How do we set goals and define success?
Shared goals are essential to give your teams a North Star and articulate a clear picture of success that will guide them through the new normal. In hybrid environments, alignment between what happens on campus and off campus becomes even more important.
As you work towards the overall goal of maintaining continuity of learning, consider two main areas of focus: developing great learning goals and ensuring these goals are seamlessly integrated across on-campus and off-campus teaching and learning. To help you through both, we suggest five guiding principles to bear in mind, how each may manifest on-campus and off-campus, and at what point in your planning process to consider them.
How Guiding Principles Manifest On Campus:
- Put safety first in deciding when students can be on campus. Use guidance from the CDC and your local authorities to help with decision-making.
- Make social connection and relationship-building (within CDC guidelines) a priority when on campus.
- Leverage community-based organizations and counseling staff to support students when on-site or consider incorporating slots on student schedules for separate on-site appointments.
- Input and communication:
- To the extent you can, offer families a choice about when (or if) their students come on campus (which days, aligning days with siblings, etc.).
- Aim for a personal touch point with every family ahead of the new term.
- Equity, access, and inclusion:
- Build a schedule first around the needs of your vulnerable populations (homeless students, those in foster care, English Learners, students in special ed).
- Create systems for checking on access and equity (such as staff calling families, providing connectivity, assigning mentors, etc.).
- Targeted instruction:
- Leverage interactive and high-engagement instructional methods (socratic seminars, debates, etc.).
- Invest in tools that can be used in remote learning and offer data interoperability.
How Guiding Principles Manifest Off Campus:
- Make sure that you have the most current safety information and a link to CDC recommendations posted on the school website.
- Ensure your learning systems and platforms are secure and isolated from possible external interference.
- Make sure students and families are taught online safety habits and are aware of online threats.
- Create ongoing opportunities for connection and interaction online.
- Check in with families and students regularly to discuss home-learning progress.
- Input and communication:
- Send relevant and timely communication that helps families carry out work at home and connect it back to what is happening on campus.
- Consider sending family surveys to gauge what is going well and what needs work.
- Equity, access, and inclusion:
- Budget or fundraise to provide technology access to students who need it.
- Ensure instructions and guidance are provided in multiple languages.
- Targeted instruction:
- Consider that remote work is not the same as traditional homework. Make sure assignments are targeted to students’ needs and not just a continuation of work from on-site time.
- Ensure that remote work is personalized to accelerate learning of skills and that it can move at a speed independent of on-site work to make sure a student who misses one is not disadvantaged in the other.
Planning in Stages Through the Lens of Guiding Principles:
Thinking of the work ahead in different stages may help you build a more actionable plan and reduce stress for your team by providing smaller parts to focus on at a time. We suggest articulating your vision and steps to success into three main phases:
- Summer: what needs to be done before instruction begins.
- First Months: what needs to take place early on in the new term.
- Remainder of the Year: what needs to happen in the remainder of the year.
This document offers examples of actions to meet your goals over the summer, during the first month of school, and throughout the year as you plan for learning in a pandemic context.
Equity Consideration: Make sure your campus goals for reopening/continuity of learning are rooted in practical and not just philosophical equity. Be specific in how you will support those who have been disproportionately impacted by school closures.
- Equity tool: This Ensuring equity in goals checklist was originally designed by EdTrustWest for college but is easily adaptable for K-12
- Instruction Partners offer a tool for getting organized and leading your team with a pandemic lens.
- Dive deeper into planning with this tool by the CCEE and WestEd.
- The COVID-19 Schools Resource Hub offers a sample layout of the Hierarchy of School Needs.
- SDCOE’s Instructional Continuity of Learning Plan one-pager lists some example goals.
- Instruction Partners offer this Instructional Management, Structures, and Routines webpage with examples of school models, role expectations, and concrete suggestions for leaders.
- The Center on Reinventing Public Education offers priorities on pages 20-23 of this response document based on its research.
- LACOE offers this planning framework with templates to lead your team around goal-setting and planning.
How do we help students and teachers structure their day?
To ensure students are safe and learning, the use of space and time will be ever more critical. Schedule guidelines allow teachers to plan learning experiences with prioritized goals in mind; set clear expectations and communicate them to students and families; and, most importantly, build continuity, routine, and connection for students in a time of uncertainty.
All schools should plan for students to be taught simultaneously at school and at home. Schools will have to plan for fewer students on campus at once and possibly some students doing distance learning full-time. While the use of space will be different for each campus, there are some common themes and opportunities for leaders to structure time for students and staff. Below we offer insights into possible scheduling models and how to pick one that works for your schools and families.
ACSA released a document that thoughtfully provides various options for scheduling on-campus time, including:
Alternating weeks: Half of the students are on campus each week, alternating throughout the year.
