We are facing an unprecedented crisis as a nation and global community. The actions we take now to support one another will shape what comes after. None of us have all the answers, but we’re committed to sharing what we know and learn so educators can show up for students and themselves when it matters most.
The systemic barriers that perpetuated inequity for students of color before the COVID-19 crisis will be exacerbated by greater threats to health, safety, and belonging. Communities of color are already experiencing disproportionate impacts as well as racism and xenophobia. Students are likely to re-enter with significant and variable unfinished learning that surpasses typical learning loss, as well as trauma, and educators will face complex and consequential decisions about prioritization while they attend to their own social emotional needs.
There is still a lot to learn, but we have a strong sense of where to start. Based on current data, school systems are likely to experience four phases, as noted by our friends at Instruction Partners:
Most or all schools close for the remainder of the academic year with a range of learning plans in place. School systems prioritize immediate health, safety, and wellness needs.
Schools make decisions about learning priorities and how to account for unfinished learning without summative data.
School systems determine how instruction will be safely and equitably delivered.
Schools are fully back in session with a focus on recovering lost learning, making progress on priority learning standards, and addressing social emotional needs of students and educators.
Schools incorporate what we’ve learned into new ways of teaching and learning.
In the next year, schools will need to not only bounce back but also be more equitable than they were before. That will look, in many ways, like the work we’ve always been about: supporting teachers to provide instruction that brings opportunity within reach for every student. But the systemic barriers that have put students of color at a disadvantage may actually be worse.
So, in addition to providing virtual and hybrid professional learning, we are prioritizing three areas of support for expanded design.
Supporting educators to provide grade-appropriate Math and ELA content through flexible and remote learning while making equitable adjustments
Whole Children, Whole Educators
Supporting educators to use trauma-informed and whole child teaching practices that promote belonging and strong relationships
Equity at the Center
Supporting leaders to ensure goals for equitable opportunity stay at the center of planning for re-entry, recovery, and the new normal
System and school leaders will need to assess curriculum choices and learning priorities to determine how to re-pace teaching and learning while centering equitable opportunity. They will also be working from limited data. It will be incredibly important for teachers and leaders to have support around making research-based choices that close gaps in knowledge while still promoting access to grade-appropriate content and assignments.
- How can school systems leverage high-quality curricula in addressing unfinished learning and unfinished teaching?
- How can schools consider needs to address by altering the core curriculum and what needs to address in targeted intervention?
- What are research-based approaches for addressing unfinished learning in math?
What might distinguish a research-based approach for addressing unfinished learning in literacy?
WHOLE CHILDREN, WHOLE EDUCATORS
The social isolation and trauma students experience create a dire need for whole child support to meet the fundamental needs of students as they re-enter schools.
For school re-entry efforts to succeed, teachers will need to meet a wide variety of academic and social-emotional student needs. Leaders will need to reconsider the social and emotional support they provide to their teachers while re-prioritizing the key concepts for collaborative learning and planning.
- What new social emotional needs might students have based on the trauma and isolation caused by COVID-19?
- What are equitable practices that support the whole child in math and English Language arts?
- How can we support content area teachers to see themselves as teaching whole students and not just teaching a content area?
Equity at the center
The learning loss that results from this gap in schooling has the potential to exacerbate inequities around access to grade-level instruction, particularly for students of color. Without intentional learning around content standards and research-based instructional practices that support the whole child, educators may unintentionally widen gaps as they try to address unfinished learning at the expense of grade-level content. Intentional learning and planning here will also help ensure that students feel valued, engaged, and a sense of belonging as they re-enter school and after this crisis.
- How can leaders create a strong school culture that continues to center equity in a time of uncertainty?
- How can schools look at their student data through an equity-centered, social justice approach that digs beneath the numbers to consider the impact of policies, practices, and mindsets?
- What policies and practices will promote equity for students of color and what policies and practices may be unintentionally harmful?
We Want to Hear from You
Let us know what is top-of-mind for you as your school, district, or system weighs the many decisions ahead. We’re committed to sharing new resources and insights from our work with school systems as they’re available, and your input will help us better meet your needs.
Virtual, remote learning is new to most educators. Still, there are key ideas about how students learn that can inform how to adjust to new ways of teaching.
Science of Learning: Research Meets Practice is a joint project between Leading Educators, the Learning Agency, and Teaching Lab to get the science of learning into the hands of teaching professionals as well as to parents, school leaders, and students. It includes actionable strategies that teachers can try today as well as six video examples that feature real educators.
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