In the midst of a pandemic, it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on. But here is a bit of what is going on in public education. Nationally, just about every public school is closed—some for another week or so and some until the end of the year. In Missouri, some districts are closed until localized social distance orders are lifted (April 22nd for St. Louis City and County), while others are on extended spring breaks. The governor has ordered that all schools remain closed until at least April 6th.
At the state level, eight governors have issued executive orders, proclamations or initiated coronavirus task forces. At least seven state education departments have offered statewide guidance, with California’s being an excellent example. Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has a webpage with information related to COVID-19. DESE has also issued administrative guidance to all superintendents regarding school funding, attendance waivers, and the cancelation of Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) testing. Links to information on virtual instruction are provided, but it is left up to districts and schools to determine whether they will use them. Two of the statewide virtual learning programs, Launch and the Missouri Virtual Academy, currently only say that short term-enrollment is “possibly available.”
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington has been painstakingly building a database of district COVID-19 responses. The plans range from detailed and specific like Miami’s “comprehensive district learning plan that includes online learning curricula and teacher support, technology device and WiFi access provision, and supplemental resources for special populations” to simple and broad, like districts in Pennsylvania that have essentially cancelled school for the rest of the school year. St. Louis Public Schools doesn’t appear to have much of a plan right now. It is “considering” sending homework assignments to students through the mail, the approach that Kansas City Public Schools is also adopting.
So, what does all of this mean? We’re in uncharted territory and everyone is creating their own map. Districts and states that were prepared will have a much easier time providing their students an actual education. Florida, for example, already requires every high school student to take at least one of their courses online and is currently providing $200 stipends to the first 10,000 teachers who pass their virtual education training program. Those that have not embraced virtual education, like Missouri, are either going to have to figure it out very quickly or punt until the end of the school year.
The Show-Me Institute will be monitoring it all very closely and looking for best practices and lessons learned for when we eventually emerge from this crisis.