When John Diamond and his 15-year-old son took a webinar to see what the young man’s classes would look like in the fall, the two had a revelation.
“School will not look the same, if it’s in person or virtual,” Diamond said. “The pandemic has reshaped what education looks like.”
Diamond, holder of the UW’s Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and a professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, joined The UW Now Livestream on August 25 to discuss the future of K–12 education in America. Joining Diamond were Dean Diana Hess of the UW’s School of Education and Carlton Jenkins MS’93, PhD’09, the superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Hosted by Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, the event took place by video on YouTube. Much of the conversation covered the “COVID loss” of student academic progress and how schools can help pupils recover.
Diamond looked at the ways that COVID-19 has changed American school behaviors — forcing physical distancing, for instance — and at ways it has exacerbated inequalities. Wealthier areas, for instance, have higher levels of digital connectivity, making virtual learning easier.
Hess discussed the things that students lose when schools shut down. “When schools closed in March, you can all remember, there was a lot of loss,” she said. “There was learning loss for sure, but there was also a loss of opportunities for young people for social engagement, for socialization.”
And Jenkins talked about the ways that school districts have needed to adapt rapidly. “Quite frankly, we did crisis learning last spring,” he said, “because we had no idea that this would last as long as it did last.”
The speakers also spent roughly half an hour fielding questions from some of the hundreds of viewers who watched the event live online.
While schools face great difficulties, Jenkins expressed his belief that educators will rise to meet them. “We become stronger when the challenges become bigger,” he said.
To hear more from Hess, Diamond, and Jenkins, view a recording of The UW Now. The series is offered via YouTube and will continue through the fall. The next event, to be held September 8, will cover developments in COVID-19 vaccines and will feature professor of pathobiological sciences Thomas Friedrich ’97, PhD’03 and professor of infectious diseases Nasia Safdar MS’02, PhD’09.