COVID-19 Leaves Permanent Stain on American Educational Landscape

Celia Powers, Grade 11, Staff Writer

 

From mask mandates to snow days on Zoom, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an irrevocable effect on American school systems. Over the past year, students, parents, and teachers across the country have been pushed to find engaging and effective new ways to learn –– without stepping foot inside a school building.


The most successful strategy of maintaining learning opportunities during the pandemic was moving millions of students and teachers to online platforms like Google Classroom and Zoom. School systems all over the country worked to provide laptops and mobile devices for students, with states including Texas and California handing out upwards of one million devices each.


Today, teachers still use these platforms to assign work or post resources for their students. “I used to have my own website, which I used to pay for and everything, but this [Google Classroom] is a lot more user-friendly, and all the students have access to it, so now I actually use it for assignments. I don’t think I would have otherwise,” said Mr. Evans, a sophomore U.S. history and AP U.S. History teacher at the High School of American Studies.


Besides an increase in technology usage, a significant change to our school system regards colleges. Due to COVID-19-related test center closings, many universities have decided to go test-optional for 2021 and possibly further years of admissions. University of California schools, for one, have taken the step to permanently not consider standardized test scores as part of their admissions process. Instead, test-optional colleges will focus on student extracurricular portfolios, grades, and personal essays.


Amidst the changing college admissions landscape are letters of recommendation. Online school changed relationships built between teachers and students over the course of a normal school year, and teachers don’t know the students asking for letters of recommendation for college applications quite as well. “It was a bit of a challenge because a lot of the kids who ask you to write recommendations, you don’t know them as intimately because it was Zoom school,” said Mr. Evans. “I noticed I had [fewer] requests this year because a lot of kids who I just knew from Zoom didn’t ask.”


Teacher-student dynamics have also been changed by in-school health safety protocols. In New York City, this includes mandatory mask-wearing, socially distanced classroom layouts, and a daily health screening advising students and school faculty not to come to school if they’re feeling sick.


As more of the population becomes eligible for vaccination, only time will tell how long all of these changes remain in effect during and after the transition from country-wide complete school shut down back to in-person school.


As schools transition from remote to in-person learning, changing dynamics leave a lasting effect on students and teachers.