Educating Through the Pandemic: From Hawaii’s Push for In-Person Summer School to Arkansas’s Reopening ‘Playbook’, 8 New Ways Educators and States Are Looking to Adapt to COVID-19

This update on the ‘COVID slide’ collects and shares news updates from the district, state and national levels as all stakeholders continue to work on developing safe, innovative plans to resume schooling and address learning loss. It’s an offshoot of the Collaborative for Student Success’s COVID Slide Quick Sheet newsletter, which you can sign up for here!

Districts, schools, teachers and parents have had to make major adjustments as school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have upended the 2019-20 academic year.

Now, as the reality sets in that the nature of schooling will potentially be impacted for years to come, educators, parents and policymakers are struggling to make sense of this new reality and what it means for student performance. “Regardless of whether the return to school in 2020-21 is full or partial — and in addition to ensuring the wellbeing of students, teachers and staff, and the community — determining student academic achievement levels will be essential to a successful transition,” says this new report from Education Reform Now.

Titled “COVID-19 Response: Diagnostic Assessment,” the report goes on to outline the importance of statewide diagnostic assessments to give educators and school leaders “a solid understanding of how large of a ‘COVID slide’ student[s] experienced as a result of being home from school combined with the usual summer slide” and offer some key recommendations — as well as potential roadblocks — for implementing a wide range of potential assessments.

Meanwhile, data from a Midwestern school district suggest that there are major discrepancies in how different age groups are being affected by the switch to remote learning, with “middle and high school students … struggling far more than their elementary school counterparts.” Additional data will be key in identifying how exactly various student groups are impacted and how best to implement necessary supports and instructional models.

Here are eight updates from across the country about how school systems are working to preserve student learning amid the coronavirus pandemic:

1 HAWAII — state’s schools to offer online and in-person summer courses

Public schools in Hawaii plan to offer in-person and online courses over the summer, with the former being made available to students who “struggled with distance learning resulting from coronavirus restrictions.” Courses will also be available for seniors in the Class of 2020 whose school year was disrupted by coronavirus-related closures.

2 TEXAS — a testing template

The Texas Education Agency is moving forward with a plan to make “optional end-of-year assessments (EOY) available to parents and educators free of charge.” These assessments would be provided “as a resource to help gauge the extent of the COVID slide,” but they would be voluntary and not used for accountability purposes.

3 POLL — 1 in 5 teachers say they are unlikely to return to reopened classrooms this fall

Based on recent polling by USA Today, which highlights some of the serious concerns many teachers and parents have with reopening schools in the fall, it is apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching consequences, as “1 in 5 teachers say they are unlikely to go back to school if their classrooms reopen in the fall” and nearly one-third of parents are “very likely” to continue remote learning from home rather than send their kids back to school in the fall.

4 ARKANSAS — state unveils ‘playbook’ for school return; educators begin learning how to secure virus funds

Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key unveiled a “Back to School Playbook” compiled by educators that “identifies skills that students missed when the state’s schools closed” due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as lesson plans to help fill in the gaps once classes resume.

5 ILLINOIS — fall learning plans starting to take shape:

As the Illinois State Board of Education continues to work “with state health to help develop plans for primary institutions,” local districts are being advised to develop their own plans “for social distancing, extra cleaning” and new health procedures. Meanwhile, higher education facilities such as Illinois College and Lincoln Land Community College are moving forward with their own plans for reopening plans.

6 MICHIGAN — lagging behind in a path forward for schools

Michigan policymakers and education officials “have yet to provide any public direction for the upcoming school year” despite being one of the first states in the country to close schools in response to the coronavirus. The COVID-19 Task Force on Education, formed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in early March “to study how schools could respond to the health crisis,” has yet to release any guidance.

7 IDAHO — Idaho Education Association podcast with superintendent candidate Cindy Wilson

As Idaho educators prepare for the next school year, the Idaho Education Association is looking at measures to ensure a safe learning environment for kids — whether online, in a modified classroom or some combination of the two. That will require some creative thinking on the part of teachers and districts alike.

8 KANSAS — state education leader hopeful for fall in-person classes

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson remains “cautiously optimistic that the state’s 500,000 public school students will be back in their classrooms” when the 2020-21 school year begins in the fall. However, contingency plans are being considered should there be a resurgence of COVID-19.

Go Deeper: See our latest headlines about schools, students and learning loss amid the pandemic at The74Million.org/PANDEMIC

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