to complete their clinical and field experiences in a classroom setting—typically a prerequisite for licensure. Acknowledging that a lack of new teachers entering the field would adversely impact the current teacher shortage crisis, EPPs responded with alternative learning opportunities to ensure that teacher candidates are prepared and competent to enter their own classrooms. As a result, many states have implemented emergency policy changes to licensure, thus enabling recent graduates to teach this fall.