As students and educators return to the classroom—some for the first time in 18 months—we must address the social and emotional needs of the whole school community. Hear from educators who share their experiences and advice for supporting mental health and well-being.
12 Ways to Start the Year
This handy collection of tips and resources can help you get organized, set up your classroom, grow professionally, and take care of yourself and your students this year.
Will the Pandemic Change Homework Forever?
When schools switched to remote learning, all schoolwork became homework. Now some educators are questioning the purpose and merit of take-home assignments.
Teaching in the Era of Polarization
The nation is more politically divided than it has been in decades. And many teachers feel they can no longer stand on the sidelines.
Finding the Lost Students of the Pandemic
Some 3 million students simply disappeared during remote learning. Educators went to herculean lengths to locate their missing students—and their work continues today.
2021 Teacher of the Year
Special educator Juliana Urtubey has been named the national Teacher of the Year for her work in creating equitable schools.
ESP: ‘No Child of Any Age Should Go Hungry’
When a student would rather skip lunch than use a free-meal card, an education support professional is often the first one to notice. That’s why many are speaking out in favor of the universal school meals program, which would provide free meals to all students.
First and Foremost
The Benefits of Starting School Later
An increasing body of evidence is showing that later school start times are making a difference in students’ lives, including improved educational outcomes and mental well-being. Physicians have been advocating for later start times for more than two decades, and the body of literature linking adolescent sleep with increased student success has only grown in depth and rigor.
A new study in Minnesota found that when four school districts postponed the start of the school day by 20 to 65 minutes, grades improved slightly. Contrary to widespread concerns that students would only stay up later, students actually reported that they slept longer. Still, despite this mounting data, very few schools start the day at 8:30
Parental Support of Educators Stayed Strong During Pandemic
From the moment COVID-19 first shuttered school buildings, educators have risen to the challenges the pandemic created, doing everything they could to keep students happy, healthy, and learning. And though some educators may feel beat up by the stress, research shows that parents not only appreciate educators, but also empathize with their struggles and trust them to make the right decisions.
The poll, conducted in March by GQR Insights and Action, found that 86 percent of parents polled agreed that educators faced enormous stress during the pandemic as they learned new online platforms and managed in- person and online instruction at the same time.
The poll also showed that parents and guardians generally trusted teachers unions (66 percent) and teachers (64 percent) to make the right decision about when schools should reopen.
Parents’ responses when asked if educators faced an enormous amount of stress during the pandemic
"For a long time, students who have fewer resources and weaker grading practices. Embedded in the grade is the timing of when it is completed. Too many things outside of students control can make it impossible to complete on time. What actually matters is what is the learning, not the timing of the learning.
Grades should reflect academic performance and learning, and we should not use them as a way of managing or evaluating behavior. And now, when so many more students have been affected by the pandemic, we have the opportunity to distinguish and more clearly articulate what a grade should represent.”
- Joe Feldman, Author of Grading for Equity
College Enrollment Falls During Pandemic
According to the High School Benchmarks report from the National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollments had dropped by 6.8 percent by November 2020— more than quadrupling the pre-pandemic rate of decline. Overall, 56.5 percent of the 2020 graduating class enrolled in postsecondary school immediately after graduating, compared with 60.5 percent of the 2019 graduating class.
Schools with more low-income students of color experienced much greater declines compared with those from affluent schools. High-poverty high schools sent 46 percent of 2020 graduates to college this past fall, com- pared with 70 percent of graduates from low-poverty schools. This is a wider gap than in 2019, confirming concerns that the pandemic was more disruptive to low-income families and their plans for college.
Issues and Impact
Collective bargaining: Key to higher wages and shared prosperity
The numbers don’t lie: When unions can bargain collectively, wages and equity increase.
Be like Gwen: Advocate for collective bargaining
Find out how one educator helped overturn a ban on collective bargaining in Virginia.
People and Places
The Vaccine Hunters
When COVID-19 vaccines were in short supply, a team of educators—aka the “vaccine hunters”—helped senior citizens get the life-saving shots.
‘They Will Remember This’
Meet some of the winners of NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Awards
NEA Representative Assembly
NEA leaders, President Joe Biden, and Stacey Abrams speak to delegates about the opportunities ahead.
A Note From the Editor-in-Chief
This year, back to school is a time for healing and renewal.
“We have a chance to make significant strides forward for all students.”
NEA in Action
Here are some of the things we've been doing since the last issue.
NEA played a powerful role in passing the American Rescue Plan.
Through NEA, educators, parents, caregivers, and students, wrote hundreds of thousands of messages and placed thousands of calls to Congress.
- The results: $170 billion to public schools and colleges.
- $7 billion to help address the digital divide.
- $350 billion in local/state aid to keep frontline workers, including educators, on the job.
NEA DREAMers invited to the White House
In May, President Joe Biden invited pre-K teacher Karen Reyes—along with four other NEA members who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status—to the Oval Office to share personal stories and discuss immigration reforms.
"If I'm scared, what are my students and my families feeling? If I can do something to fight for human rights for immigrants, and to help folks, I should." —Karen Reyes, DACA recipient
"Our kids need us now more than ever. We have the opportunity to hit reset on things that don't work, and I am committed to making sure we have NEA at the table to [elevate the profession] and do the very best for our students.”
— U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona at an NEA-Hosted Virtual Town Hall, in April
Fix School Buildings
Now Public schools should be as safe as self-supporting schools. (“U.S. Schools Need an Infrastructure Upgrade”) The ZIP code the school is in should not determine basic care and maintenance. The learning environment should be clean, healthy, safe, and stimulating to the learner.
Public schools should always be kept in good repair. The atmosphere should be pleasant and encouraging to learning. Our children...deserve the very best education to succeed in life, and for our nation to thrive.
Trauma and the Importance of Play
I whole-heartedly agree with Ms. London that students need to play to heal from the trauma of the pandemic. (“How Play Can Help Heal Trauma”) By all means, let’s keep recess, but let’s also provide more quality physical education programs for kids to rebuild relationships, develop positive social-emotional skills, and have fun. I’m not talking about “roll out the ball, gym teacher” PE, but programs that give kids the skills, knowledge, and concepts they need to live active, healthy lives.