Months after schools across the country closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it’s still not clear how, or even if, children can safely return to classrooms in the coming weeks and months. Despite the best efforts of teachers suddenly plunged into teaching remotely, the loss of learning has been staggering, especially for low-income students. This would be the moment, you’d think, when the nation’s top education policy official would step up and attempt to offer leadership and best practices going forward. Instead, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is missing in action, at least when it comes to the issues that matter most.
Almost two months ago, the American Federation of Teachers released a plan detailing how schools could reopen safely. Their recommendations include mandatory hand-washing on entering the school and capping class sizes to encourage physical distancing. Last month, the conservative American Enterprise Institute released one as well; among other things, it urges schools to evaluate students for learning gaps as a result of the closures.
The Education Department, by contrast, is all but silent, issuing little in the way of guidance, and doing little to review what did and didn’t work. Anecdotal evidence suggests many parents and teachers found virtual learning dissatisfactory, while surveys found a large number of students didn’t attend their online classes regularly. A poll of North Carolina parents found a majority believed their children learned less online then in-person. The Education Department’s response? According to The Post’s Laura Meckler, just this month, “the department invited education officials to a panel discussion on the practical applications of virtual learning.”