One-day rotation: Students are divided into five groups; each group is on campus one day per week and distance learning the other four days.
At-risk rotations: Tier 1 students are on campus one day per week, and tier 2 and 3 students have additional days on campus for intensive support.
Two-day rotations: Students are divided into two groups, each of which is on campus two days per week and distance learning the other three days.
Elementary on-campus/secondary distance learning: Elementary students learn face-to- face, spreading out across all the campuses in a district, while secondary students continue distance learning.
Gradeband phase-in: The youngest students come back to school first, and older students phase in as social distancing needs change.
Rotating Block Schedule for Middle and High School: Classes meet fewer times per week for longer, with different tracks of students rotating throughout the week. Students are on campus two days a week and off-site the rest of the time.
You can read the pros and cons of each of these models and others in this report from ACSA.
Picking a Model:
Picking a model for your students will depend on your staffing, available space, and community needs, but here are a few considerations as you choose your model:
Facilities. How many rooms do you have available? Can you make other spaces available in new and creative ways (e.g., moving some activities outside, using classrooms previously used for storage or testing)?
Staffing. How can teacher schedules change? What training is needed to prepare them for potentially new roles? How will you ensure staff members have adequate time for planning and dealing with the extra preparation required for remote learning?
Transportation. What are families’ transportation needs given your new schedule? Can buses transport fewer students to comply with social distancing requirements?
Health and safety. Time and funding will need to be allotted to comply with the mandated screenings, cleaning, and distancing guidelines. Consider these as you plan:
Build time for health screenings into the schedule. A staggered start time is recommended.
Maintaining physical distancing through the school day (from arrival through departure) will require creating structures for all previously unstructured transitions and settings. This will create additional demands on employees and may feel very restrictive to students and staff.
Consider physical distancing requirements and limiting movement when possible. Consider making hallways one-directional and releasing classes in staggered ways.
Ensure that students’ nutritional needs are met. This may mean that lunch or recess may need to take place in the classroom or with new rules.
Limiting cross-contamination/exposure will require dividing students into cohorts when possible.
Cleaning time, needs, and costs will change. This means allotting time for cleaning, purchasing equipment, and possibly reallocating maintenance staff. Consider opening campuses on different days of the week so cleaning teams can be shared across campuses.
Technology tools and access. If students are off-site for multiple days or some students do not attend classes on campus for long periods of time, your team will have to address internet and device access limitations at home and on campus through a robust plan to ensure equity.
As you consider which models will work best for your families and staff, you may also want to take into account these additional considerations:
A new paradigm. Avoid dwelling on how things were done previously to focus on how they need to be done now.
Community. What can you do to help students stay connected to their schools? Options include assigning support staff to check in on students on their off-campus days, keeping elementary students with their teachers from last year (“looping”), and livestreaming morning meetings or the school news channel so off-campus students can see them.
Consistency. Keep when students are on site as consistent and predictable as possible.
- Elementary Schedule model from Lakeville Area Schools
- Elementary model from ERS that prioritizes K-3 in person
- Elementary Family Opt In Model
- Elementary School-wide Hybrid Model
- SDCOE Elementary School
- Middle School Schedule Plan from Lakeville Area Schools
- Middle School Planning tool from ERS based on highest needs
- Middle School Planning tool from ERS for A/B Days
- SDCOE Middle School
High School model from Lakeville Area Schools
9th grade only on campus from ERS
High School A/B Day Schedule Planning Tool from ERS
Sample block schedule from SDCOE that includes health screening considerations and limits mixing of students
Grossmont School District Reopening plan with schedules
Equity Consideration: Consider the needs of students who were most significantly impacted by shelter-in-place first when building your schedule. Provide additional access to families who may not be able to provide home support, tech access or a quiet place to work.
- Equity Tool: Seven ways to make distance learning more equitable from Common Sense Education
- A range of scheduling considerations and sample schedules with an eye on equity and flexibility
- Sample block schedule from SDCOE that includes health screening considerations and limits mixing of students
- Checklist of key components to include in hybrid school day schedules
- Free Schedule builder tool from Unlocking Time to support you with scheduling
- School reopening report from ACSA with focus on schedule considerations
- Examples of innovative schedules from schools across the country from the Center for American Progress
- Page 7 of this document from the Maryland State Dept. of Ed. has some insights on how different people can leverage their time.
- CDC safety recommendations for schools
- Schedule considerations for students with more complex needs, from Placer COE.
How do we inform, listen to, and engage families?
Now more than ever, communication between schools and families needs to be two-way— not just one-directional. Investing in a thoughtful communication plan will: support authentic and collaborative family and educator partnerships, strengthen family engagement in children’s learning, reduce stress and confusion, and improve student outcomes during this next phase of learning. LEAs should now consider being even more intentional, clear, concise, timely, and inclusive when communicating with families and stakeholders.
