What we want is for a school system in New Hampshire to learn how the Austin Independent School District in Texas met the demand for digital materials by bringing together a cross-section of academic coaches to develop and roll out centrally vetted, standards-aligned course “blueprints”–because that, or at least a similar strategy, may work for them as they face this challenge too.
We want schools in Arizona to be aware of the work education leaders did in Nashville, Tennessee to reimagine the central office as a support hub for students, families, and schools–because the same kind of investment may pay dividends for their communities.
We want to connect the dots for school systems across the country, so that they learn from each other for the benefit of all students and teachers.
Some might argue that last year was just a blip–a once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances that required unique, one-and-done solutions. But what our learning alongside school and system leaders has shown us is that the lessons learned are about much more than just navigating the pandemic.
As in other parts of our society, the pandemic simply laid bare deficiencies and inequalities in school districts nationwide–and it accelerated the need to address these deficits. To think of last year as a blip would be to imply that we were in a great spot before the pandemic, and, quite frankly, our public schools were not. Moreover, to think of it as a blip would be disrespectful to those who conquered the challenges of last year. We would be missing an opportunity to grow from it.
As we progress through this school year, the news cycle may look the same, but our education communities are not. Our students are not the same. School leaders, teachers, learners, and families proved that they can tackle the challenges of the pandemic and get to a new, different, and better place. We must move forward from where we are now. School systems should look to each other and embrace the lessons learned to drive greater educational excellence and equity for each and every child.