Giving Compass' Take:

• Here are three ways states might support schools, teachers, and students over the next year so that learning can be more equitable and accessible. 

• How can donors help address equity issues in online education during the pandemic? 

• Read more about equitable education. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has just released guidance (PDF) for the “Phased Reopening of Pre-K to 12 Public Schools,” as have many states. The guidance includes a requirement for schools to submit a health and safety plan, and outlines conditions necessary to resume in-person instruction. After months of processing advice from education stakeholders, the plan is not a done deal; even PDE admits that the guidance “will evolve as further research, data, and resources become available.”

While PDE acknowledges that it is putting together the plane while flying, they do not address the elephant in the overhead compartment: a second outbreak of COVID-19 next year could push schools back to remote instruction, and, inevitably, some schools will be ready to deliver far superior remote instruction compared to others. In Pennsylvania, as in many states, school districts are being provided with very little guidance or requirements to prepare for the possibility of remote instruction. For example, Pennsylvania requires that “all instruction must be provided via remote learning” should the state be placed in the “red” reopening phase, but they provide no models or requirements for that remote learning. What this means is that the most vulnerable children will lose out unless states take more drastic measures to provide them with the resources they need.

The quality of remote instruction depends on whether students are able to connect and interact with educators online. But poverty is a major driver of who gets high-quality online instruction and who does not.

So, what can states do in this new reality where high-quality instruction in remote environments will depend on students (and teachers) having online access and a device? Here are three ways states might support schools, teachers, and students over the next year:

  1. Make a Concrete Contingency Plan
  2. Provide High-Quality Professional Learning Opportunities and Minimum Professional Learning Requirements That Better Prepare Teachers for Distance Learning
  3. Consider Building a Tutoring Workforce

Read the full article about ensuring learning is equitable by Julia H. Kaufman at RAND.