A comprehensive communications plan will be a great asset to you. If you are short on time and resources, we suggest six key items to focus on as well as additional considerations and sample letters to kick-start your planning process. When you are ready to dive deeper, leverage the resources in the Tools section.
Six Key Items:
Update your website. Make sure your website has your most up-to-date information and links to recommendations from the CDC and other pertinent local authorities.
- Have sample letters ready. To be nimbler in responding to changing circumstances, pre-write letters that you can use in case of a sudden school closure, a local outbreak, or a return to campus. (See samples below.)
- Ask families about their plans. Send a survey to families to find out whether they are planning to keep their students remote or have them attend on-campus schooling in the fall. Based on this information, communicate to families their options within your district or LEA.
- Ensure accessibility. Use multiple modalities, languages, and formats to reach caregivers in their native languages. Consider including phone, text, social media, or in-person communication at pick-ups.
- Know who has received the information. Create a system for tracking who has received information. This can include a “read receipt” on emails, robocalls, or a personal phone call from a staff member or volunteer.
- Check for understanding. Solicit feedback to see whether your communications are being received and “heard” by families. Ask families what is and is not working to leverage the voices and wisdom of diverse stakeholders. Use surveys strategically to gain insights.
Know what, when, and how often you will share information.
Be clear and concise during times of heightened stress. Offer links to trusted public health resources but focus on information relevant to the operation of your schools and the well-being of children. Families are receiving a lot of general communication from different sources—make yours relevant.
Streamline communication with families. Compile information in consistent messages sent at the same time and in the same way each week. Ensure consistency within your school (this includes teachers sending messages to families in one agreed-upon way to eliminate additional stress for families with multiple children).
Be explicit about what is mandatory and what is optional. When providing resources, prioritize social-emotional health and wellness. Aim to inform, not overwhelm, and to offer places where people can learn more rather than pushing it all out at once.
Be open with families and stakeholders. Share what you know, how you made decisions, and what you are still deciding. Honesty will help build trust even if you are telling people things that don’t make them happy.
Review your communication systems. Make sure your communication systems can be deployed quickly to reach families immediately in emergency situations, such as unforeseen school closures during spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Seek input and build partnership. Key “mantras” related to family engagement still apply:
Caregivers have the capacity to help their children regardless of their backgrounds.
Caregivers are their children’s first teachers and are experts on their children.
Caregivers have insights that are important for us to understand.
When you are ready to dive deeper into developing your communication plan, consider this planning tool from CCEE and WestEd.
Letter to send before summer with food and mental health resources
Progress on a plan for reopening school (English and Spanish)
Delay of school opening (English and Spanish)
New date for school opening (English and Spanish)
COVID case on campus: closing school (English and Spanish)
COVID case on campus: school remains open (English and Spanish)
School is closed based on the county/city recommendation; no cases on campus (English and Spanish)
Region is closing schools based on increase of cases in region (English and Spanish)
- Region is closed but our school is open (English and Spanish)
Equity Consideration: As you look at your communication plan and messages, make sure you have provided information in various languages and through various channels to ensure information is shared to all with opportunities for feedback. Remember, communication is a way to give information, offer support, and check in on needs—so it should be two-directional.
- Equity Tool: Talking Points for two-way communication in more than 100 languages
- Sample COVID-19 Stakeholder Survey from TNTP
- Student/family checklists: tools for school counselors and staff to use with students/families created by SDCOE
- Examples of school and system communications: curated by Instruction Partners
- Resource on communicating with English learners and their families, from Colorín Colorado
- Sample communication plan that includes tips for both internal and external communication, created by Instruction Partners
- CCEE/WestEd Rapid Response Toolkit, Resource 2: Communication Planning
- Riverside COE’s Safe Schools Reopening Planning Guidebook
How do we efficiently identify needs to inform support?
To plan for the future, we must know where we stand today. Assessments allow the teaching team and all stakeholders to understand what students need, what is being learned, and where resources need to be focused. This feedback mechanism is particularly important upon returning to campus after spending months away from the classroom during the initial phase of the pandemic. Additionally, distance learning puts a spotlight on the lack of equity among the different home learning environments. By leveraging thoughtful assessments, schools can direct resources where they are needed most.
By using thoughtful assessments, schools can accelerate learning by focusing resources where they are needed most. Remember: assessments go far beyond instructional tests; helpful ones can provide insight into many different areas. To help you better assess where you should direct resources and energy, we offer three key areas of focus (well-being, equity, and academics), some special considerations for on-campus and off-campus learning, and some practical tools and resources you can leverage today.
