Student learning loss from the pandemic is one of most urgent challenges districts and schools face. To address this, some districts may focus on remediation. But this often results in students falling further behind academically and can reinforce perceptions that some students are not capable of doing grade-level work, especially since students most often pushed to remediation are Black and Latinx students, students from low-income families, students with special needs, or those learning English. Schools need to diagnose learning loss and create personalized, accelerated plans to get each student at or above grade level, even in hybrid or remote environments.
Empower“I think now, more than ever, is the time for administrators to empower their teachers, uplift them, and show your trust in them. Staff who feel trusted and supported will go above and beyond every time. That will then show in their interactions with their students and families.”
The teachers we surveyed said they struggled to find ways to keep instruction rigorous and support diverse learners and non-native English speakers while also dealing with the traumas of a global pandemic and a national demand for racial justice. District and school leaders need to provide teachers with focused professional development around the new set of teaching and learning skills that these circumstances demand.
Some common research-backed strategies worked well when teachers employed them in remote learning, but many teachers didn’t have the opportunity to try those strategies. For example, only a small number of teachers we surveyed reported co-planning remote instruction with colleagues, but most who did found it to be powerful. Similarly, even though only a minority of teachers tried small group instruction or breakout rooms, those who did found those approaches to be useful. Not surprisingly, data show remote live instruction had more impact on learning than did sending printed packets home or using only prerecorded lessons students could access on their own. That said, even teachers from schools and districts that had meaningful live instruction shared concerns such as:
Improve Equity“The district created teams of teachers to write lesson plans at each grade level to improve equity. The idea was if all the teachers were focusing on and teaching the same thing that that would provide the most equity for our students. It also took a ton of pressure off the teachers so they could focus on connecting with their students and families.”
- How do we keep all students engaged, with particular attention to diverse learners?
- How much do we push them?
- How do we know where they are in their learning?
- How many hours of live instruction should be expected of teachers? Of students?
- What instructional strategies should a school or district commit to and support across classrooms, so that all students are receiving research-informed strategies and teachers are being shown what those strategies can look like, whether remote or face to face?
- What does planning time look like across a grade or department, so that colleagues can have structured collaborative time to improve lessons or look at student work?
The pandemic and the move to remote learning have exacerbated learning inequities that have long existed and created new ones that must be addressed head-on. School leaders create an equity agenda for instruction by monitoring:
- Students’ access to robust instruction and to the materials and technology that allow them to engage in the work
- Students’ access to just-in-time instructional supports and accommodations