Access, Communications, Transparency

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of July 6

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of July 6

As we all try to understand our rapidly evolving education environment during the COVID-19 crisis and the uncertainty that surrounds it, the Data Quality Campaign is working to elevate what’s happening – whether it’s concrete examples of what’s working in states and districts, ideas and proposals from the field, or things our organization and others are exploring. To accomplish this, we’re bringing you our thoughts on the most salient conversations happening in the last week on navigating education during the pandemic and future recovery efforts.

We’re writing this column together to combine our perspectives: Jenn brings years of experience in the classroom and in education leadership at the district and federal levels, while Paige’s expertise comes from more than a decade working on state and federal education data policy and issues. Check back weekly for our roundup of noteworthy thinking on education data and policy.

Helping parents understand district plans. GreatSchools and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) have teamed up to provide parents and communities with information about how districts are addressing remote learning. The new COVID-19 Response section on the GreatSchools website tracks “how teachers provide instruction, whether or not there are real-time interactions with other students, grading policies, and resources the district does — or doesn’t — provide to address the digital divide,” as well as information about summer learning opportunities. Parents and communities need information about how districts are serving their students to make the best decision for their families during remote learning and through school reopening. State and district leaders should be using this information to assess how well districts are reaching students during remote learning and identify changes they should make moving forward as schools start in the fall – whether they are remote, in-person or a hybrid model.

CRPE has also partnered with the Collaborative for Student Success to peer review district reopening plans. The organizations are looking for expert peer reviewers, from within and outside of the education field, to apply by July 9. Read more on the new project here.

Speaking of reopening… Safety. Funding. Workforce. These are just some of the issues that states, districts and schools are grappling with right now as they think about continuing remote learning in the fall and possibly reopening. This final line of this New York Times op-ed, which lays out many of those issues, was especially striking to us: “Airlines got a bailout. Parents are on their own.”

Despite the fact that only one in five parents feel safe sending their children back to school in August or September, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that students return to school, citing the negative impacts that being out of school has had on students’ academic, physical and mental health.

But what about teachers? With reopening plans largely up in the air, EdWeek reports that “teachers say they miss their students and the normalcy of school, many are apprehensive—and scared—about returning to in-person instruction amid so much uncertainty.” We know that an estimated 18 percent of teachers and 27 percent of principals are considered most at risk from COVID-19. This reality means that states and districts need to 1) use their data to understand how many of their staff members are considered high risk, and 2) know how their teachers and school staff members feel about returning. Will they re-enter the school if it reopens? What do they need to feel safe?

State and districts already have much of the data they need to understand their employees and how that might affect reopening. Teachers have been polled extensively, which gives leaders additional insights into how teachers and staff feel about returning to school in the fall and how to improve remote learning. DQC’s own national teacher poll found that 82 percent of teachers agree that high-quality virtual instruction is possible with the right supports, resources, and trainings in place.* Leaders are well-positioned to use that data to make informed decisions about how to move forward.

*Source: Online survey conducted within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Data Quality Campaign: April 27–May 8, 2020, among 750 full-time teachers in the United States, all of whom were currently employed teaching grades K–12.