AASA Learning Recovery & Redesign Guidance

School districts across the nation are facing an unprecedented challenge in School Year 2021-22: how to effectively and equitably recover from the impacts of COVID-19 while still navigating an ongoing pandemic. At the same time, this moment also presents unprecedented opportunities: how to best use the mandate for change and significant new federal resources to also redesign toward a more student-centered, equity-focused, and future-driven approach to public education.

To help our members at this critical time, we are excited to share the first installments of the AASA Learning Recovery & Redesign Guidance, which identifies four Guiding Principles that should show up across your plans and that can inform any revisions you make. This and additional, forthcoming resources have been developed in collaboration with the AASA American Rescue Plan Committee, the AASA Learning 2025 Network, and our partners at EducationCounsel.

Specifically, school district recovery and redesign plans should:

  1. Plant Seeds — As you address immediate needs (“fill holes”), you should seek ways to also begin or accelerate shifts toward your long-term vision (“plant seeds”).
  2. Center Equity — Ensure all students get the support they need to thrive, especially those most impacted by the pandemic, and redesign any systems that create or perpetuate inequities.
  3. Use & Build Knowledge — To maximize your chances of success, start with what is known and then learn and improve as you go.
  4. Sustain Strategically — Plan carefully for the end of these supplementary funds or risk going over a “fiscal cliff.

Clicking on each of those links will open a corresponding two-page Self-Assessment Tool that you, your teams, and/or other stakeholders can use to pause, reflect, and identify ways to improve. Especially with summer 2022 and SY22-23 planning around the corner, this is the time to reflect on your initial plans. Ask yourself:

  • Are your initial plans responsive to what you now know about student and staff needs?
  • Are they still feasible given your community’s current conditions, including the state of the pandemic, your local labor market, and other contextual factors that have become clearer over the past several months?
  • What tweaks to your plans can help you make the most of your federal recovery funds?

We dug into these Guiding Principles and Self-Assessment Tools during an introductory webinar that you can view by clicking here. We hope these initial resources help guide your thinking about how to make the most of your available resources. Please also share any feedback and ideas for what other supports are most needed by clicking here.

Creating a Winning Triangle: Schools, Workforce & Community through Apprenticeships

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus, a career preparedness facility for high school students in the Cherry Creek School District, located just outside of Denver, Colo.

This visit was part of an AASA Youth Apprenticeship Summit, where superintendents joined me to get a firsthand look at engaged and motivated students pursuing potential pathways to gain the skills necessary to earn a portable credential in preparation for their next step, whether that was heading directly to college or entering the workforce.

Continue reading

Ready to Hit the Ground Running in 2021

For generations, maintaining a leadership role in reshaping America’s public education agenda has always been an integral part of AASA’s DNA. Just a few days after the outcome of the 2020 elections, we were pleased to issue a set of proposed education policy recommendations for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.

We know that the new administration is looking for a path forward, and a healthy and quick response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic.

AASA is committed to having a strong professional and collaborative relationship with the next administration. The policy recommendations we are proposing culminate our efforts to set a new, positive course for American education and ensure America is a land of opportunity for every child.

The report, A New Education Vision for a New Administration, which was prepared by the AASA Policy and Advocacy Team, contains the following key recommendations:

Continue reading

A San Diego Serenade, AASA Style

In an era when criticism of public education is constantly spewing from all corners of the nation, my message to the more than 3,400 school system leaders last week at the 2020 AASA National Conference on Education was simple: American education today is the best it has ever been.

Whether or not you were able to join us in San Diego, let me thank you for your hard work to make that possible.

Continue reading

Celebrating Public Education in San Diego

Our country soon kicks off a weeklong celebration on behalf of the more than 50 million students who are learning and growing in our nation’s public schools.

Throughout Public Schools Week 2020 (Feb. 24-28), school systems large and small will showcase the good news happening inside their classrooms. This annual recognition highlights the critical role public education plays in shaping our nation’s  future and underscores why it serves as the bedrock of our democracy.

Considering that nine out of 10 children attend public schools, there is no better time than now to speak out for our young learners.

This celebration will get a jump-start when hundreds of superintendents—the CEOs of our public school districts and America’s ambassadors of great learning—arrive in San Diego for the 2020 National Conference on Education (Feb. 13-15), hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Year in, year out, this annual gathering attracts some of the country’s foremost education thought leaders addressing the needs of every child, every day.