Three Key Areas for Assessment:
Well-being and safety. Learning cannot take place until students feel safe. Intake surveys and wellness questionnaires can be very powerful tools to help you gain insight into students’ connections to peers, relationships with adults, and overall emotional health. (More about this can be found in the SEL section.)
Equity and access to resources. Some students have been disproportionately impacted by distance learning. To determine student and teacher needs with access and equity in mind, consider conducting surveys on what stakeholders have access to during their distance learning. Items to look for include the following:
One-to-one technology ratios;
A quiet place to work or noise-canceling headphones,
Access to COVID testing, and
Academic learning and progress. Writing samples, projects, collaborative work, or even brief verbal check-ins can give timely information about student comprehension and progress toward their learning goals. Here are considerations for how to rethink assessments when learning is taking place both on-site and off-site. As a guiding principle, start with what you have and build from there:
Look back at your LCAP and the goals and benchmarks you set;
Inventory your existing assessments;
Consider using your curriculum-embedded assessments;
Use Smarter Balanced interim assessments to understand needs; and
Lean on the suite of tools and resources in the state’s digital library that support classroom-based formative assessment practices.
Leverage assessments. Use curriculum-based assessments, interim assessments, and more summative assessments when students are on campus.
Connect to off-campus learning. Use knowledge you gain on both formative (online and in-class) and summative assessment to inform the at-home learning plan for each student. This is a great opportunity to personalize the at-home experience for students with “just right” learning options to help build skills and fill gaps.
Use academic needs to plan schedules, supports, and interventions. Incorporate data into meaningful learning plans for students with appropriate supports. Keep in mind that the use of these assessments help us understand what is, not what should be.
Prioritize literacy and math snapshots that can help you build out small-group learning sessions or remote practice work to help students fill learning gaps.
To understand broad areas of concern, consider short summative interim assessments (available in some districts and CAASPP).
To understand the impact on a more granular level, use more diagnostic/curriculum-linked interim assessments along with teacher observations.
Be careful not to track or group students indefinitely by ability. When looking at assessment data to build schedules, avoid locking students into ability groups, and make sure to offer both learning-level and grade-level group learning opportunities. (See schedule section for more information.)
Start to collect data as soon as possible. Consider bringing students in during the summer, sending assessments home, or holding assessments as soon as school starts to help you understand what students need.
Identify progress and needs. Consider data points that can help identify student progress and needs during the home-based learning period, such as:
Completion rate of home-based school activities
Quality/depth of communications between teacher and caregiver/guardian or student
Notes on/changes to student well-being, affect, demeanor
Prioritize formative assessments. Continue with this feedback until students show they understand the content.
Be clear about learning goals and how students can prove they understand the work. Students need to know what they are learning and how to prove success.
Message a growth mindset. Make it clear to students that assessment is a learning tool rather than an evaluation tool. The job of assessments in remote learning is to see what students have learned and to identify any problems so that they can be addressed. This helps alleviate the desire for students to “cheat” since there is no benefit.
Utilize 1:1s. Consider one-on-one conferences to assess reading comprehension, progress, and gaps.
Equity Consideration: Look for data on which students did not have access, which became caregivers themselves, which experienced loss, etc. Be intentional about breaking data down by your various subgroups to uncover potential pockets of greater need, including at-promise youth, socially/economically disadvantaged families, special populations, homeless families, foster youth, and LGBTQIA+ students.
- Equity Tool: Use the surveys and tools in Pivot and Unbound Ed’s Equity Toolkit to increase equity in your community.
- SDCOE offers Alternative Metrics, goals and tools that can support your LCAP and provide insights into student needs.
- Find an Alternative Metrics Data Collection Tool from SDCOE here.
- EasyCBM: free content-based measures and assessments both digital and printable, for grades K-8
- Classroom assessment techniques for teachers
- K-8 Math and English RTI Framework with links to easily accessible and free assessment tools for various areas
- Article highlighting the “COVID slide,” COVID-19’s impact on learning for the most vulnerable populations
- Sample assessment strategies and 3 Principles for Assessment During Instructional Recovery and Beyond from ANet that include a tiered approach to assessment and lots of great tips
- EdTrust-West’s Data Equity Walk to look at needs through an equity lens
How do we best support students' social-emotional well-being?
Emotional safety is the foundation for all learning and success. The pandemic has caused widespread trauma (personal, vicarious, collective, and historical), heightening the need for trauma-informed SEL to care for ourselves, our students, and their families. Because our communities have experienced trauma to various degrees, we must first address Maslow before focusing on Bloom.
During these difficult times, it will be critical for LEAs to develop crisis response systems that are particularly sensitive to the emotional needs of families, students, and staff. The most effective way to do so is through trauma-informed SEL. When designing your support systems, it may be helpful to consider three different lenses: that of your leadership team, counseling staff, and teachers.
What Leadership Teams Can Do:
- Support teacher well-being so they can address student well-being.
