As our country and communities begin to pivot from the initial phase of fighting the horrifying impact of COVID-19 toward the future, we hope education and other leaders will remain focused on realities brought into stark relief over the past six weeks. COVID-19 has forcefully called our attention to glaring inequities in many areas of life, including education. We have two choices. We can ignore the obstacles that have only gotten more perilous for poor, black and brown students. Or, we can own up to inequities and forge new pathways rooted in racial justice and a genuine commitment to the well-being of all children.
Reforming the systems, practices and policies that were failing our children before COVID-19 should be at the core — not the periphery — of recovery and reentry planning. We hope states like Louisiana will continue their fierce commitment to the academic needs and growth of all children and make even deeper investments in their emotional and mental health as well, choosing leaders who will make that a key priority. We also hope that commitment to bold progress is sustained, and even accelerated, in the face of leadership changes.
In Louisiana, 71 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged and 41 percent are black. Before COVID-19, 22 percent of black students were mastering grade-level materials, compared with nearly half of their white peers. Black students were suspended at nearly double the rate of white students. Children with disabilities had a 22 percent gap in their graduation rates, English learners a 45 percent gap. Louisiana was making steady progress in closing opportunity gaps as compared with other states, but state and local leaders need to double down on strategies that were working pre-COVID and invest in innovative strategies to help the most struggling learners.
These painful statistics should motivate a new normal. As federal stimulus money begins to flow, resources are being dedicated to new devices and better instruction using technology. Policymakers are discussing adding time to make up for learning loss. Educators are focused on making sure they know where students are academically when they return. All these things are critically important.
But in order for all children to thrive, we must also and pursue bold new ideas. This is not a moment to rearrange the furniture and apply a coat of paint to the Titanic.
We must focus on the social, emotional and mental health needs of students and families — and to do so with care not to go back to old ways. We need to increase the skill of educators in building deep and trusting relationships with students. We need to ensure that our teaching force of mostly white educators working with mostly black and brown students are aware of potential biases and have the tools to truly see and hear students. School systems need resources to help students and families access high-quality, culturally competent, school-based and community-based mental health and social services. Schools will need to dedicate time to nurturing the social and emotional health of students, and board members, state leaders and superintendents must value and prioritize this work. School cultures need to have high expectations for students, and lots of supports to catch them if they struggle, academically or otherwise. The partnership between schools and families must be nurtured.
We also hope the state and districts will take this time to continue rethinking discipline and expand new approaches already underway. If we want to stem the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts black and brown students, now is the time to take a different approach. The data is clear: We cannot suspend and expel our way to a successful system. More is required. Boys and young men of color must be seen as assets and not liabilities. Students should get a fresh start, and we should aspire to support each and every one of them to succeed.
Attending to the well-being of all children cannot be left to the school system alone. Community and faith-based organizations, and neighbors can, and must, help schools. These are our schools, and our community’s children. We no longer have the luxury of blaming others or simply shuffling leaders. This moment presents the opportunity to recognize that some of the resources our children require are not found on school campuses. Access to health care, behavioral health services, support for families and caring adults must be derived from our larger community.
We should not go back to old ways of doing things that failed too many. Louisiana can continue to lead the way in putting the needs of our most marginalized students at the forefront as we rebuild.
Cami Anderson is the CEO of The Discipline Revolution Project, an organization working to realize equity across the country, including in Louisiana. She’s the former superintendent of alternative high schools in New York and Newark.
Raymond A. Jetson is chief executive catalyst at MetroMorphosis, an organization focused on transforming inner-city neighborhoods from within. He’s an Encore Public Voices and Forward Promise fellow.
TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL AND HEADLINES
- If you haven’t come across it, Wide Open School is a truly comprehensive culling of high-quality, safe, and approved on-line resources for educators and families fueled by Common Sense with 25 of the biggest content providers in the education space.
- An all-star panel of national, state, local, and school leaders (and lots of friends) wrote an incredibly thorough and detailed back to school opening plan for systems leaders; this is a must read for school and systems leaders
- An excellent article in US News and World Reports summarizing the big changes schools are likely to have to enact based on the new CDC guidelines
- An important article about the misuses of assessing and talking about childhood trauma; with “trauma-informed” education rightfully taking front-stage as we address student needs, it is critically important we don’t pathologize and label children, families, and communities
- Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion author and teaching guru (and friend), recorded a free webinar on what he is learning about effective on-line teaching; it’s a must watch. And while you are on his site, you will find on-line modules about good teaching overall.
