Race, Equity, and COVID-19: Navigating Crises and Building for the Future

Measurement & System Change

**Bryant, J., Dorn, E., Hall, S., & Panier, F. (2020, September 8). Reimagining a more equitable and resilient K– 12 education system. McKinsey & Company. Available at https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-andsocial-sector/our-insights/reimagining-a-more-equitable-and-resilient-k-12-education-system

The authors of this brief acknowledge that educators have faced a difficult challenge in adapting to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, then invite them to consider this crisis as an opportunity to reimagine education. First and foremost, they underscore the need to recommit to implementing the basic components of education at a high level. However, the authors also call on educators to reimagine what is possible. Portable devices and distance learning will never replace high-quality teaching nor remove the need for students to acquire basic math, literacy, and social-emotional skills. Still, the authors describe education’s embrace of technology as “inevitable”, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommended strategies include using technology to increase student access to high-quality curricula and teachers, supporting the whole child, adapting to new models of teaching and teacher preparation, equitable resource education, and rethinking the traditional school structure. For each strategy, the authors provide at least one example of a real-world program that has shown promise. We are sharing this article because many of our members reiterated the importance of reinventing education during planning calls for Meeting 42

***Education Resource Strategies. (2020, October). Uncharted waters: How a whole-system approach to continuous improvement can help districts chart a course to equity and excellence this pandemic school year. Available at https://www.erstrategies.org/cms/files/4658-paper-continuous-improvement.pdf

This piece argues that principles of continuous improvement can support school and district leaders navigate the unprecedented challenges of K-12 education during a pandemic. The authors lay out how a whole-systems approach is different and more efficient than treating problems as isolated issues, and they suggest seven steps to take this school year. First, schools and districts need to examine the challenges their system is experiencing – with particular attention to how challenges differ based on student population – and create goals that address those challenges based on data and evidence. Next, leaders choose an efficient, direct strategy to meet their goals, then quickly collect and analyze data on how well implementation of the strategy is working (the authors provide a customizable tool for this step). Through this repeated process, leaders will gain greater clarity on the inner workings of their system and will be able to articulate logic models of how their strategies will play out at all levels of their system. Leaders should also estimate one-time and ongoing costs at this point for the strategies they are testing out. Afterward, leaders can use the collective knowledge they have gained from all the previous steps to start transforming systemic barriers and create teams that can monitor and keep moving improvement strategies forward. Since continuous improvement is one of the Collaborative’s central themes of our meetings, we are sharing this piece for situating improvement practices in the context of the pandemic.

Vander Ark, T., & Midles, R. (2020). Get the F Out. Getting Smart. Available at https://www.gettingsmart.com/2020/11/get-the-f-out/

This article reports that midterm grades for Fall 2020 included a higher number of Ds and Fs than is typical. The authors called the increase “a report on schools as much as students”, suggesting that failing grades are just as much a sign of poor support structures as they are signs of low student engagement and motivation. The authors suggest strategies for helping students succeed during the pandemic. In the short term, these might include doing root cause analyses to help determine barriers to engagement, using alternative assessments, and providing project- and experience-based options for credit recovery and course completion. In the longer term, the authors challenge educators to shift away from standard letter grades to competency-based learning systems.

Lake, R., & Olson, L. (2020). Learning as we go: Principles for effective assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Evidence Project at CRPE. Available at https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/final_diagnostics_brief_2020.pdf

This brief, released in Summer 2020, explores how the rapid move to distance learning will impact the return to classes in Fall 2020, and how educators address and assess student needs given varied student learning experiences in Spring 2020. The paper shares a set of principles that emerged from a panel of diagnostic assessment experts to help educators leverage assessment to better inform classroom teaching during the pandemic. The panel recommends the purpose of the assessment be at the center of decisions providing educators with information about students’ academic needs while considering social and emotional equity factors students and families faced since the onset of the pandemic by engaging parents as educational partners with firsthand knowledge of their child’s learning context. By prioritizing formative measures, teachers can align curriculum to grade level and collaborate across grade-levels to minimize gaps in learning due to COVID-19 circumstances. In addition, the prioritization of professional development focusing on using data to inform just-in-time instruction will support curriculum alignment.

Jimenez, L. (2020). Student assessment during COVID-19. Center for American Progress. Available at https://cdn.americanprogress.org/content/uploads/2020/09/09063559/COVID-Student-Assessment1.pdf?_ga=2.93820437.901883511.1605576573-798738467.1604451901

This report urges districts to administer state assessments that are adapted to COVID-19 safety protocols in order to collect data and attempt to close opportunity and achievement gaps during the pandemic. Assessments serve multiple purposes that are critical for educational recovery, among them include supporting effective teaching and learning and informing local and state decisions on how to allocate resources. Data collection is of special importance for federal and state leaders to understand inequities and provide the necessary supports for students most negatively impacted by COVID-19, such as Black, Latinx, indigenous, and low-income students—many of whom are children of essential workers. This brief concludes with four practices states should consider when administering local assessments: 1) collect and report data on school models (e.g., virtual, in-person, hybrid); 2) provide districts with guidance on academic assessment systems; 3) collect data on conditions for learning, social-emotional needs, student engagement and attendance, and family engagement; and 4) modify policy and guidance to administer annual state assessments in 2020-21 for targeted results and comparability across years.

Therriault, S. (2020, September 28). Back-to-school metrics: How to assess conditions for teaching and learning and to measure student progress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regional Laboratory Program. Available at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/midwest/blogs/back-to-school-metrics-covid.aspx

This article discusses strategies for assessing student progress in distance and hybrid learning environments using both school- and classroom-level metrics. Suggestions for school-level metrics include student and family wellness surveys, uniform formative assessments, and pulse-check surveys of instructional staff. Suggested classroom strategies include asynchronous learning and work completion, project based-learning, regular student surveys, and engaging in rapid data-inquiry cycles. To measure student engagement, Therriault suggests specific measures of behavior, cognitive, and emotional indicators (e.g., frequency of logins to the course website, problem-solving behavior, and student-to-student interactions) that can be implemented in a distance or hybrid learning environment.

**This document is considered a priority reading.