MDRC in the News

A Discussion with MDRC’S K-12 Education Policy Director William Corrin Regarding the Daunting New Realities of American Public Education

Lawyers, Guns & Money


As director of K-12 education policy at MDRC, the venerable New York City-based non-profit public policy research organization, William Corrin is responsible for overseeing the execution of many nationwide studies dedicated to the evaluation of academic interventions in primary, middle and secondary schools. It is MDRC’s mission to learn and share what works to improve school performance and student outcomes nationwide, an undertaking that provides a unique window into the countless moving parts comprising America’s public school system. Under the best of circumstances, this is a lot to wrangle with, and for those not keeping score at home: these are not the best of circumstances. As schools reckoning with the ongoing consequences of COVID-19 attempt to rebuild the airplane on the fly, I spoke to Corrin about the myriad difficulties posed by the pandemic and what the future of K-12 education may look like moving forward. I should disclose two other things as well: I am a former full-time staffer and current consultant at MDRC, so William is functionally my boss. Also, he rules at playing bass.

EN: Prior to the pandemic and ensuing events, the difficulty of providing quality public education to underserved communities was one of our nation’s most consistently daunting and multi-faceted challenges. Can you describe how the new realities have embroidered an entirely unforeseeable set of complications into an already deeply complex mosaic?

WC: The most obvious hurdle that has gotten the most airtime during the pandemic is how education has moved to “distance learning.” The delivery of instruction and navigation of curriculum both have to be facilitated by technology. But for students in underserved communities, in particular, there continues to be a lack of access to reliable internet and electronic devices. In some rural areas, internet availability is limited for both teachers and students. In addition, teachers and other school staff have had to rapidly figure out new pedagogical approaches to do their work with students through both synchronous and asynchronous means via the internet.

And parents have had to be engaged in a more continuous way in their children’s education than ever before. If they’ve been able to work remotely from home, that has meant adapting their work schedules and obligations. And if they are essential workers, they have had to figure out how their students will get the daily educational support they need – for example, via other family members or through accommodations that some districts have tried, like drop-off centers with COVID-19 precautions in place…..

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