Are school expectations too low or too high?

School expectations and student workload are always topics of conversation in education. With rigorous statewide testing and the newly adopted Common Core State Standards, schools have received backlash. Students, teachers, and parents argue that the expectations for students are too high. You may agree or disagree with this statement. However, it is a proven fact that academic expectations have significantly decreased during the coronavirus pandemic. All the statewide assessments have been canceled. School days have been cut in half. Students are being assigned less than half the workload they would typically complete in their classrooms.

Our children are going to face enough challenges when they return to school. Let’s not let their ability to grapple with the workload be one of them. 

Ramped Up School Expectations

When we go back to school, students will need to make major adjustments. The workload will have suddenly “ramped up.”

At the beginning of our quarantine, many administrators, bloggers, and even educational foundations recommended that teachers lessen the load. Stephen Merrill, an author and staff member for Edutopia (a highly praised blog for educators), suggested, “If your district allows it, you should plan to do less. Students won’t be able to work as productively, anyway—so if you can’t scale back you’ll be sending them work they cannot do—and your own life and family need added care.”

Initially, this was the best move. Most of us had to navigate remote learning and working from home at the same time. It wasn’t feasible for students to complete the same amount of work during time spent away from their experienced teachers. 

The Cost of Lowered School Expectations

Many school districts began to contemplate the effects lower expectations would have on learning. The unions eventually became involved. In a recent article in the New York Times, Dana Goldstein and Eliza Shapiro state: “Unions in some of America’s largest school districts have called for restrictions on the number of hours and days that teachers would be required to work from home during the pandemic. They have also pushed back against the expectation that teachers conduct lessons live at fixed times…over Zoom or other video platforms.”

Teachers are no longer have to conduct face to face lessons via an online platform. This made us question: How far behind will our students fall? Again, from the New York Times: “But if teachers step back from engaging with students and families, it is likely to be children from low-income households who are hurt the most, given existing achievement gaps.” I do believe our health comes first. However, now that officials are beginning to reopen the state, I think we have to address the problem we’ve created. Students must acclimate to their regular routine once again. 

Striking a Balance

Thankfully, the answer is quite simple. Whether it through structured learning times, practice worksheets, reading, art, music, or play, make sure your children continue to learn every day. Additionally, have your children help out around the house if they aren’t already doing so. By having chores as a shared responsibility, you are teaching your children the importance of hard work. Lastly, make sure they keep working on school-related projects throughout the summer. Because the end of the school year has been less rigorous. So, we need to keep our children’s brains active throughout the summer months. The ultimate goal is this: keep your children’s work ethic strong so they can handle the pressures and added stressors when they go back to their normal schedules.