The conversation about equity is spreading in classrooms all across the United States. Ask any educator and they will tell you how important it is to ensure equal access to opportunity for all students. But converting this conversation into action in order to close the existing gaps is not always a straightforward process. In fact, many schools don’t know where to begin.
While schools are wrapping up the 2021-22 school year, presenters on the edLeader Panel, “Finishing Strong: Top Issues for District Leaders as Summer Approaches,” urged administrators to look forward. During their discussion, they identified three key areas district and school leaders should focus on for the 2022-23 school year.
Over the past two years, America’s children have experienced historic challenges due to the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. For children entering second grade this academic year, it is highly likely that it was their first time in school as they spent kindergarten and first grade learning via Zoom.
For years, educators were talking about social-emotional learning (SEL) and how to boost students’ skills. But after the lockdown and a year out of the classroom, SEL has become the favorite buzzword outside of school walls. SEL isn’t mental health services for students or a one-time fix to help with learning loss, though.
Students are using video daily—creating, watching, and reviewing. It’s one of the key ways they’re communicating with each other and consuming information outside school, so why wouldn’t schools want to use it in the classroom?
Changing the reading instruction provided by a school or district is a complex, multi-step process that can take years to accomplish, but as one presenter noted during the edLeader Panel, “Leadership and the Science of Reading: An Honest Look at the Joys and Challenges of School Transformation,” it can transform students’ lives as well as significantly increase their academic achievement.
The last two school years have been a challenging time for many students who were learning English while speaking a different language at home. First, they needed to access and use remote learning technologies, and then they needed to continue developing their language and literacy skills despite the pandemic-related disruptions and other difficulties they and their families faced.
Helping students resume their learning progress as they emerge from the pandemic may require more than academic intervention or acceleration. In cities such as Baltimore, MD and Lexington, KY, school districts have recognized the importance of considering the whole child and using community and family engagement programs to provide comprehensive support.
A better approach to STEM education is project-based learning (PBL), emphasized by veteran teachers in the edLeader Panel, “Impacting Student Achievement with Project-Based Learning and STEM.” Describing innovative student-led initiatives they launched, the panelists highlighted research-based PBL practices that advance skill development, academic success, and a vast appreciation for science.
Teachers can no longer download any app they want and use it the same day—every piece of instructional technology must be vetted for how it relates to educational goals and checked against software the school already has. More important, though, every piece of technology must adhere to the district’s student data privacy policies.