New research released from the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University finds that digitally accessible, high-quality instructional materials designed to bring students, families, and educators together increased student learning and engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research reveals possibilities for sustained partnership between schools and families moving forward.
Despite challenges associated with remote learning, students, families, and educators from nine school districts and charter school organizations across seven states told researchers that students with access to high-quality instructional materials and support from a caregiver learned about the same – and sometimes more – than they would have in a “typical” year. Their experience was in contrast to students who struggled academically, and at a time that many fear learning loss among students because of pandemic-related learning disruptions.
“We learned through virtual schooling that educators’ use of high-quality, culturally responsive instructional materials that are enabled by technology and educative for families can be a game changer,” said Elizabeth Chu, Executive Director of CPRL. “Instead of families being ‘passive recipients’ of instruction, it’s time for a new model in education that brings families fully into the instructional process by using high-quality instructional materials to help foster close coordination and collaboration between students, families and educators.”
The findings are spelled out in a new report, “Fundamental 4: Pandemic Learning Reveals the Value of High-Quality Instructional Materials to Educator-Family-Student Partnerships.” View the report here.
“In Hartford, we’ve learned how important it is for our students, the majority of whom are students of color and/or from low-income families, to have access to high-quality instructional materials on a daily basis to foster strong academic partnerships with families,” said Mario Carullo, Director of Mathematics at Hartford Public Schools, a study site.
Researchers from CPRL found that high-quality instructional materials are strongest and most impactful when dimensions of “high-quality” are expanded from being aligned to standards to also include being 1) tech enabled, 2) culturally responsive and sustaining, and 3) designed to enhance families’ ability to guide student learning and instruction.
The report recommends expanding the definition of “high quality” to include these additional components. It also provides recommendations for dedicating federal pandemic relief funds:
- Adopt instructional materials that meet that expanded definition of “high quality.”
- Invest in curriculum-based professional learning that supports educators to implement high-quality instructional materials in ways that respond to student, family and community needs.
- Create systems and structures in schools to support continued collaboration between families, teachers and students around academics and learning.
CPRL conducted more than 290 interviews between February 2021 and June 2021 with administrators, teachers and families from the following sites:
- Clarksdale Collegiate: Clarksdale, MS
- Detroit Public Schools Community District: Detroit, MI
- Excellence Community Schools: New York, NY and Stamford, CT
- Hartford Public Schools: Hartford, CT
- Hayward Community School District: Hayward, WI
- New York City Department of Education’s Community School District 11
- Richmond Public Schools: Richmond, VA
- Rocky Mountain Prep: Aurora, CO and Denver, CO
- Stoughton Area School District: Stoughton, WI
The Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University strives to revitalize public school systems while strengthening professional education. Since its founding in 2011, CPRL has provided research and consulting support to state agencies, school districts, charter school organizations, foundations and advocacy groups. In doing so, CPRL provides training to graduate students who are the next generation of education leaders.
Funding for the report was made possible by a collaboration between the Louis Calder Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Overdeck Family Foundation and the Robin Hood Learning + Technology Fund.
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