16 steps to stronger teacher support and system-level change

Key recommendations: Rethink school schedule, increase mental health supports and develop local school performance frameworks
By: | February 9, 2021
Post-COVID, school administrators should consider strengthening educator prep programs, establishing online communities of practice and investing in mentoring as PD. (AdobeStock/wavebreak3)Post-COVID, school administrators should consider strengthening educator prep programs, establishing online communities of practice and investing in mentoring as PD. (AdobeStock/wavebreak3)

The transition out of COVID can be as transformative for schools and educators as was the spring 2020 shutdown and shift to online learning, a new report finds.

Some 16 steps district leaders can take to strengthen teacher support and initiate system-level change are detailed in an analysis released Tuesday by a Colorado-based think tank, Keystone Policy Center, and a nonprofit advocacy organization, the Public Education & Business Coalition.

The study, the result of the work of a broad coalition called the Education System Resiliency and Innovation Initiative, or ESRII, details potential pilot programs, field studies, and learning opportunities,

“Capturing the right learnings from this moment can help us build a more resilient system for the future,” Sue Sava, president and CEO of the Public Education & Business Coalition, said in a statement. “Teachers have earned so much respect by pivoting so rapidly, learning new skills overnight. The coalition provides opportunities for the field to lead the work so that the momentum teachers have generated through this crisis will continue.”

The ideas in the report were generated by more than 80 education system leaders, educators, government officials, and stakeholders from within and outside the education system.

Black History Month: 8 great free resources, lessons to explore

The report breaks its recommendations and goals into three categories:

Teaching and learning

  1. Support individualized student progression: Promote different learning styles and competency-based progression
  2. Support differentiated student assessment: Emphasize student learning, culturally responsive education and assessment to inform instructional decisions
  3. Expand teacher empowerment for instruction: Empower teachers to teach what, how and in ways that meets student needs.
  4. Rethink school day, week and calendar: Flexibility to meet needs of students and maximize time use
  5. Expand use of learning pods: Provide equitable access to additional learning time & opportunities
  6. Expand course offerings and access: Make more classes available and increase equity of access

Educator workforce

  1. Expand pathways into the profession: Bring additional expertise to expand pool of new teachers and diversify workforce.
  2. Expand pathways and roles within the profession: Elevating profession will improve retention and reduce burden on teachers.
  3. Enable alternative staffing structures: Empower local leaders to develop staffing models that reflect local needs and context

Teacher training and supports

  1. Strengthen educator prep programs: Ensure every school system has a higher ed or other ed prep partner
  2. Establish online/virtual communities of practice: Provide opportunities for teams of teachers to collaborate with a focus on peer feedback for learning and growth of practice.
  3. Strengthen connection between educator prep, PD and the workforce: Help teachers better understand the world they are preparing students to enter,.
  4. Invest in mentoring as PD for teachers and leaders: Strengthen educator practice and expand career pathway opportunities
  5. Invest in mental health supports for educators and students: Improve educator retention & practice; Support students’ mental health needs

More from DA: How to scale 4 staffing innovations inspired by COVID

Other System Changes

  1. Support locally developed transparency and performance systems: Empower families, communities and school systems to establish locally developed frameworks of school performance
  2. Use federal funds, including COVID relief, to drive transformation: Support innovations in approaches to teaching/learning, structure of the educator workforce & training/support of educators.

“There have been remarkable examples of leadership, of innovation, and of systems evolving to respond to each community’s unique context and their students’ unique needs,” said Berrick Abramson, director of the education program for Keystone Policy Center. “In many ways, this not only redefined how students learn, it rewrote the job of teacher.”