This is a marathon. Experiencing, managing, surviving, and thriving in the current pandemic impacts every single human being; although there are similarities among and between us, every person’s experience is unique. In a typical marathon, runners have the same start and end points but how the runners experience the running course is vastly different.

With many hills, turns, and flat runs throughout the course, runners will struggle at various points, but each will experience it in different ways at different times. We all began our marathon journey through the pandemic at the same starting point. As we traverse, however slowly, toward the finish line, it is likely we will each reach the end point in different ways and at different times.

The inequities of the pandemic also exasperate the inequities in life beyond the pandemic. We have long known the impact and implications that a child’s home conditions have on his/her readiness and capability to engage in school. As schooling moved home with no notice, the conditions of home exposed and complicated the inequities our children face every day. At Cognia, we know this to be true all too well. As we consider the future of schooling as well as the future of learning, we must consider the weaknesses and limitations of our current system that creates struggles a struggle to respond to and provide for children who need and deserve far better than is being provided.

The inequities of the pandemic also exasperate the inequities in life beyond the pandemic.

As we seek to re-open the world in which we live, the challenges of ensuring absolute safety and healthy conditions are virtually impossible to overcome. The notion that sports and school can happen with social distancing and other measures deployed to ensure safety is unrealistic. As a grade school teacher in England wrote in a letter to his parents, “There is no such thing as social distancing in a primary school.” The challenges of re-opening raise significant questions and skepticism. How and why we re-open are critically important questions, but if we seek solutions that strive to re-create the pre-pandemic conditions such efforts may fall woefully short of meeting the expectations that would enable people to have the will to re-engage.

As leaders, we must initiate steps to reimagine and create the future of schooling. Each of us come to  this field for significant reasons. It is those reasons that have driven us to provide continuity in teaching and learning to maintain our service to learners during the pandemic. However, coming to a physical place called school is not the only way for teachers to teach and students to learn.

We must be thoughtful about schooling for learning post COVID-19—about how we will equitably engage students in their learning, and how schools should grade students during this crisis. We need to take a balanced approach to assessment so that if schools find themselves not being able to hold traditional classes again for reasons of natural or national disaster, they can still assess progress and gaps in learning. Schools with a balanced assessment system within a creative, flexible and connected approach to schooling across all learning scenarios, are better poised to sustain the steady pace it will take to get through this particular marathon. This fall, when we ask ourselves, “Are teachers ready for school”, let the answer not only be yes, but also that we have thoughtfully considered what students, staff, and families need to feel safe and prepared for learning in this new era.  If you’re wondering how we do that, see the article featuring high school students who participated in a virtual panel on the impact of COVID-19, to learn what students want you to know before making decisions that impact their lives.

Take good care,

Private: Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.
Dr. Mark A. Elgart has served as president and CEO of Cognia since 2002. Under his leadership Cognia was established, following the merger of AdvancED and Measured Progress, to bridge the gap between school evaluation and student assessment.  Cognia serves as the trusted partner with over 36,000 institutions in 85 countries to advance learning for 25 million students.  Elgart has a long, distinguished career of 40 years as an educational leader including time as a math and physics teacher, school principal, and chief executive leading a global, education non-profit.  He is annually recognized, both locally and internationally, as an influential leader in education due to his impact on education policy and the work of schools.  He is an internationally recognized speaker on education and frequent author on educational issues including recent whitepapers on federal policy and school improvement.  In education, Elgart is widely viewed as the foremost authority on school improvement and education quality.  Elgart earned a bachelor’s  in Mathematics from Springfield College, a master’s in Educational Administration from Westfield State College, and Doctorate in Education in Leadership in Schooling from the University of Massachusetts.