- Develop a comprehensive employee plan with the support team to address staff SEL needs. (For more, see capacity-building section.)
- Support staff members experiencing secondary trauma or compassion fatigue.
- Reach out to community-based organizations and partners to make sure psychological supports for staff are in place.
- Plan for what you will do to respond to loss of school community members.
- Work with LSSs on how to handle commemorations, memorial activities, and permanent marker establishment, if allowed.
- Determine how memorial activities will strike a balance between honoring loss, resuming school activities and class routines, and maintaining hope for the future.
- Develop re-entry protocols and procedures for students with SEL in mind.
- Provide professional development regarding student and staff reactions to stress and imposed isolation/change.
What Support and Counseling Staff Can Do:
- Develop a clear referral or extra support plan.
- Work with the counseling department and outside providers to be responsive to students’ needs. Be especially aware of students who express fear, grief, anxiety, or signs of depression.
- Consider social or processing groups for students that can take place in-person or remotely.
- Provide families with information on services available at school and beyond.
- Work with all staff to identify families who need extra support.
- Reach families who require urgent attention weekly (or more often, as needed).
- Connect families to services. Connect students who need extra resources (food, counseling, etc.) to the correct services and check back to make sure they are using them.
- Coordinate with teachers.
Consult with classroom teachers about student needs and develop classroom lessons (on change, regulating anxiety, etc.) and supports as needed.
Create or co-create lessons on how to be in community but maintain physical distance.
Help plan for potential closures. Plan with administrators for sudden closing of schools due to resurgence of the virus.
Train staff. Provide professional development for staff on issues related to the possible return of the virus, stress management, etc.
What Teachers Can Do on Campus:
- Create predictable routines.
- Open each class period with a welcoming activity or routine. This will build (or re-build) the community, helping connect students to each other and the work. Examples include morning circles and interactive whole-group greeting activities.
- Close each period or day in a special way that leaves students feeling positive. Examples include: one-minute celebrations and reflections on learnings.
- Prioritize connection and building strong and supportive relationships.
- Create in-person opportunities to listen to and learn about each other.
- Find opportunities to experience fun and joy together each day. Examples: music at lunch, sharing jokes to end class, dance party celebrations, or pajama days.
- Even if students are not on campus every day, consider using staff from various programs to ensure every student has a caring adult connection every day.
- Offer opportunities to share experiences and process emotions.
- Allow for and normalize spoken and written emotional expression.
- Read and discuss current events (medical developments, social responses to the virus, etc.) as a way for students to receive factual information as well as to talk and process emotions.
- Support self-regulation tools.
- Get students up and moving. Consider incorporating multiple brief stretch or movement breaks into class to manage stress and get regulated.
- Introduce or practice mindfulness activities.
What Teachers Can Do Off Campus:
Keep routines. Leverage support staff or video conferencing to include students in opening and closing routines with students on campus when possible.
Use peer mentoring as a remote learning tool. Assign “buddies” for students who may need academic or SEL help during the day. Think of both of these when pairing students.
Look for outliers. Find those students who may need more attention. Assign staff to check in with these students regularly during at-home learning.
Empower students and build agency. Helping is shown to decrease stress and anxiety and give students a sense of agency. Assign projects in which students get to become helpers. Helping can include making a video teaching a math concept, recording a book for younger students, or making thank-you cards.
Help provide closure. Offer students an opportunity to reconnect and create a sense of closure regarding the previous school year through journaling or writing letters to their former classmates or teachers.
Equity Consideration: Identify ways in which equity, social-emotional learning, and academic development can reinforce each other rather than being pursued separately.
- Equity Tool: SEL through a race equity lens: Five strategies for system leaders to take action from The Aspen Institute
- Sample one-pager for families for LEA mental health teams to adapt and send
- Sample student questionnaire to assess needs and sample survey to learn how students are doing
- SDCOE Social-Emotional Learning Resources and archives of SEL trainings and webinars
- Current events articles about COVID at varying reading/lexile levels
- Teacher SEL self-assessment tool
- CASEL’s Covid- 19 SEL Resources
- Responding to change and loss toolkit: exercises, tools, and handouts for kids
- Counselor tool for K-12 with tips, tools and resources from the California Association of School Counselors and Wisconsin School Counselors Association
- Curated list of resources and a briefing from WestEd
- Tool and ideas for staff members experiencing secondary trauma and compassion fatigue
- SEL units of study by grade level
How do we best support teachers and staff?
Teachers and staff are the core of the educational experience for students and families. During the initial emergency phase of the pandemic, they have been asked to improvise and adapt in a short time, often having to put aside their own fears and concerns to serve students and families. Now, as we shift gears toward longer-term planning, it is important system leaders ensure staff are well prepared professionally, supported emotionally, and included in decision-making.
