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Another Positive Covid Consequence: Abandoning “Ahead” and “Behind”

May 4, 2020

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KQED offered a clickbait article this weekend that offered Seven Steps schools should take to transition away from exclusive online teaching. Some, like the first one calling for universal access to broadband, are beyond the purview of public education, and others, like examining what was successful or variants thereof, are so common-sensical that they don’t seem worth making. The final recommendation, though, caught my eye: it called for abandoning the notion of falling behind. Here’s an excerpt that explains:

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has many people trying to get back to where they were pre-pandemic. Students and parents are looking for the same schoolwork, grades or experiences needed to keep them “on track,” especially for college admissions, despite the fact that colleges are adjusting their admissions requirements. Laufenberg worries about administrators who pressure teachers to catch students up to a standard that doesn’t take into account the harmful effects of the pandemic and what that could do to kids.

The problem with the concept of “catching up” is two fold: it assumes that the time of completion of high school is essential for getting into college and it assume that whether a student is “ahead or behind” of some artificial timeline matters in the future. If we can abandon the idea of being “ahead or behind” it would make mastery learning feasible in the future.

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