K-12 Momentum: April 2020

Dear friends,

This is a tough time. Beyond the impact on the health of millions, COVID-19 is radically affecting all aspects of our home and work lives as well as the lives of students in our care. It can feel very daunting.

Yet I hope you are also seeing signs of courage and hope in our communities – teachers and school staff are feeding students and families, transitioning to online learning against a large digital divide, and working to ensure that students have their diverse needs met. You can get a sense of these efforts here. Individuals, organizations, and communities are doing amazing things, some get noticed, most are undertaken without fanfare. We thank you.

We made a conscious shift in our strategy years ago to focus on Black, Latinx, and low-income students, and now we’re expressly concerned with addressing their needs associated with this pandemic. COVID-19 is having a clear, outsized impact on vulnerable student populations due, in part, to issues like a lack of reliable access to devices and the Internet. This will exacerbate already large opportunity gaps among students, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to mitigate that reality.

The commitment to and overall goals of our education strategies are not changing. At the same time, we are working to support our partners in this fluid situation. We are supporting grantees, where possible, by increasing flexibility in their grants to allow them to respond to unanticipated needs. In some ways, COVID-19 requires us to accelerate our work, especially to help partners and communities open school in the upcoming school year in some form this fall. I talked more about our early thinking with Rick Hess at Education Week this week. You can read that here.

To that end, we are beginning to focus on the following areas:

  • Working in partnership with other funders, we are ensuring educators and families have access to high-quality materials and resources through partners such as WideOpenSchool and LearningKeepsGoing. Check out our own COVID-19 webpage of resources for more.
  • Anticipating the key challenges facing schools, we are working to help with common obstacles, like student transitions from high school to postsecondary programs. For example, we’re supporting the College Advising Corps to develop a virtual advising playbook. We’re also assisting groups like the National College Attainment Network to provide guidance to schools and districts as they help students make the transition from high school to college – as we know that many students are wondering if they’ll be able to continue their education beyond high school.
  • We are supporting policy groups like the Council of Chief State School Officers’ response to the immediate programmatic and financial implications facing state departments of education and districts in this emergency.
  • We are also learning real-time about needs through our Teacher2Teacher Network and Principal Project Network, lifting up exemplary practices, and creating opportunities for educators to learn and share with one another effective strategies for navigating these challenging times.

This is a beginning. We will be highlighting and disseminating more of our partners’ work in the days and months ahead.

As this crisis continues to evolve, take care of yourselves, your loved ones, and your students. We’re committed to keeping an ear to the ground on what partners, teachers, families, and students need.

Bob Hughes

P.S. Check out this new episode of Code Break, a weekly computer science class with Bill Gates for elementary, middle, and high school students!


  • COVID-19 response and resources

    This new page on our website shares links and resources we’ve curated from our partners to help K-12 leaders, teachers, parents and families navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19.
  • Spotlight on challenges facing high school juniors and seniors

    The transition from high school to education after high school is already difficult for most students. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted and exacerbated the challenges of this transition. With school closures, students that are facing decisions about coursework to prepare them for college, and where to attend college and how to pay for it, may find themselves more confused and adrift than ever without in-person advising and college/career fairs, among other supports. 39% of parents of high school students nationally reported that their children’s plans after high school have changed because of COVID-19 or school closures. Three new reports shed light on the persistent barriers that face juniors and seniors and what might be done to knock them down after the pandemic—and now.

    How to improve advising for high schoolers

    This brief from National College Attainment Network examines five school districts and partner organizations using big ideas to improve their students' postsecondary outcomes and discusses steps for others who want to do the same. In response to COVID-19, NCAN has also created a streamlined playbook for district and school leaders looking for the clearest, most concrete ways to keep students on a postsecondary pathway after they graduate high school.

    How teachers and principals think about college and career readiness in their schools

    RAND recently released a report that shows that there are substantial gaps in students’ access to support for college and career readiness. “School closures due to COVID-19 have the potential to widen already-existing disparities,” they write in an associated blog post. For example, some students “may be left on their own to navigate the challenging post-graduation planning process.”

    How students need to be better prepared for postsecondary math

    The current system of how math is taught in America is impairing students from reaching their potential. This new report from the Dana Center addresses systemic barriers that impede students during the transition from high school mathematics into postsecondary education and offers recommendations to remove those barriers. 

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