Changes in K-12 Education To Watch in 2020

This year has already proven to be a whirlwind for many schools and districts across the nation. Between educational strikes resulting in negotiations between lawmakers and teachers and a global pandemic causing schools to scramble for alternative learning methods, there are many trends and changes in the field of education to watch this year.

Remote Learning

With the threat of coronavirus becoming more and more real in the United States, school districts, private institutes, and universities have opted to switch to remote learning as a precautionary method of teaching. Online learning is not a new option for high schoolers and has been shown to be successful for students who are homeschooled or need an alternative pace of instruction. According to the New York Times, for the American education system, this new experiment will be enacted to try distance learning on “a massive scale.”

Schools around Washington State, Southern California, and Westchester County, New York, were some of the first of many schools and districts to adopt remote learning methods on a large scale to adapt to the ever-evolving circumstances of COVID-19. In the epicenter of the outbreak, Northshore School District in Seattle became the first to move all class instruction online. Educators in this district utilized prerecorded videos outlining lesson plans, live chat links, and worksheets for students to continue learning at home. The district said that 98 percent of students attended classes online. According to Education Week, these are just the first of thousands of schools planning to suspend in-person classes. Whether or not a national decree will be issued to close all schools  still remains to be seen, but is not out of the question.

While these plans to enact remote learning may be temporary for many districts, we deem this a major trend and change to watch unfold in 2020. If your school or district is adopting distance learning as a prevention method for COVID-19, our digital platforms can help adapt the social studies classroom remotely for your students. From now until the end of the 2019/2020 school year, Social Studies School Service is offering free access to our online learning platforms for all school districts. Contact us below to start using our resources today!



Source: Wikimedia Commons

Protests Turning Law into Action

The education workers’ strikes of 2018 and 2019 spawned huge changes for school officials in various states and districts across the United States. In February 2018, approximately ten thousand West Virginia teachers and other school employees took to the streets, striking with the “Red for Ed” movement over school wages, health care costs for teachers, reduced pensions, and overcrowded classrooms. The strikes quickly caught on in other states and cities, including Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, and Los Angeles, prompting swift negotiations between lawmakers and educational unions.

While educational issues vary between states, cities, and districts, the wave of teacher protests is on track to continue in 2020. Thousands of educators throughout Florida and the St. Paul Public School District in Minnesota have already rallied about their prospective demands this year. With the support of parents and the public, teachers in Florida assembled at the statehouse in Tallahassee to demand more funding for education, and the teachers union in St. Paul is currently negotiating for additional school supports and student services.


Source: iStock/Natee127

Mental Health Supports and Education in Schools

When Los Angeles educators agreed to make a deal with lawmakers to end their six-day strike in early 2019, one of the key negotiations was for each school to hire full-time nurses and for the district to add more supports like counselors and librarians. District lawmakers agreed to fund more placements, and schools will start to see an impact by fall 2020.

Additionally, in July 2019, California legislators launched the Mental Health Student Services Act, a grant program where county behavioral health departments can partner with local schools to provide campus-based mental health services. For some time, California lawmakers have sought to increase mental health services on school campuses, which act as the first line of defense in detecting possible conditions that can have long-term impacts on students. There is also a bill pending in Congress that seeks to provide national funding for mental health supports, but it is currently halted. As many states and schools are making mental health a higher priority, fingers crossed this bill will be pushed through to the Senate in 2020.

In 2018, legislation passed in New York that mandates all K–12 classrooms implement instruction about mental health as part of the overall health curriculum. This law was the first of its kind to emphasize mental health and make sure students learn about it. Other states, like Virginia and Florida, followed suit last year, enacting legislation requiring mental health education in high school and the allocation of funds for student supports. It’s likely that in 2020 more states will follow the lead of California, increasing mental health resources between the community and schools, and New York, directing mental health instruction into the curriculum.



Source: Pexels/Element5 Digital

Teaching about Elections 

As 2020 is a presidential election year, it provides a great opportunity for educators to teach students about civics, how government works, the electoral process, current events, caucuses, and campaigns. Because the political climate in the United States is currently divisive, it is critically important that students learn about elections and how to engage in the democratic process—whether at the local, state or national level. America was built on a foundation of dissent and debate, so inspiring students to speak, listen, understand, take a stance, and discuss issues civilly has never been more valuable.

Expect teachers to take advantage of activities revolving around the current events unfolding week to week with Democratic primaries and caucuses. In the fall, teachers can utilize various resources including mock debates, role-play simulations, or campaign generators to teach about American politics. Even after the election in November, count on this trend of teaching elections and engaging in civil discourse to continue through the end of the year and after Inauguration Day in January 2021. 

Here are some vital resources to help teach about elections in the classroom:

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Education Week. “Map: Coronavirus and School Closures.” Updated March 6, 2020.

Forestieri, Kevin. “State Launches $50M Program for School-Based Mental Health.” Palo Alto Online, August 2, 2019.

Jacobson, Linda. “Strike Tracker: Negotiations in St. Paul Public Schools to Resume Thursday.” Education Dive, March 12, 2020.

Weise, Karen. “Remote Learning Comes to America as Coronavirus Shuts Schools.” New York Times, March 10, 2020.

Monet Hendricks is the blog, social media, and meme connoisseur for Social Studies School Service. Passionate about the field of education, she earned her BA from the University of Southern California before deciding to go back to get her master’s degree in Educational Psychology. She currently attends the graduate program at Azusa Pacific University pursuing advanced degrees in School Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis. Her favorite activities include watching documentaries on mental health and cooking adventurous vegetarian recipes. 

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