Time for Communities to Come to the Table
Time for Communities to Come to the TableEducation Recovery & a New Foundation – in the aftermath of COVID
Principles for recovery
& a new foundation:
- Report clearly and publicly the results of assessments so the community can own this truth – together.
- Develop solutions-oriented plans for the summer and fall months to recover from learning loss in key student outcome areas like reading and mathematics, and preparation for college and career.
- Bring allies to the table who can help think holistically about how to deliver what our students need – including social-emotional supports, mental health, and enriching learning environments.
- Ensure federal stimulus dollars are used for recovery and a new foundation and be transparent regarding use of these dollars.
- Understand that the impact of COVID was felt by all, and much more deeply by some students and families who now need more supports and resources for full recovery.
As our children are heading back to school, the COVID-19 vaccine has become more available, and many of us are beginning to head back to our respective offices, our attention is rightly turning to recovery. For us at the Prichard Committee, that means education recovery. How do we take everything we’ve learned the last year, all the resources at our disposal, and all the creative capacity we can muster to stem the tide on learning loss, help our young people catch up, and accelerate learning to ensure we don’t have a lost generation?
Twenty years from now, the state and national labor markets, decision-makers, and powers-that-be are not going to say, “Oh well, that’s the COVID generation. We need to give them a break!” Certainly, the international competition for talent is also not going to say, “Ah, give the Americans a break! They had a rough time with COVID.”
This is a challenge we’ve never experienced, and it requires all of us working much more closely together to achieve full recovery. It requires all the leaders in our communities and all the resources each can bring to the table. It requires real conversations about the challenges and a shared, written, plan of action for the next six months, at least.
Our school districts, and many government organizations, will have more resources at their disposal than we’ve seen in years! What is in the American Rescue Plan for Kentucky?
For K-12 alone, this federal “rescue” money effectively doubles the per pupil allocation our districts typically receive from the state. Additionally, more state funding from the Kentucky General Assembly invests in all three levels of education.
Given the need and the resources available, it is time for communities to roll up their sleeves and have the creative, solutions-focused, conversations about how to use what we’ve learned in the past year to do more than recover – we must build a new foundation for education – one that is stronger, more resilient, and seeks to repair the challenges and inequities laid bare amidst COVID.
Over the last year, the Prichard Committee surveyed and interviewed parents, students, educators, childcare providers, families, and college students to better understand the impact of COVID. We compiled all of what we learned into a series of reports: Learning Through COVID. At the early childhood, K-12 and college levels, we know the impact COVID has had. We learned that we need more high-quality childcare options for families of all income levels, and that the childcare system and its workers are essential for providing a strong start for our youngest learners. For both the K-12 and higher education, these three truths also emerged:
- Inequities based on student groups remain starker than ever
- Built-in mental health supports need to be funded & prioritized; and
- The digital divide must be closed at all costs
In K-12 specifically, we must know the extent of learning loss to make actionable plans that lead to recovery. That’s why we stood firmly in favor of state assessments (Why the Prichard Committee Supports State Assessments this Spring). The assessments are tool to understand the new baseline and to inform local plans. Schools cannot and should not shoulder this task alone, however. Now is the time for communities to come to the table in an effort to establish a shared understanding of the recovery necessary and to be part of the plan to realize that recovery in the months and years ahead – and to develop a new and better foundation for greater progress.
We are challenging communities across the Commonwealth to start these conversations – and our school districts are the likely leaders locally to ensure this happens. We’re also challenging our 130 Prichard Committee members and over 1,000 Groundswell members to be part of these conversations – and the action plans that result. These “guiding coalitions” – comprised of students, parents, community members, and business leaders can work together to ensure solutions are responsive to community needs – and that the vast array of resources coming into our state are leveraged for the greatest good.
To support this task, we have drafted principles and questions to start and guide your conversations.
10 Questions to Ask in Your Community:
- How many students have returned to school, are still studying virtually, and how many have we lost – who need to be found?
- What were the reading and math outcomes in my community before the pandemic and did we have achievement gaps, likely exacerbated through the pandemic? What is the plan to know where students are and to help them catch up this summer?
- How many of our students are going on to college this year? How many have completed the FAFSA? How does this compare to prior years and what can we do to increase these rates?
- How are my communities recent high school graduates doing in college, in the workforce? What supports so they need?
- Do we have enough teachers in our community to cover increased learning opportunities? If not, what strategies will we use to staff the learning opportunities our students need?
- What is the mental health infrastructure in my community and what plans are being made to expand access to mental health services for students of all ages and families?
- How much of my community has adequate access to the internet? What plans are being made to ensure more families have adequate and affordable access at home for remote learning, remote work, and remote access to health care?
- What is the childcare infrastructure in my community? Did childcare centers go out of business? Is there a childcare need that must be satisfied to support working families?
- Who are the most vulnerable in my community? What is being done to ensure their recovery?
- Does my community have a “Guiding Coalition” made up of the school district, community partners, college and university partners, business and industry, and are they working to put together a plan for recovery and a new foundation? Can I be involved?