Chances are that during the initial pandemic response quick decisions were made and adult teams experienced strain. Now is the time to slow down, lean on the best tools for collaboration, and ensure adults are on the same page and taking care of each other so they can be more effective for students and families. Below are some insights that may help guide your efforts:
Gain greater insight. Understand what staff members have done and now need. Learn what is going on for teachers via surveys and phone calls. Seek feedback and diverse input.
Bring the adult community together and along.
Acknowledge the depth of mindset and practice shift this new phase of learning will require of teachers. Veteran teachers will feel like novices again, tried-and-true practices for student engagement may not work, and technical hurdles will create frustration.
Find ways to celebrate success and improve morale. These are hard times, and small acts of acknowledgement can go a long way.
Use best practices for meetings as suggested in the sample agenda and CCEE tools below.
Model strategies you are asking teachers to use to engage learners.
Create a plan for this new phase.
Prioritize key needs and offer trainings to address knowledge gaps identified through surveys.
Make sure your plan has opportunities for staff collaboration.
Lean on trainings provided by colleagues and county offices.
Don’t forget about social-emotional needs of staff.
Don’t assume teachers know or do not know a particular strategy, practice, or technological tool.
Build in time to practice developing new skills with support.
Partner confident technology users with less confident technology users.
- Prepare for changing roles. Given shifts in roles and responsibilities, consider what new tools or training staff members may need. Also, make sure to build teams thoughtfully so support staff are treated as equal players and important members in supporting continuity of learning.
- Review substitute teacher policies. Given regulations about the amount of time teachers are required to be home when they present with symptoms, substitute teachers may be needed more often than before. Make sure your current policies do not limit the amount of days a substitute can work for you.
Utilize in-person and web-based training strategically to maximize time and access.
Stay connected and keep learning.
Foster a community of support among peers. Build processes for collaborative learning, peer sharing, and iteration as teachers adapt to hybrid learning instruction. Develop best practices by seeking out peer collaboration and connection with someone in a similar role but different context.
Keep iterating. Get feedback and continue to work together.
Create virtual peer groups that can share and offer support to one another.
Equity Consideration: As teams move from emergency response to intentional distance and hybrid learning, make the time to review equity issues staff members have encountered and develop culturally-responsive strategies for the work ahead.
Equity Tool: Culturally Responsive distance learning: strategies for educators
Sample team agenda for administrators and teachers to discuss future plans for students and the LEA/school
LACOE Planning Framework: page 19 discusses staff needs
Editable Google doc with suggestions for Teacher Support and Professional Development as you launch the 2020 school year
Sample tool showing how to roll out a virtual platform with students and teachers from ANet
CCEE resource on Building Connection and Community: Leadership in a Time of Crisis
Remote learning guidance from the Riverside County Office of Education: suggests strategies for teachers to keep students engaged while learning remotely
Tool and ideas for staff members experiencing secondary trauma and compassion fatigue from Trauma Sensitive Schools
Curated list of districts and organizations that offer free webinars and trainings covering various areas of teaching and learning
How do we put English learner needs
at the center of our instructional plans?
In California, more than a third of our students live in homes where the primary spoken language is one other than English. English language learners have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic by losing English language exposure and supports that assist both language development and the ability to learn subject matter content. Therefore, we must place students who are English Learners (ELs) at the heart of our response plan.
This playbook was written with EL best practices in mind for all content, including schedules and materials. Overall, we recommend prioritizing activities that emphasize connection and social-emotional learning with peers. Also important is creating a language-rich environment and providing ample opportunities to practice language both on and off campus. Through it all, best practices for English learning will still apply.
Language proficiency is paramount. Language proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking must be considered as schedules are designed for on-campus and off-campus learning. Be sure to consider how and when integrated and designated ELD supports are provided. Then, carry out assessments and continue to adapt the schedule as students’ proficiency levels change.
A strong, research based curriculum can promote continuity in learning. Consider purchasing a vetted distance curriculum that can be used online and while on-campus. The curriculum you are using now may have online tools.
Practice language. Intentionally create multiple opportunities for students to practice language with high student talk time, peer-to-peer interactions, and SEL practices.
Schedule strategically. Make sure students get as much language practice as possible while on campus. Provide designated ELD in small homogeneous groups on a regular basis. This may mean that focused ELD teaching happens in small groups online to minimize out-of-class time while on campus.
Consider how to use time most effectively. Think about how you can utilize elective teachers who may not be running daily classes or intervention staff to offer small groups.
Jump-start the new school year with language boot camps. These boot camps will help students acclimate back to a hybrid schedule and support those with any language gaps. The format can be a week of half-days prior to the beginning of term or a few weeks of time before or after school during which students focus on academic language. Students can do ELPAC task types practice, in case they need to finish their summative ELPAC or just for good language practice with immediate feedback. Boot camps can also help the schools place students in the correct courses.
