Heather Zavadsky and Matt Repka, National Comprehensive Center
Throughout 2021, the National Center conducted in-depth interviews with education leaders, principals, teachers, and school district officials across four states, documenting their efforts to respond to the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning with the state education chiefs in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Missouri, and Wyoming, “Education Stories from the Field: Leading During a Global Pandemic” followed educators as they sought to ensure continuity of learning, address urgent needs, and protect their students and each other from the threat of a deadly virus sweeping the globe.
The National Center has publishing the third installment of these Stories from the Field, with new information taken from interviews conducted in summer 2021. In this update, we catch up with our four state chiefs in April 2021 to hear about their biggest focus areas and concerns as they prepare to bring the 2020-21 school year to a close, prepare for an unusual summer, and lay the groundwork for 2021-22. One of the biggest decisions for the chiefs at the time was how to best invest one-time large sums of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds on behalf of the state and its schools. Some of the challenges the chiefs discuss include:
● Gaining and holding stakeholder trust around in-person learning in schools,
● Making impactful—and inclusive—ARP investments within a short planning timeline,
● Navigating ARP decisions in alignment with legislative sessions,
● Ensuring the state education agency (SEA) has capacity to support local education agency (LEA) ARP plans, and
● Ensuring that systems are in place to identify and address current and future education needs across their states.
At the local level, Stories from the Field profiled educators, including teachers, principals, and district superintendents, capturing their insights into teaching, learning, and leading during the pandemic. These companion stories addressed many of the priorities and themes elevated by state leaders. In this new installment, we reunite with our group of educators (and some new voices) across the four states to hear about the second half of the 2020-21 school year, including discussion on:
● Districts’ reopening plans, and how teacher vaccination rates, as well as case rates, affected their calculations;
● Student and teacher exhaustion at the end of a long year;
● Challenges to schools’ summer enrichment and credit recovery activities;
● Current priorities for the billions of dollars in APR funds, including the addition of instructional days, staff supports, and increased social and emotional supports to students and teachers; and
● The future of teaching and learning in a post-pandemic world, and what in-person learning could look like in the near future.
To see the new installment of Stories from the Field, click here.
For the full timeline of this project, including the content originally posted in April 2021, click here.