If our goal is to accelerate learning for those most impacted by the pandemic, we must make the most of the time that we have. We’ve known since TNTP’s The Opportunity Myth study that, all too often, only a quarter of students’ time in their classes is spent on activities that are moving them sufficiently toward college and career readiness. Simply doing more of what we did before the pandemic will not get us where we need to be as we seek to recover from it.
We actually know a lot about how to make the most of learning time: Create a climate in which students feel safe taking risks and offering up their ideas; make lessons meaningful, culturally relevant, and varied so students remain engaged; anticipate and prepare to address student confusions before teaching; give lots of opportunities for guided and independent practice; provide timely and precise feedback on their work; and reteach specific skills as soon as possible when they struggle and use this data to inform future lessons.
And, most of all, make sure students are engaging in grade-level work—every day.
Ultimately, making the most of students’ time is the responsibility of school and district leaders. From their positions they can set the expectations, create the systems, provide the resources, and give the encouragement to enable teachers to do their best work. A recent major review of research commissioned by the Wallace Foundation confirms it: What schools leaders do has a major impact on educational outcomes.
We know what such leadership looks like because we’ve seen leaders who, despite all the challenges of the past year, put in place systems and marshalled their people and resources to make sure all students engaged in rigorous instruction on a daily basis. Some of these leaders, like Kimberly Grayson, principal of Dr. MLK Junior Early College in Colorado or Ashley Johnson, principal of Henderson Collegiate in North Carolina are featured in our Follow the Leaders project, which Relay Graduate School of Education launched to share how leaders with previous track records of improving student learning were leading for equity during the pandemic. We will continue to do so as leaders work through the recovery in the coming year.
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