Family support. Consider hosting a virtual language family night to introduce the new hybrid learning format and suggest practical ways families can support students with language learning at home.
Resources for families. Provide resources for families to lean on while students are learning at home. When curating content, use videos and other tech with closed captions or subtitles when possible.
Foster literacy-rich environments. Remember to send books home with students to foster literacy-rich environments.
Connect with families. Coordinate an adult (teacher or another adult the student knows well) to regularly check in with families. (If you have a EL specialist, free some of their time to check in on off-campus students.)
Support and value home language. Encourage caregivers to continue using their home language to talk, read, discuss texts, and help their children with schoolwork. (Suggestions and resources for this can be found below.)
Provide content in home language. Teachers should consider providing specific subject-matter content in the family’s primary language. Emphasize to families that working on materials in their native language is not just acceptable, it is encouraged. Validate caregivers’ value and commitment to their children’s learning in whatever format makes them most comfortable and engaged.
Pair up. Assign students an “online tech buddy” who shares the same home language.
Equity Consideration: Understand culture and elevate home languages as students spend time learning from home. Doing so both honors families and increases parent and caregiver connection to school.
- Equity Tool: Books in over 100 languages from the International Children’s Library to honor home language
- SDCOE Instructional Continuity Learning Support for English Learners
- TalkingPoints is an online tool that can help teachers communicate with caregivers in their home languages; Google Translate can also be useful
- A list of webinars and trainings from various organizations about how best to support multilingual learners
- Tools, strategies, and sample curriculum for supporting multilingual learners (MLLs)/English language learners (ELLs) during COVID from the New Teacher Project
- Weekly Community of practice for educators to get together and share resources from California Together.
- Family resources for at-home learning including books and online programs in multiple languages are listed at the bottom of this article.
- “6 Key Considerations for Supporting ELs with Distance Learning” from SEAL
- List of curriculum and units of study with strong ELD considerations curated from various districts and partners
- Resources for distance learning and English Learners with disabilities from ICOE SELPA Lead
How do we effectively serve students with disabilities?
There are 7.5 million special education students in the US affected by COVID-19 school changes. The burden of change has fallen disproportionately on students with greater needs, and they merit more focus and attention. Moreover, it’s the law: all students with disabilities have a right to a free and appropriate public education even in times of crisis, as outlined by the California Department of Education.
Regardless of whether you are using a digital, print-based, or blended approach, great teachers remain the most critical factor in student learning, and that holds true most of all for students with higher needs.
Don’t forget it is critical to understand what is occuring in the general education classroom in order to coordinate with fellow teachers, design instruction collaboratively, and ensure services and IEP-identified accommodations and modifications can be met.
Gather the team. Rally teachers, service providers (including social workers and counselors) to identify needs and coordinate support. This will also ensure that the needs of your most at-risk students can be identified and a coordinated plan for them can be created. Team coordination can also be helpful in streamlining communication with families, yielding one outreach effort instead of multiple disjointed contacts.
Implement universal design for learning (UDL). The CDE has named UDL one of the most effective tools for serving students with atypical learning profiles. This still holds in a hybrid-learning setting, in which students can still have multiple options for engaging with content. Give students choices around how to present their learning.
- Focus on goals. Make sure all teachers and parents are clear on what the goals are in the IEP and how they will support the student to meet those goals. Remember to track and measure goals continuously.
Lean on partners. Create collaborative plans that include community-based organizations and partner with families to serve every student.
Update IEPs and process “change in placements” to meet mandated accommodations/modifications for students as their placements change from remote to part-time on-site.
Despite your best efforts to ensure that students with disabilities get the support and services they need through remote learning, some students may require compensatory services to make up for the loss of in-person support during distance learning.
Work with your local SELPA to stay abreast of changing mandates and compliance considerations.
Focus on peer connection and SEL. Prioritize inclusion, socializing, and peer connection when possible.
Prioritize services to ensure inclusion and least restrictive environment:
While on campus, prioritize group services over one-on-one services that could happen remotely.
Make sure case managers support students in whole-group settings (rather than pull-out sessions) as much as possible, unless explicitly called for in their IEP.
Decide which support services (OT, PT, speech, etc.) can translate to a remote setting and for which kids.
Use multiple modalities. Provide explicit instruction in multiple formats.
Support independence. Improve independence during off-site learning by explicitly teaching executive functioning skills in class. (Consider adding an executive functioning goal to IEPs when appropriate.)
Deliver mandated minutes remotely. Ensure that support minutes not covered on campus are offered remotely—especially for one-on-one support, when possible. Make sure staff is trained in tele-support.
