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School & District Management

Key Strategies for Steering Schools Through COVID-19

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 30, 2020 3 min read
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Adapting to the realities of operating schools and educating young people in a global pandemic remains a major work in progress. There are still students without internet access. Some schools opened for in-person instruction but had to abruptly shut down. Debates are still raging in many communities over how to balance the risks of sending kids back to in-person school versus the risks of keeping buildings closed.

Still, teaching and learning must go on. Schools must deliver reading, math, science, and social studies.

Yet, the playbook for how to do this is still being written.

Over several recent weeks, Education Week journalists laid out the big issues that district and school leaders and teachers must grapple with in considering when and how to reopen. We presented some solutions to use as you navigate this incredibly challenging year.

We know it’s a lot to digest. That’s why we’ve made it as useful for you as we possibly could. Each of the sections comes with short, downloadable summaries that you can print out and distribute. They’re great for prompting discussions with your executive leadership team, school board, and staff.

Here’s a recap of the reporting and resources available to you.

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Parts 1-3 focus on the operations needed to begin remote and hybrid learning plans and to ensure social distancing on buses and in classrooms. Most districts have, by now, worked out those details, so here we’ll focus on the parts of the series that are now most relevant to leaders’ concerns.

Use these pieces to: Refine your safety, social-distancing, and transportation plans.

Part 4 focuses on the possibilities and pitfalls of remote learning, still very much a part of the landscape, especially in the nation’s urban districts. Among the topics we do a deep dive on: The importance of explicit, daily feedback on student work, how to toggle between in-person and online learning in a remote plan, and the PD topics teachers will need training and refreshers on throughout the year as they engage in remote learning.

Use this piece to: Support teachers and staff as they improve remote learning in 2020-21.

The stories in Part 5 will help you continue your work shifting teaching and learning throughout 2020-21. From figuring out what “power standards” are, to understanding why classroom-based assessments are more important than off-the-shelf ones, to translating key teaching methods into a remote setting, these stories get to the very heart of the learning enterprise.

Use this piece to: Prioritize content; deploy staff to support better teaching; support classroom assessment.

Part 6 focuses on learning loss, and what districts can do to prevent learning gaps due to the pandemic from expanding into chasms. With an eye to relevant research, these stories outline approaches like small-group tutoring and acceleration, plus the foundations districts must put in place first.

Use this piece to: Brainstorm systems to support academically struggling students.

Part 7 outlines the importance of devoting as much time to students’ social-emotional well-being and mental health as their academic needs. And it doesn’t require your district or school to adopt a new social-emotional learning curriculum; there are ways for teachers and counselors to weave SEL lessons and practices into the regular day of instruction, whether it’s in-person or virtual.

Use this piece to: Learn bite-sized SEL lessons that can be used in the physical classroom or the virtual one; follow best practices for working with students under stress.

Part 8 explains what’s at stake if schools don’t prioritize learning for the most vulnerable students through the current crisis and beyond. The risk for existing inequities to become even worse is high, as millions of students start the year in virtual school with indefinite dates of return to in-person instruction.

Use this piece to: Make decisions about which students should get priority for small-group instruction and one-on-one time with teachers and for other non-academic supports.

To continue our work serving you during this extraordinary time, we need your feedback and help to shape our upcoming reporting. Please email us and let us know:

  • How did you use these materials to shape your schooling plans for 2020-21?
  • Did you want, or need, any follow-up to these stories and ideas? Which ones?
  • What else can we do to support you this year?

Write us at lmaxwell@educationweek.org or ssawchuk@educationweek.org and let us know.

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