Parents Are Taking Control of Education
This has been an incredible school year by a number of measures. Most school districts have rebuilt their education delivery systems. Teachers have been forced to lean on technology whether they wanted to or not. But I believe families have experienced the biggest changes. After a scramble to figure out how to manage a complete school shutdown last spring, they have been dealing with changing plans and poor communication from districts. It’s not surprising that so many have taken things into their own hands and created pandemic pods (small classes outside traditional school districts) for their children.
What is surprising is how pervasive this apparently is. EdChoice has been polling parents since the shutdown last spring, and its latest poll results indicate that a shocking 35 percent of parents now report that their children are in pandemic pods, and another 18 percent are looking for one. Over half of parents, according to this survey, are writing (or trying to write) their own playbook for how and where their children will be educated. This represents a major disruption that is not going to just go away when schools reopen.
Equally surprising, nearly 70 percent of teachers surveyed expressed at least some interest in teaching in a pandemic pod. Teacher frustration seems to be high. They are dealing with mixed signals and many have to swap between teaching in person, recording virtual lessons, and virtual instruction in real time. The thought of just teaching eight or ten students in a home with no district bureaucracy must be tempting.
We are all exhausted by COVID and ready for things to go back to normal. But normal now is everyone wearing masks, touch-free bathrooms, and no hugging. Some of that will go away and some of it will stay. The same is true for public education. Families and teachers are taking ownership of public education like never before. To have some of that stick would be a much-needed step in the right direction.