The State of K-12 Education in 2021 Webinar Recap

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by Sarah Schmidt, Managing Editor,

In a recent webinar titled The State of K-12 Education in 2021 hosted by Westchester Education Services, Simba Information’s Managing Editor and Senior Analyst, Kathy Mickey, joined a panel of experts to discuss how schools have adapted to educate students and support teachers during COVID-19 and what to expect as we look ahead to the new school year.

One School District’s Response to COVID-19

Denise Cobb-Williams, the Director of Elementary Curriculum at Walton County School District in Monroe, Georgia, kicked off the webinar by sharing how her school district shifted to provide both in-person and distance learning options to K-12 students.

“During the pandemic, we learned how to make lemonade from lemons,” Cobb-Williams said. “I don’t know how many times I heard the words, ‘pivot’ or ‘uncharted waters.’”

Cobb-Williams explained how the Walton County School District worked to stay in tune with the needs of the community — sending out surveys to parents and teachers and hosting community meetings on Zoom to determine the right response to the pandemic. During the last school year, Walton County School District served 87% of students with in-person learning and 13% remotely.

One troubling impact from the pandemic was a loss in literacy skills. In the future, literacy will be a top goal for the district across different age groups. Schools in the district are ramping up tutoring services, offering a reading-focused summer camp, and using additional early intervention teachers to help students strengthen their reading abilities.

Federal Funding for Education During the Pandemic

Next up in the panel discussion, Victoria Akosile, Manager of Education Technology Policy at the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), talked through the different waves of federal emergency funding for education, and how states and school districts could make use of money.

“We all had to shift overnight,” Akosile said. “The federal government wanted to make sure states had the resources to help everyone stay connected, get involved, and continue to learn.”

Federal funding targeted a wide variety of needs such as educational technology, PPE, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, and social and emotional learning and mental health. School districts could be creative in how they used the funds. For example, some schools in Kentucky aired lessons on a local PBS channel to ensure students had access at home.

Key Education Industry Trends During COVID-19 and the Recovery

Kathy Mickey of Simba Information wrapped up the webinar by explaining how education publishers and digital instructional providers responded to the COVID crisis.

“When all of this started, there was a halt to almost everything, but companies got into action,” Mickey said. Due to the rise of remote learning, educational publishers needed to provide professional development to a new set of teachers — parents.

“Now there is a lot of stress on recouping learning, and the providers of instructional materials are looking at that, and they are repackaging materials for home use,” according to Mickey. “Parents are very interested in getting materials on their own as well.”

Somewhat surprisingly, statewide reviews and purchasing processes for instructional materials—known as adoptions—did not stall out during the pandemic.

“Most of the work for making adoption decisions had begun earlier in the year,” Mickey explained. “School districts had set up review panels and pilot programs, much of that was already underway, and they met via Zoom to continue with the adoptions.”

Looking ahead, Mickey expects to see increased demand for social and emotional learning and a strong emphasis on foundational literacy and math. She also thinks 2021 will be a highly charged year for social studies and addressing racial issues.

Even beyond the pandemic, she believes some degree of remote learning will be here to stay.

“Schools are reopening,” Mickey predicted. “There will be distance options in many cases, and that will probably become a permanent thing. It came out of an emergency, but there are so many kids that thrived in that environment. There will be a place for it.”

Additional Resources

For more in-depth education industry research, check out these reports from Simba Information:

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