The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to cast uncertainty on education, and the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year is no different. But with some valuable lessons learned under their belts, educators are feeling better prepared for the back-to-school season–one that could be the most normal since the pandemic.
Here are some back-to-school tips, advice, and valuable insights from educators, stakeholders, and industry experts.
“COVID has dramatically impacted students from a social and emotional standpoint. It’s basically shifted the developmental continuum for where kids are and what they can handle and it has been a struggle for schools and districts to adapt. This school year will see a focus on prioritizing social and emotional learning–accepting the fact that that continuum has changed and giving teachers permission to spend time reteaching those skills. We’ll see more schools and districts placing a priority on SEL instruction just like math or reading. We’ll also see a greater increase in educators looking for solutions for their students with challenging behaviors and looking for tools like DESSA to help schools design interventions for students in specific social emotional competencies.”
Dr. Norah Barney, EdD, Director of Special Education and Curriculum, Anaconda School District #10, Montana
“One result of the COVID pandemic was a shut-down of students’ abilities to think and problem solve for themselves. As educators we must do what we can to help correct this and one way is through personalized learning, a major trend that has hit education. By addressing the different interests and specific needs of students, educators can enhance and improve student engagement. With higher engagement students will spend more time learning. For personalized learning to be effective, it must be data-driven and goal oriented. We must involve students in the process and help them set realistic goals and follow through. The data should be the driving force whether we are presenting whole group, small group, or individualized instruction.”
Jennifer Pastor, Fourth Grade Math Teacher, Tioga Elementary School, Rapides Parish Schools, Louisiana & a 2022 Curriculum Associates Extraordinary Educator
“As always, high-quality and timely professional development will be important this coming school year and the use of technology can help coaches and administrators deliver this to teachers. In St. Vrain, for example, we will be using artificial intelligence-driven coaching using the AI Coach platform to provide our teachers with additional processing support that is both immediate and based upon teachers’ own instructional practices. This will build upon the learning from our coaching cycle while enabling teachers to continue to independently reflect and improve on the work we start together during times that are most convenient for them.”
Courtney Groskin, Learning Coach, St. Vrain Valley School District
“One of the priorities this school year at Reach Cyber Charter School will be promoting career readiness, in addition to college readiness. College isn’t always the next path for every student, and it is important students have opportunities and exposure to different trades in high school. At Reach Cyber, we are bringing the trades to the virtual environment through partnerships with companies like Maplewoodshop. Students participate in remote woodworking classes which helps them learn about careers in carpentry, as well as build important life skills such as critical thinking and team working skills. This upcoming school year, we’re also focusing on giving students more opportunities in the community. This includes having local guest speakers present about different careers or providing more service-learning opportunities with local companies. All of these opportunities we’re offering are important to ensure students are as educated and aware of as many possible future career paths as possible.”
JD Smith, Director of Career Readiness, Reach Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania
Forty-eight states are reporting a shortage of special education teachers this school year. This is a detriment to students and also creates a tremendous strain on the educators and school staff members responsible for supporting those students. Teachers will need support in the coming school year. One of the solutions I expect we’ll see this year is a push to provide special education training to more staff members, including paraprofessionals, who play an essential role in helping to make classrooms more inclusive and accessible for students with special needs. Online training courses such as those from Vector Solutions are a good option because they are more convenient than in-person training and will allow districts to reach more staff members more quickly. Training paraprofessionals and other staff members on disabilities such as autism, ADHD, and more as well as managing challenging behavior, will help them create a better environment for students and can help alleviate some of the pressure caused by the shortage of special education teachers this school year.
Andrea Burrell, Special Education Instructional Specialist, Prince George’s County Public Schools
According to a RAND poll this year, 13% of superintendents are expected to resign before the 2022-23 school year. In Wisconsin alone, 100 school districts have or will have a new chief school district administrator for the 2022-23 school year. As districts prepare for a new school year with new leadership, similar to the position I am in, it will be important to be strategic in planning. One of my priorities will be creating a more comprehensive plan for technology in every classroom and how the district will sustain and retain what we’ve learned since COVID. Districts require advanced technology infrastructure in and out of the classroom, including access to the latest technology solutions, like Epson laser displays, mobile technologies, and high-speed connectivity in order to ensure students and staff have access to all resources that they need for learning. As district leaders, being thoughtful about all needs of our staff and students continues to remain a priority as we enter another school year.
Tony Spence, Superintendent, Waterford School District