Although we are still months away from normalcy, the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine has signaled the end of this crisis. While schools will reopen and social separation policies will be abolished, the effects of the epidemic will linger, and we must not let COVID-19-era advances go by the wayside. While many of these solutions were created in reaction to the pandemic, the lessons learned are crucial for developing more equal education systems. As quality education and equitable access are being positioned at the forefront of this problem, we feel our experimental path provides significant lessons that may help governments, legislators, and educational designers. It is time to construct a “new normal”, together.
While remote learning will never completely replace high-quality in-person education, our experience during the epidemic has shown that adolescents do not need a conventional classroom to build skills. While we are all happy to return to the classroom, the return to normalcy does not imply that we should revert to old behaviors when our eyes have been opened up to so many new strategies and possibilities. We must think critically about how the pandemic-tested techniques, ideas, and initiatives may be integrated back into traditional educational settings. We have an amazing opportunity to use the knowledge gained during this period to broaden access to more underprivileged adolescents. Learning should not be considered a luxury, and we have long needed extra and inclusive paths to educate the millions of youngsters who are unable to attend regular high school because they needed to get a job to support themselves and their families.
There are a few lessons learned through the pandemic that give the education system an option to shine:
- Greater possibilities for “learning” and enhanced flexibility
- Valuing job skills and preparing teenagers for adulthood
- Creating more equity and access so all students reach their unbounded potential
As part of our mission to broadcast, document, and forecast the evolution of K-12 education in America, Future of School is honoring the resilient spirit of educators who have been embracing innovation in difficult times through the 2021 Future of School Resilient Districts Prize.
Over the last decade, technology has become an increasingly more important component of modern education. With the pandemic, we’ve seen just how critical the role of technology plays in ensuring flexible learning models and instructional delivery that can withstand major disruptions.
Now, we want to recognize those educators and schools who have risen to the challenge to provide students with high-quality educational experiences despite—or perhaps because of—the unique constraints of our times.
HOW DOES THE RDP WORK?
Educators, individual schools, or networks/consortium of schools are all welcome to apply for the 2021 Future of School Resilient District Prize by sharing their stories about how they have innovated their instructional delivery and/or educational environments to support their students.
As many as 12 awards of up to $25,000 will be rewarded to schools and educators who’ve risen to the challenge to provide students with high-quality educational experiences despite—or perhaps because of—the unique constraints of our times.
- RDP funds can be used for technology, curriculum, professional development, training, or other approved online and blended learning ed-tech-related expenses.
- In addition, we’ll be compiling best practices from the winners into a shareable format others will greatly benefit from in the journey towards building the future of learning for their students.
- More than a grant program, the RDP focuses on systemic change through individual inspiration, idea sharing and the intentional celebration of the efforts of educators across America during the pandemic.
We are so grateful for all your hard work this year, and we hope we’ll have the chance to support you in a much bigger way soon!
For more, see:
- Closing the Digital Divide for Parents: A COVID-19 Story
- How to Take Responsibility for the Future of Education
Antonio Boyd serves as Executive Vice President at Future of School. A national education intermediary focused on ensuring all students reach their unbounded potential. His work and research focus on experiential learning, equity and access, afterschool programming, diversity and inclusion, social justice education, and college and career pathways.
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