It is tough right now, but don’t feel discouraged! We don’t have the time. We are all confronting daunting challenges and uncertainty opening schools this year. And for Black, Latinx, and low-income students, recent events compound years of inequity.
Despite the divisive headlines, leaders, teachers, parents, and students are developing strategies and roadmaps to help navigate this new world. The Ed Research for Recovery Project, for example, issued their first three reports, covering learning loss, students with disabilities, and pathways, with more on the way. They are joined by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), whose new resource “Restart and Recovery: Considerations for Teaching and Learning” offers tools and adaptable guidance. And Chiefs for Change, with CCSSO, is providing guidance drawn from the experience of other nations. Center on Reinventing Public Education (CPRE) and The Council of Great City Schools have also recently shared timely insights.
To state the obvious, this is an unprecedented challenge. Full-time in-school instruction may be ideal, but it will depend on local circumstances, like COVID-19 infection rates and the physical space in schools. Collaboration is critical; leaders need to listen closely to the public health and safety experts, AND also students, parents, and teachers when evaluating conditions for a safe school opening. State and local leaders should be timely, transparent, and flexible as they weigh returning to school in person, online, or through a hybrid approach. And finally, federal, state, and local resources must be adequate and directed at those students and schools with the greatest need.
Yup, folks are tired. And the year ahead won’t be easy. The impact of COVID-19 and systemic discrimination against students of color will take time to eradicate. But in the months ahead, if we attack problems with urgency, expert advice, data, and knowledge of our students and their context, and enlist them in this effort, we will begin to fulfill our moral obligation to our students. We need to rebuild a better a system that gets us closer to the effective and fair system that our students deserve. We do that when we lead with equity.
When COVID-19 forced instruction online, Chapman University’s Thompson Policy Institute on Disability sprung to action. Through a series of webinars, they helped teacher candidates continue to gather required observation or clinical hours, despite widespread school closures.
In our efforts to better understand the mindsets of young people, we partnered with Goodwin Simon Strategic Research to learn how young people define, refine, and pursue the good life they imagine for themselves in the newest research report, Striving to Thriving.