[ROUNDUP] 2021 Top K-12 Education News

22, Dec 2021 10:32 PM

How was your 2021 as an educator? We’re happy you’ve landed here.

Though the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us, the mental and social effects of the pandemic remain real for many educators. Schools are facing a staff and student mental health crisis alongside large student learning gaps in mathematics and language. They’re also learning how to integrate technology into traditional education while exploring more inclusive and culturally sensitive teaching methods.

Let’s go through it together.


Addressing student learning loss

K-12 teachers and students have begun a return to schools with occasional roadblocks due to recurring Covid-19 outbreaks. For this reason, persistent learning gaps were expected. McKinsey & Company finds that students are 4-5 months behind in both reading and math. 

In the last year, schools have explored remote, hybrid, and blended learning, and everything in between; while logistically challenging, these methods allowed schools to operate with unprecedented flexibility. While we recognize there is no substitute for the benefits of in-person schooling, it’s also possible for educators to apply what worked virtually in the classroom.

From elementary to high school, we’ve just started the multiyear challenge of addressing learning loss. The moment requires a reimagining of the applications of programs meant to intervene, reteach, and enrich student learning. For example, while schools across the country are investing in tutoring programs to help catch students up, the lack of connection between what students are learning in the classroom and with their tutors is resulting in higher student frustration. This highlights the need for a strong link between curriculum and supplementary efforts to see learning gains.

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Technology in the classroom

The pandemic has forced tech-hesitant educators to quickly catch up with the use of digital learning tools, what researchers have called panic-gogy (a combination of “panic” and “pedagogy”). From learning management systems to digital learning materials and expanded student access to laptops and tablets, this year has defined a new normal for the intersection between K-12 education and tech. 

That said, technology has upsides and downsides. Unmonitored, the use of tech in classrooms can affect K-12 students’ relationships, motivation, mood, sleep, and safety. We have already started to see blended learning lead to tech fatigue for many. 

The key to moving forward productively is to change perception of tech use among educators, parents, and students from virtual-or-nothing to something that aids and supports classroom learning. The fact that our students have grown up in a digital age emphasizes the need for schools to keep tech prevalence from conflicting with wider student well-being.


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Mental health and schools

With the pandemic blurring the lines between work, school, and life, teacher and student mental health has taken an enormous hit, worsening educator attrition and student focus. Many have highlighted the growing student mental health crisis, which predated but has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

We know the pressure that schools put on teachers influences how they teach and, by extension, how students learn. Overburdened teachers cannot show up for their students as well in the classroom, and many early educators, feeling unsupported, have left the profession. As a result, some schools have already started considering their larger role in promoting mental and emotional well-being during and outside of school hours. 

Our teachers report what they’ve seen work in their schools: regular check-ins between administrators and teachers, peer support groups and mentoring, and increased mental health support for students and staff via community support and the hiring of in-school mental health professionals. In 2022, schools would do well to keep support infrastructure for teachers and students strong.

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Progress on DEI

A child’s educational context affects their social-emotional well-being, development, and achievement potential. We support the need for schools to explore and implement antiracist and culturally competent curricula, methods and mental health support that meets the needs of a diverse generation of students where they’re at now, particularly as we watch how the controversy over Critical Race Theory in 2021 has caused division over teaching the impacts of racism in schools.  

Despite the pressure to keep race out of K-12 education, some teachers have found new ways to reach students by increasing the cultural relevance of their subject, from science to music. The key to deepening these efforts lies in buy-in from teachers and parents about the way race and history affects everyone. Ultimately, cultural competency and relevance should not just be an obligation felt by teachers of color, but all educators.

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Funding to education

U.S. schools are currently considering how to use the $122 billion earmarked for K-12 education from the American Rescue Plan. 

While better-resourced schools have updated their technological capacity and are using funds towards summer school, tutoring, and upgrading school infrastructure, already underfunded schools face tough decisions on where to put the money first when everything from the need to narrow learning gaps, support the social-emotional well-being of all students, and otherwise close the educational equity gap is on the table.

Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Bill that would expand broadband for students and create the foundation for universal pre-K (a critical step in alleviating educational inequity) around the country is stalled in the U.S. Congress.

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This year, we recognize the continued dedication of teachers in promoting educational recovery in the U.S. and worldwide, and call for the empowerment of educators everywhere.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more K-12 education content that helps you support staff, substitutes, and students in 2022.


Here are just a few more topics we’ve covered this year:


Resources to help you hire teaching staff in 2022:

Chloe’ Skye Weiser
Chloe’ Skye Weiser

Chloe’ Skye Weiser is a freelance writer from New York City. She specializes in education, sustainability, and SaaS writing and maintains travel and expat culture blog Chlohemian.