Giving Compass' Take:

• Robin Lake assesses the progress of school districts six weeks into distance learning, and finds that educators should employ attendance tracking strategies.

• What can educators learn from this process? What are the barriers in attendance tracking and ensuring student engagement during this time? 

• Read more data on attendance rates in remote learning. 

A version of this essay appeared on the Center on Reinventing Public Education blog.

Six weeks into COVID-19 school closures, and at roughly the midpoint of the final academic quarter of this school year, it is a good time to step back to assess what schools and districts have accomplished — and the gaps in learning opportunities that remain — as students, teachers and families prepare to close out 2019-20.

Districts have come a long way in this time. Over the past month, the percentage of 82 districts reviewed that provide a comprehensive remote learning plan (one that includes access to formal curriculum, instruction and feedback on student work) has increased from 5 percent to 44 percent.

Assuming districts’ attention will soon turn to commencement celebrations, summer learning and fall contingency planning, it is not clear how much more progress will be made on remote learning this school year.

The districts that embarked quickly on ambitious remote learning plans may be in the best position to succeed in 2020-21. They will be able to build on the lessons learned from this spring about how to support students and teachers in remote instruction. They will be able to strengthen their systems, expectations and communications in preparation for future remote learning — which could include continued closures or partial reopenings next school year.

There was little movement in attendance tracking systems, an indicator we just started to follow in our last report. Just 16 of 82 districts reviewed (20 percent) report using a system to track attendance, up from just 14 districts (17 percent) since last week.

Districts that track attendance are using the data to identify, locate and solve problems with access for missing students.

While states may play a role in attendance reporting, simply tracking attendance data provides invaluable information for districts’ efforts to ensure all students can access remote learning. We hope to see more districts piloting attendance tracking and response strategies in the remaining school year.

Read the full article about tracking attendance during COVID-19 by Robin Lake at The 74.