March 6, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘13,000 School Districts, 13,000 Approaches to Teaching During Covid’

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “13,000 School Districts, 13,000 Approaches to Teaching During Covid” by Kate Taylor

In a series called “Schools in the Pandemic: A Report Card,”The New York Times closely examined seven school districts across the country in an attempt to see how public schools are navigating the pandemic. The featured article is the introduction to that series.

In this lesson, you will learn about what going to public school looks like right now and how it is affecting students. Then you will share your experiences about learning during the Covid-19 crisis and have a chance to read more about one of the seven districts The Times covered.

Note: The featured article, and all seven related articles, are available in English and Spanish.

How well is your school district handling teaching and learning during the coronavirus pandemic?

Create a report card that assesses your school or district’s Covid-19 response. What grade would you give it why?

If you are in a classroom context, share your grades and reasoning with a small group and discuss what you notice and wonder. How similar are your scores? What criteria appear to be most important to you based on your explanations? Is it how much students are learning? Their mental health status? The school’s safety protocols? Equity across different groups?

If you want to change your grade after discussing with your classmates, do that now and explain why you changed your mind.

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Kate Taylor writes that what it means to go to public school in the United States during a pandemic “looks so different in different parts of the country.” What evidence does she use to support that statement?

2. Ms. Taylor lists some figures about students and schools that are not being officially tracked. Which of those data points is most interesting to you? Why do you wish we had more information about that particular figure?

3. Ms. Taylor writes, “The disruption of education, like so much else about the pandemic, has not affected everyone equally.” Choose one example from the article that illustrates this point.

4. What resources and services — beyond education — do some students rely on in school? How has the pandemic made it harder for students to access those resources?

5. What do we know about how the pandemic has affected young people’s mental health?

6. According to education experts, what are some of the conditions under which schools can open safely? What does, or what would, make you feel safe going to school?

7. What are some expectations about what might happen to schools in the next several months through the 2021-22 school year? What do you predict will happen?

Option 1: Tell us about your school’s Covid-19 response.

Imagine The New York Times has contacted you to find out more about what’s going on in your school or district for its “Schools in the Pandemic” series. What would you want The Times to know about your experience?

You can report on anything you want, but if you need ideas, you might consider some of the following questions:

  • What type of learning is your school or district using during the pandemic? In-person? Remote? A hybrid? Something else? Do you agree with the decision your district has made about in-person or virtual learning? Why or why not?

  • What is helping you to learn this year? What is making learning harder?

  • Have there been cases of Covid-19 in your school or in your community? How has your school responded? How does the response make you feel about the safety of attending school in person?

  • Do you think students are succeeding — and struggling — equally in your school? Or has this year been harder or easier for certain groups of students?

  • If you are attending school in person, what safety measures are students and staff members expected to take? Does everyone respect these rules?

  • Who is making decisions about Covid responses in your school district? Are students, parents, teachers, administrators and district officials all in agreement?

  • What is one change you would like to see at your school when it comes to teaching and learning during this time?

Write a paragraph that highlights what you think are the most important points about your school or district’s handling of the pandemic.

Another option? Use these same questions to interview a classmate about his or her learning experience and summarize the main ideas. How similar or different are your experiences to one another? Why do you think that is? What can you learn by talking to other students about what it’s like for them to go to school right now?

Option 2: Research other school districts around the country.

The featured article was the introductory piece to a longer series about schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Choose one other article from the series to read:

Los Angeles: Teachers and students struggle with “no human contact.”

Cherokee County, Ga.: Schools vowed to stay open, until staffing ran out.

Edison, N.J.: The pandemic has brought a new teaching style.

Washington, D.C.: Teachers are going in search of missing students.

Providence, R.I.: Unlike in many cities, most children are in classrooms.

Wausau, Wis.: Parents revolted after the board voted to keep schools closed.

Lubbock County, Texas: What a tiny district did to keep students from failing.

After reading, answer these questions:

  • What are three struggles the district is facing?

  • What are two solutions or strategies that the district has put in place to try to support students and the staff?

  • What is one quotation that you found particularly meaningful?

  • What is one connection you can make between the district featured in the article and your own district?


About Lesson of the Day

Find all our Lessons of the Day in this column.
Teachers, watch our on-demand webinar to learn how to use this feature in your classroom.

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