African teen girl wearing headphones study with internet chat skype teacher prepare for exam, black girl school student learning online, watch webinar make notes looking at laptop, distance educationIn March 2020, educators at every level were thrown into an unprecedented scenario with little to no planning or training—leading and teaching online from their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent period of social unrest resulting from systemic racism. Since then, educators at every level have shifted their instructional practices, trying to find the best supports for students who may have experienced significant learning loss often in addition to trauma.

The Fall 2020 school year launched with the knowledge that schools and districts are taking different paths—some fully remote, some fully face to face, and some blended—and that each path is subject to change. While districts grapple with operational challenges from air filtration systems to scheduling challenges to isolation rooms, how can they simultaneously focus on making sure students, especially our most vulnerable students, get the instruction and social emotional learning they need?

This guide offers support. It presents data, strategies, and resources in five essential areas: teaching and learning, social and emotional learning, structures and systems, families, and professional development.

Cheerful black young guy with headset looking at laptop, having fun while studying, cafe interiorThe purpose of the guide is to focus on what schools and their partners can control: instructional leadership. Still, we recognize that these challenging situations are exacerbated by the extraordinary pressures and hardships currently affecting the lives of many of their students and their families, including:

  • Social and economic systemic inequities, including inequitable access to healthy food, secure housing, quality health insurance and healthcare, and internet and technology to give students access to online learning, exacerbate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on low-income, Black, and Hispanic/Latino students.
  • Families and students struggle with competing priorities of fulfilling their basic needs and doing what is required for school. This reinforces negative stereotypes of low-income, Black, and Latinx communities and hampers learning.
  • Lack of multilingual educators and school services, the risk of deportation for immigrant families, and the intersection of two pandemics — COVID-19 and systemic racism—compound the above inequities.

Thus, this guide attempts to introduce strategies and examples that can be adapted to local needs and contexts and can be viewed as part of a larger system and structure.