Schools and COVID-19, Health Care Resources, Leaving Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

blog

November 20, 2020

We discuss insights from America's educators about teaching during the pandemic; a checklist to help hospitals allocate scarce but lifesaving resources; the lopsided effects of a shift to remote working; what a drop in community college enrollment might mean for the economy; the consequences of a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan; and how President-elect Biden can deter North Korea.

Teachers work outside their school building for safety reasons as they prepare for the delayed start of the school year due to COVID-19, in Brooklyn, New York City, September 14, 2020, photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The School Year May Be Another Casualty of the Pandemic

Most U.S. schools are still either providing entirely remote instruction or using a hybrid model. Up until now, little information has been gathered directly from educators about what's happening on the ground.

A new RAND survey has filled this gap. Unfortunately, the findings paint a dire picture of how the pandemic is affecting students and teachers:

  • The highest-poverty schools and schools that serve high percentages of minority students are less likely to offer in-person instruction. Access to devices and the internet continues to be a disproportionate challenge for students in high-poverty schools.
  • Teachers report that students are less prepared to participate in grade-level work. But only 10 percent of principals said that their school was providing more students with tutoring or supplemental courses that might help kids catch up.
  • On average, teachers said that they were able to contact only four out of every five of their students.
  • Teacher morale is low. About 80 percent of teachers report feeling burnt out. One-quarter said that they were likely to leave the profession.

These findings highlight the urgent need to focus on making schools safer to attend in person.

Two health care workers checking on a patient in quarantine, photo by tuachanwatthana/Getty Images

Photo by tuachanwatthana/Getty Images

Allocating Scarce Resources During a Pandemic

The United States passed 250,000 COVID-19 deaths this week. And with cases and hospitalizations continuing to rise in most parts of the country, many health systems are facing the need to increase critical care capacity. But perhaps even more concerning is the fact that some need guidance about how to allocate scarce but lifesaving resources. These include ventilators for patients and personal protective equipment for health care workers. RAND researchers have created a rapid response checklist to help health care decisionmakers and state policymakers navigate these harrowing decisions.

Woman working at home on a laptop with cat on the desk, photo by Drazen_/Getty Images

Photo by Drazen_/Getty Images

The Lopsided Telework Revolution

The benefits of working from home—including protection from both COVID-19 and job loss—have flowed primarily to white and more educated workers. This could exacerbate inequality trends. But there are ways to offset some of the disparities, say RAND researchers. For example, underutilized office buildings might be adapted into affordable housing for essential workers. And expanding broadband access could enhance telework opportunities in rural areas, as well as access to online education and telehealth services.

People walk outside Hostos Community College in the Bronx borough of New York, December 16, 2017, photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

People walk outside Hostos Community College in the Bronx, New York, December 16, 2017

Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

What a Drop in Community College Enrollment Might Mean for the Economy

Enrollment at America's community colleges is down by nearly 10 percent compared with before the pandemic. The decline is even steeper among people who are enrolling for the first time. According to RAND experts, this is a bad sign for the economy. Community and technical colleges provide most of the training for middle-skills jobs in the United States. Without financial support, these schools may not be able to infuse the labor force with critical talent during what's sure to be a difficult economic recovery.

A U.S. flag is seen at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after U.S. and Afghan forces cleared Islamic State fighters from the area, July 7, 2018

A U.S. flag flies at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after Islamic State fighters were cleared from the area, July 7, 2018

Photo by James Mackenzie/Reuters

Consequences of a Hasty Withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Trump has ordered the Pentagon to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) by mid-January, just before the end of his presidency. Granted, winning in Afghanistan may not be an available option. But according to a 2019 RAND paper, a precipitous withdrawal, no matter how rationalized, would mean “choosing to lose.” Potential consequences include a loss of influence and legitimacy for the Kabul government, increased control for the Taliban, a widening of the civil war, and opportunities for extremist groups to make inroads.

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un gives field guidance at construction sites in Samjiyon County, North Korea, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 18, 2018

Kim Jong-un in Samjiyon County, North Korea

Photo by KCNA via Reuters

Deterring North Korea During the Transition

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be planning to commit provocative actions in the weeks before the presidential inauguration. To deter such bad behavior, RAND's Bruce Bennett says that President-elect Joe Biden should consider moving beyond the Trump administration's “maximum-pressure” and adopting a “carrot and stick” strategy for managing Pyongyang. This approach could show that the Biden administration won't be a pushover and will impose serious penalties for future provocation.

Listen to the Recap

Get Weekly Updates from RAND

If you enjoyed this weekly recap, consider subscribing to Policy Currents, our newsletter and podcast.