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 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.
The horrific image of George Floyd taking his last breath is seared into our hearts and minds. Since that tragic event, we continue to bear witness to racial violence, police brutality, and incidents of discrimination that are played repeatedly in the news and via social media. The cumulative effect of these stressful reports can be traumatizing, and they are having a profound impact on our educators and students of color.
Racial battle fatigue (RBF), a term coined by critical race theorist William Smith, reflects the cumulative results of race-related stress. It emerges not only due to macroaggressions, but also from daily microaggressions, such as dismissive and demeaning comments directed at Black and Brown individuals. Basically, RBF is a wearing down based upon one’s racial identity. Some of the symptoms include depression, anger, frustration, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness that a person of color is unable to contribute to positive change.
RBF is persistent and pervasive, and it manifests in different ways dependent upon who the person of color is and what he or she has experienced in the past. And while RBF impacts every aspect of our society, in higher education and K-12 environments, we predominantly see it’s imprint through hateful, divisive speech on social media, racial profiling in our society and our schools, and discipline policies that differ for students of color.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
This article orginially appeared in University Business and is reprinted with persmission.
We are living in a monumental moment in time. The unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others call for greater social justice and equity in our society. While many institutions of higher education and educator preparation programs are talking about equity in education and the need for actionable change, having a deep passion and a meaningful, verbal commitment to social justice is not enough. We cannot move the needle forward in creating a more equitable education system until we address the root areas where change needs to happen—implicit, institutional, and systemic biases.
The data is clear. We live in a more segregated society now than the past 30 to 40 years. When students are segregated in elementary, middle and high school, they may not have any meaningful interactions over a long period of time with people who are different from them. When students graduate from high school and enter into a teacher preparation program, they could potentially complete their entire program without ever having a faculty of color.
Candidates have not adequately learned about racism in America, and they do not possess the context to understand the frustration and anger that underrepresented minorities feel. Students may be offered a gratuitous multiculturalism course in which they superficially learn about diversity, but do not learn about critical race theory, cultural responsiveness and proficiency as a standard part of the curriculum. They may never receive the opportunity to confront their own implicit biases, and then are placed in a classroom full of children with cultural backgrounds that they simply do not understand. From the lens of the children in the classroom, they do not see a teacher who looks like them or that they can relate to, and therefore, they are not drawn to pursuing a career in education.
We live in a society that is rapidly changing. The worldwide pandemic has shown us the harsh, but important, reality that divisiveness, inequality, and discrimination persist in our country. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others are stark evidence that racism still has deep and seemingly impenetrable roots in our country. This profound moment in time has brought despair to and heightened protest not only within the Black American community, but to people of all races throughout our country and the world. While addressing and rectifying these injustices requires the concerted effort of all American citizens, educators play an essential role in creating and ensuring an equitable existence for everyone.
Throughout our nation’s history, education has been pivotal in fostering citizenry. Abolitionist leaders understood the importance of a quality public education in promoting democracy. William Lloyd Garrison called for “a broader basis for government which includes all the people, with all their rights in their hands, and with an equal power to maintain their rights.” Wendell Phillips insisted that knowledge was given to impart upon others. Harriet Tubman instilled within us that “every great dream begins with a dreamer.” And Frederick Douglass wrote that “once you have learned to read, you will be forever free.”
This essay is excerpted from Leslie T. Fenwick’s forthcoming book, Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: Public Policy and the Near-Decimation of Black School Leadership after Brown. The excerpt provides a brief history about how many public schools came to be named for confederates and racist politicians who fought against integration and illegally resisted the Brown decision.
In 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education legal decision proclaimed that segregation had no place in America’s public schools. With this new law of the land and ensuing federal pressure to desegregate, school districts in 17 dual system states complied by closing black schools and firing, demoting and dismissing legions of exceptionally credentialed black principals and teachers. At the time, closing black schools was the primary method for ridding the system of black principals and teachers most of whom were better credentialed than their white peers. Directly after Brown there was little displacement of black principals and teachers, but as Title VI compliance mandates increased, the National Education Association (NEA) received reports from black teachers’ associations indicating that displacements were increasing.
In late 1969, C. J. Duckworth who served as executive secretary to the Mississippi Teachers Association clarified the link between black school closures and black principal firing and demotions in 17 Mississippi school districts. In his report to the NEA, he wrote:
Alcorn County – the black high school reduced to a junior high school and the black principal demoted to a federal projects coordinators; Clarke County – the black high school reduced to a junior high school and the principal made an elementary principal for remainder of the year, after which he was to be terminated; Clay County – the black high school reduced to a junior high school with a white principal; ….Franklin County – a black elementary principal replaced by a white principal; Hancock County – the black high school phased out and only two of 10 black teachers remain; Harrison County – a black junior-senior high school eliminated and the black principal made supervisor of a material center;….Itawamba County – all black schools and principals eliminated; ….Prentiss County – black high schools and principals phased out; ….Marion County – black high school principals replaced with whites…. (p. 5332)
COVID-19 has forced educators to say goodbye to their classrooms and embrace adapting their pedagogy to online formats overnight. They have learned new technology, found creative ways to engage students remotely, and most importantly, kept education moving forward. The current public health crisis has placed a well-deserved spotlight on teachers. As parents struggle to balance work, supervise virtual classrooms, and co-educate their children, a new awareness and appreciation for the influence, power, and value of great teachers has emerged.
We have all read headlines about COVID-19’s drastic impact on the education system. We have seen firsthand the pandemic’s sweeping effect on our education institutions and students. And we have all been challenged to find remote learning opportunities that ensure teacher candidates are well-prepared to enter their own classrooms—whether in-person, hybrid, or virtual. While the hurdles we face are multidimensional, overcoming them is essential. To quote Linda Darling-Hammond, “If you don’t have a strong supply of well-prepared teachers, nothing else in education can work.”