What mattered most for schools during the COVID-19?
28 Nov 2022
Jose Eos R. “Eos” Trinidad
Department Interdisciplinary Studies
Many schools and educational systems have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most research has often focused on potential solutions to school closures and learning loss, with far less exploring the competing concerns.
In a representative study of teachers and school leaders in the United States, Ateneo researcher Jose Eos Trinidad finds three key “values” that were the top concerns during the height of the pandemic in Autumn of 2020, when many US schools were starting. He argues that part of the difficulty of finding educational solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic was because of the challenge of balancing often competing concerns.
He outlines three core concerns teachers and school leaders had. First was the concern about educational equity, particularly for those who had no access to the internet, those with disabilities, those who relied on services in schools (e.g., school feeding programs), and those with frontline worker parents. He argues that while the pandemic hit all schools hard, some schools experienced far greater challenges than others
A second concern was about the physical and mental health of students and teachers. While educational equity would have been addressed by continuing in-person schooling, this was particularly risky to people’s physical health with the easy transmission of the coronavirus. Yet this emphasis on physical health had also taken a toll on some people’s mental health as the lack of in-person interaction and “out-of-home” time had been challenging for students
A third concern was the inability of students to maintain full engagement during remote instruction. Many teachers in the survey highlighted that classroom student engagement was their top concern, particularly as many students had not been coming to online classes or finishing offline modules. The lack of clear feedback from blacked out Zoom screens of students may have also led to this concern about student engagement.
The research highlights how solutions are not easy and school leaders will have to clarify these competing values. In this research published in the Journal of Educational Administration and History, Trinidad highlights that “this shared vocabulary of equity, engagement, and health can help stakeholders clarify why they are advocating for what they are advocating. This then has the potential of promoting dialogue in the often-tenuous relationship between centralized decision-makers and grounded implementers.”
Trinidad, who is also finishing his doctorate degree at the University of Chicago, drew on the American Educator Panel for this research. The project was funded by the RAND Corporation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Note: The study does not reflect the views of the funding bodies.)