Provide resources for families. Provide resources for families to lean on while students are learning at home.
When curating content, use multiple modalities and leverage tech tools for your students with disabilities to accelerate learning.
Provide resources for families to support executive function and organization (samples below).
Connect with families. Assign a special education staff member to connect with students and families about their home-learning experience. Be sure that this time is reflected in the special ed team schedule.
Equity Consideration: Leverage technology and remote learning in ways that don’t mistake equal treatment for ensuring equity.
Equity Tool: Planning protocols for supporting students with disabilities from the Diverse Learners Cooperative
Webinars and guidance for supporting students with disabilities from SDCOE
Information on IEP accommodations in a remote setting from Quality Matters
A sample Distance Learning Plan (DLP) for students who receive special education services from Humboldt-Del Norte SELPA.
Information on Special Ed compliance and IEP guidance from El Dorado Charter SELPA
Information on counseling and support for special populations from the California Association of School Counselors
Tools for helping teens with intellectual disabilities deal with grief from Vanderbilt University
Tools and resources for families from Understood
Digital Promise’s list of apps helpful for students with disabilities
Practical guide from CCEE for school district leaders to think about how best to navigate some of the necessary, basic elements to have in place for special education
Remote Learning Guidance – Accessibility from the Riverside County Office of Education
Information on supporting students with diverse learning needs during at-home learning from TNTP
School closure toolkit with checklists and next steps for special populations from the Tennessee Department of Education
Role-specific resources for administrators, teachers, and providers from Placer County Office of Education SELPA.
How do we holistically leverage ancillary
programs to support families?
There’s a great deal of benefit in leveraging all available resources to support student learning and well-being—and in the current crisis, it’s more important than ever. Schools cannot and should not do this work alone. Community-based organizations (CBOs) often have the agility and flexibility to help fill gaps and also bring unique assets to supporting students.
CBOs may help in providing resources you would not otherwise have access to in many areas, including physical and mental health, social and emotional supports, child care, academic enrichment, nutrition, and links to families—to name but a few. Spending time thinking about possible synergies with community partners can augment and expand your ability to serve students and families. Below we offer some considerations to help you in your planning:
- Build from existing infrastructure and plans. Start with what had been planned for the year and adapt from there. Chances are you already had a deep network of partners. Remember: you and your community are resourceful.
- Address needs collaboratively. While each region is different, most schools are facing challenges in four big areas: child care, academic support, nutrition, and mental health.
- Leverage the County Office of Ed. Partner with your County Office of Education to make sure mental health referrals and food security options are tapped into and made available to your families. Bring services onto campuses as much as possible, and offer remote and community-located services as needed. CBOs, as well as public and nonprofit housing, are important options to consider for off-site meal distribution and care.
- Identify a targeted list of partner organizations. They can include youth-serving CBOs (such as YMCA), after-school program providers, city or county recreation agencies, and libraries. Prioritize agencies that have experience collaborating with or contracting with schools.
- Plan collaboratively with community organizations.
- Inventory needs. Create a list of highest-priority needs your students have that could be supported by CBOs and after-school providers (such as outreach to disconnected students, family engagement, supervision, enrichment, interviewing families about needs and tech issues, meal distribution, drop-off/pick-up).
- Create a clear list of services. Use this inventory to make a clear list of services you need partners to support.
- Create a clear plan and timeline with partners. invite selected CBOs into the planning dialogue for summer and fall. The earlier community partners are involved in planning, the clearer each party can be about roles and expectations, making implementation of plans much smoother (as opposed to creating plans and then informing partners of their role).
- Leverage CBOs’ flexibility and relationships to the community. Work with CBOs to get creative and meet kids, families, and schools where they are. CBOs across the state are eager to play a strong role in supporting students in every way they can, and stand ready to step in and play complementary roles in partnership with schools. CBO staff are often from the same communities as the children they serve, and they bring invaluable relationship assets which are critical to keeping kids connected to school. They can broker a range of support resources to students and their families.
Resources for Families
- Food security
- Mental health
- Warm Line, a free, non-emergency peer-run mental health support line for California residents
- Dial 211 for free, confidential support available in more than 200 languages. 211 connects people to a range of services, resources, and programs for housing, food security, mental health and more.
- Other mental health resources and hotlines
- Caregiver resources and support
- UC TV has a series on staying sane in the times of unprecedented parenting
- The After School Network compiled tools for talking to children about COVID-19
- Virtual summer experience for K-8 students through Camp Kinda, free with code KINDA2020.
Equity Consideration: Embrace a hive mentality and leverage service providers and community programs to expand the support team available to your learners. Prioritize organizations that also embrace an equity mindset and have experience serving those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Equity Tool: A presentation and tools from SDCOE for leveraging community partners to complete empathy interviews
Additional Resources for Leaders