PLANNING FOR RE-OPENING
- A set of equity questions for systems leaders to consider by the NYC Leadership Academy
- An excellent article about what we can learn from systems who successfully and quickly transitioned to distance learning
- A detailed reopening roadmap from a set of operations, public health, and education experts working together
- Catalyst Education released a comprehensive planning tool for systems. Including one focused on the social and emotional well being for students and families; note, we do not necessarily recommend all of the resources they link to, but the tool itself breaks down essential element that need to be considered alongside instruction, talent, and operations
- A excellent piece by Transcend Education about the three jobs systems leaders have right now: responding, recovering, and reinventing. Makes a strong case for not returning to the status quo
- A great article about assessing student learning right now
- School closures — a collaborative of over 20 organizations — is a one-stop website with a treasure trove of resources for SEL and instruction
- A Harvard Business Review article about the importance of balancing “task orientated” leadership with “people oriented” leadership; important reminder right now
- A Harvard Business Review article about the psychology of leading in a crisis; this one focused on how leaders create the right “holding environment” for people to be productive in times of uncertainty
- An excellent article about how Jacinda Ardern has been such an effective leader by exhibiting what leadership guru Ron Heifitz calls technical and adaptive leadership
- Clearinghouse of instructional resources by Instruction Partners
- 32 resources for preschoolers by Fordham
- YouTube resources for middle and high schoolers by Fordham
- Clearinghouse by Education Reimagined of academic resources
- Khan Academy made a sample home teaching schedule with links to lessons for all grades for a whole day over multiple weeks. The schedule is a great sample, and the Khan content is great for math and solid for other subjects. Self-directed and free.
- A high-quality teacher-made an incredible schedule complete with guiding questions and on-line resources
- Scholastic offers a full suite of all subject by grade level
- BrainPop offers all subjects but also has PE, Art, African AmericanHistory, and other topics all by grade level
- Zearn: This highly regarded math site builds off of the Common Core-aligned Eureka Math program to make online math lessons compelling and effective.
- GreatMinds: The publisher of Eureka Math, Wit and Wisdom, and PhD Science, will soon roll out free instructional materials, including videos of teacher-led lessons, for students nationwide
- The most comprehensive list of online education resources that are offering free services for families and/or schools right now. This is an online spreadsheet with hundreds of resources. If you are looking for something specific, you will find it here.
- Educators can also visit the Success Academy Ed Institute, for free access to the building blocks of Success K-8 curriculum, along with virtual professional development resources for teachers and school leaders.
- Penguin books has free on-line books, author talks, and other goodies for kids
- A comprehensive set of on-line resources for NYC teachers
- Audiobooks for kids are free on Audible
- On-line leveled books at Raz Kids
- This is a free K-5 on-line science courses— highly interactive and fun.
- Mark Rober, former NASA engineer: With over 10 million subscribers, Rober comes up with super fun and engaging ways to explore science concepts and engineering challenges. A good place to start is his “learn some science” playlist, currently at 26 videos, 10 to 15 minutes each
- Bill Nye the Science Guy: An oldie but a goodie—Nye’s channel offers 48 full-length, 23-minute videos, covering virtually every major topic in the science curriculum
- MIT is now delivering a weekly set of activities, video, etc. for K12 kids
- Embry-Riddie school of Aeronautics will start offering free online courses
- A readable, vivid article about how special education is playing out in Providence. Contains some good ideas and hard realities
- A National Geographic article about how to support Autistic children at home — helpful for teachers too
- An article by NSVF describing three technology-based tools for supporting student mindfulness and reflection
- Icivics offers games and lessons on civics
- For teachers, Morningside Centers has tips and lessons for adults to engage kids in SEL content and ReThink Ed has some good tips and lessons for adults to engage students; there is some content for kids directly (particularly teens)
- Also, Headspace, is now offering free services for K12 — this in everything from guided meditations, morning rituals, on-line counseling, and other mental health supports.
- A Trauma-Informed Approach to working with students right now from Teaching Tolerance
- The most popular class in Yale’s history on The Science of Happiness and Well-Being is now free
- A checklist on how to keep kids social and emotional needs front and center by the surge institute
- 10 ideas for keeping kids engaged who have diverse learning needs by The Ability Challenge
- Two places to find virtual tours of the world’s greatest museums, here and here. This one is called the ultimate guide to virtual museums.
