Heather Zavadsky and Matt Repka, National Comprehensive Center
In April 2021, the National Center posted the first installment of “Education Stories from the Field: Leading During a Global Pandemic,” a series of in-depth interviews with state education leaders in Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming that documented the experience of managing the COVID-19 pandemic response at a state level. “Stories from the Field” highlighted the education priorities and critical management decisions for leaders in these four states, taking readers month-by-month from the sudden closure of schools in March 2020 through planning for the next school year in July 2020.
In a new installment recently published, the National Center checks back in with these state chiefs to learn about their decision-making processes, the lessons they learned, and the challenges they encountered as they led their states through the first six months of a school year unlike any other. From August 2020 through January 2021,these leaders developed the processes that would transition their institutions from emergency remote instruction to full-time virtual—and in some cases, in-person or hybrid—teaching and learning. They worked across their own departments, and with other state and local government agencies, to address the most basic needs of students and staff. Where possible, they innovated their policies and practices based on the lessons they were learning in real time. And as they worked to protect educators, students, and families, these leaders began to lay the groundwork for an eventual recovery.
In addition to the perspectives and profiles of these top state leaders, this new installment of “Stories from the Field” is proud to feature companion “District Stories” profiling educators and school leaders at the local level. Over the course of one year, the National Center interviewed district superintendents, principals, teachers, and staff in schools across the same four states to capture insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding at the school level. Educators described their approaches in confronting the challenges of emergency remote instruction, and the lessons they learned from the first school closures through summer 2020 and into an unusual and remarkable new school year. They described both the successes and the challenges they faced as they worked to provide high-quality instruction on behalf of their students.
This summer, we’ll continue to update this timeline on both the state and local sides with new interview content. Next month, we’ll take readers along for the rest of the journey through the school year, including the arrival of effective COVID-19 vaccines, there opening of school buildings for several states, the drive toward expanded summer programming, and the implications of new American Rescue Plan (ARP) relief funding for school districts.