Jane Swift former Massachusetts governor schooling covid-19 improvements

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the teaching needs of students and their parents to ensure quality learning.

These disruptions, which have created both challenge and innovation, will fundamentally transform our country’s K-12 schools, and the work ahead requires resilience and innovation to ensure that all students are prepared for future success.

The closure resulted in schools across the country struggling with both enrollment and new forms of teaching – hybrid and distance learning. In many cases, parents have become a key factor in student success. The most innovative schools have adapted to the needs and interests of students and are successful.

Your success demonstrates the ability to provide high performing and equal learning for each student, not only to help them recover from the effects of the pandemic, but also to thrive in our innovation economy. With the reopening imminent, schools must wisely invest the substantial infusion of federal stimulus dollars and use that money to ensure they sustain successful innovations that support their students.

The work I have led with school principals and national experts in Massachusetts as President of LearnLaunch has shown that America’s students are facing increasing mental health and teaching challenges, and that students who struggled before COVID-19 , were most affected. However, as the responsibilities were shifted to the parents, some students were able to find safe and effective study spaces.

The ingenuity of parents, combined with the creativity of our educators, companies and community leaders, resulted in new classroom environments like learning pods. While some philanthropic support extended these innovations to a wide range of children, we often saw that these effective learning models were not available to those with less financial resources.

Now the federal government has invested heavily in summer schools and after-school programs to help students recover. State officials and educational leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to use these resources to extend successful models and recovery interventions to the students in greatest need.

Our priority as leaders must be to extend the innovations that have proven effective during the pandemic to all students and families. Educators will need our support to restore trust with parents and to promote justice in their policies and practices after a year of school closings and the reckoning of racism.

Another group of parents who saw their children severely disadvantaged and who need additional support to reopen are parents of children with disabilities. These parents believe their children have not been given access to adequate resources and support, and in addition to restoring confidence, there is a need to develop high-performing learning experiences for students with disabilities.

However, it is not just parents of specialty students who are reassessing their traditional support for public schools. There is a documented decline in public school enrollment in the United States. But a strong resilience narrative from school leaders combined with a thoughtful plan to capitalize on the investments in technology and keep the innovations that worked during the pandemic will draw many of these parents back to our public schools.

When parents see their children have strong learning experiences, I know they will be committed to our schools. I know this because, as the governor of Massachusetts nearly two decades ago, I worked to improve the K-12 education system by pushing for accountability and high standards for schools. The result was the highest rated public education system in the country for the next nearly 20 years.

Government officials and educational leaders have the opportunity to make sustainable improvements to our education system to ensure that every child has access to educational and personal support

Resources they need to be successful. If elected officials and education leaders fail to transform our education system towards equity and high-performance learning, the old barriers that prevent our most vulnerable from succeeding will continue to perpetuate the income and inequality gaps in our society. But with wise investments in sustaining innovation, center equity for all students, and a commitment to deliver high-performing learning experiences for all students, our students and our nation will emerge stronger from this pandemic.

Jane Swift is the former governor of Massachusetts.


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