- Kid-friendly news articles can be found about on just about every topic
- Liberty’s Kids: A fun-filled and age-appropriate cartoon that first aired on PBS decades ago. This is a fantastic narrative account of the American Revolution, spread over 40 episodes, 23 minutes each.
- Extra Credits Extra History: Boasting over 200 videos, this channel offers history lessons complete with compelling narration and cute animations. Each episode is around 10 to 15 minutes.
- Crash Course: This channel offers a huge library of videos across most major disciplines, including playlists of 48 videos on U.S. history, 72 on world history, and 50 on U.S. government and politics. Each episode is generally 10 to 15 minutes long and features John Green talking about the subject, mixed in with some humor and animations
- Coding content for kids
- Digital literacy for kids — and resources for parents to keep kids safe by Common Sense Media
- Fun activities at home by Fordham
- A comprehensive tool-kit for parents in setting up school by greatschools.org
- The Library of Congress is hosting an on-line series with author and youth writing ambassador Jason Reynolds aimed at engaging young people in creative writing and storytelling ideas on Tuesdays and Thursdays
- Making the most of this time by the 74
- Staying resilient right now by Harvard Business Review
- Summit Public Schools parent video link (in multiple languages) so students and families could get set up for in-home, on-line learning
- This article for families includes practical tips and a list of top and user-friendly on-line tools
- How bad times bring out the best in people by the Harvard Business Review
- A data visualization from The Washington Post is good for explaining why social distancing is so important
- A Trauma-Informed Approach to working with students right now from Teaching Tolerance — a MUST read
- Be A Learning Hero has a roadmap to help parents keep their children on track while school is closed
- Dreambox Learning is giving parents a 90-day free trial of Dreambox so children can learn at home. Sign up by April 30th.
- The Kennedy Center is offering art lessons called “Lunch Doodles” everyday at 1:00pm ET
- Reading Rockets has free resources for young children to read, write, and explore while they’re at home.
- ReadWriteThink has activities and projects, tips and how-to’s, printouts, and more to focus on reading and writing for K-12 students
DISTRICTS AND CHARTER MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS
Districts and Charter Management Organizations are putting their plans online; following are links to various plans:
- KIPP DropBox contains everything from instructional recommendations to operations templates and family communication
- Summit Public Schools Virtual School Handbook for Teachers
- Summit Public Schools Virtual School Handbook for School Leaders
- Esperanza CMO — High Quality and useful “lessons learned” piece from one charter management organization’s work to go virtual
- Chiefs for Change is summarizing the approach of all of their members’ districts and states on their website. Select exemplars include:
HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE ONLINE TEACHER
- The Chronicle of Higher Education compiled strategies about how to be a better teacher on-line
- Resources and tips for teaching remotely by MIT
- Short and sweet article with clear and useful tips about teaching on-line
- A comprehensive article about planing for and executing distance learning by ISTE
- Zoom 101 for teachers by We Are Teachers
- A thoughtful and practical resource with tips about how to balance synchronous and asynchronous learning in Education Week.
- Own The Room is hosting free zoom classes on how to use the platform to be an effective, engaging teacher — I recently took one of their master classes and it was awesome
- Mastering remote teaching and more by Doug Lemov
- Feedback and accountability on-line by Doug Lemov
- Taking a student-centered approach by Facing History and Ourselves
- PBS resources walking you through the brass tacks of virtual learning
- How to be effective on-line by the Chronicle of Higher Education
- Going on-line in a hurry by the Chronicle of Higher Education
- Advice for first-time remote teachers by Ed Surge
- Tips for online learning by ASCD
- Teach for All’s top 12 tips for online learning
BUILDING ONLINE CONTENT
DAILY OR WEEKLY CONTENT
- The Robertson Center will be sending out daily emails to interested educators and parents with a “Thinking Job of the Day” for students who are learning remotely. This will include a math activity that students can work on at home. Link to sign up to receive these resources here.
- The New York Times is publishing a daily set of learning activities for students and updates for adults — they have also taken down the paid firewall. It has writing prompts and kid-friendly articles.
- Jarrett J. Krosoczka, whose book Hey Kiddowas a National Book Award finalist, is going to have live, daily drawing lessons on Youtube starting March 16th.
- Ed Navigator is sensing a really helpful daily parent email
- Harper Collins: HarperKids is having storytime at noon ET on Facebook
- Weekly activities for little kids by Tinkergarten
- Weekly math activities by Stanford-based You Cubed