Continue reading

Meeting the Social Emotional Needs of Our Students

My education career started as a 6th grade teacher in New York City, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and the Cambria Heights neighborhood in Queens. Both areas were noted for students from low income minority and immigrant families. Today we would refer to them as Title I schools.

I quickly perceived that my students were not coming to school ready to learn. They were distracted, lacked discipline and were not motivated. Many came to school hungry, sick and preoccupied with issues at home. I had the advantage of being a fluent Spanish speaker and young. Many of the students gravitated towards me as they felt that I was one of them.

Those were the days that preceded the No Child Left Behind era of accountability based on student test scores. My students were tested but the standardized test scores were unavailable for at least two years. By then most of the students were gone. Also, my principal was happy to have an adult in each classroom. Teacher turn-over was a major factor.

The situation was there that empowered me to take a step back from academics and focus on the needs of the students.

The Cambria Heights school I taught in was only two blocks away from the home I lived in with my parents. I began walking home for lunch and taking four or five students with me. My mother would make them sandwiches and afterwards we would shoot some hoops in the driveway.

Not a doable situation today.

The result was that I developed a rapport with my students so that they responded to the dignity I showed them with respect towards me. I quickly realized that they were willing to learn from me, that I could teach them and that my positive reaction to their improved performance in itself became a reward for them.

Today we refer to this process as social emotional learning. By addressing the needs of their students teachers earn their respect and conversely the students are more willing to learn. Fifty-two years after I started teaching, my daughter is also a sixth grade teacher working with a student population very similar to the students I taught. In conversations with her she shares with me her adventures in the classroom. Although she does not have the freedom I enjoyed, she treats her students with dignity and they in turn return her efforts with their respect. She has already won the accolades of her administrators by obtaining test scores that would not be expected for her students. Students that are not in her class gravitate towards her because her students talk to their friends.

I smile as she shares her stories with me. She shows me the notes she receives from her students showing great appreciation for what she does for them. I am incredibly proud of her and in my conceit I say that she takes after her dad.

I hope that American education has turned the corner and we are more concerned about the needs of our students than we are about their test scores. Suicide rates and drug usage is rampant. Students are being shot in their classrooms. Students are sick and hungry because we are denying them food and medical services. If we take care of them their scores will take care of themselves.

We’re not in Kansas Anymore

Every year at this time, the AASA International Seminar takes superintendents and other interested parties to other parts of the world. The intent is to learn about the educational systems and cultures in the places we visit. These trips never fail to make an impression on the participants.

This year’s trip to Morocco is no exception. It’s an hour bus ride through arid, desolate land to our first school visit to a tribal school in the remote hills outside of Marrakech. A brown landscape is sprinkled with the occasional green of scrub vegetation.

We learn from our guide that the school is very excited about our visit and that they have been preparing for it for days. This will not be a typical school visit. We are in a remote area that is home to one of the many isolated tribes that have occupied the territory for hundreds of years.

AASA President Deb Kerr smiles for a selfie with school students.
Continue reading

A Special Kind of Love for Children in Morocco

This year, the AASA International Seminar takes us to Morocco. The education system here provides free schooling that includes six years of a primary education, three years of middle and intermediate schooling and three years of secondary. School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 13. The system focuses on erasing illiteracy and the languages of instruction are Arabic and French. Pre-primary programs are also available to children of ages 4-6.

Students in class at Ecole Lhadchat, a tribal school outside the city of Merrakech.

This year’s  Delegation includes 22 participants. AASA President Deb Kerr and AASA President-elect Kristi Sandvik are part of the group along with three AASA Past-Presidents. Our first school visit was to the Ecole Lhadchat, a tribal school outside the city of Merrakech. It is a school of 110 students at the primary level. The school operates a daily split session with half of them attending in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.

Continue reading

Brown Deer Falcon Takes Helm as AASA President

On behalf of the AASA, let me congratulate Deb Kerr, who was sworn in earlier this month in Washington, D.C. as the 2019-20 president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. A bona fide champion for children, the superintendent of The School District of Brown Deer in Brown Deer, Wis., brings a special dedication and commitment to her new role.

The first female superintendent to serve in that role at Brown Deer Schools, her district lies in the suburbs of Milwaukee with more than 1,600 students. Three out of every four are students of color and nearly half are living in poverty.

Deborah L. Kerr, superintendent, School District of Brown Deer, Wis., being sworn in on July 9, as the 2019-20 president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
Continue reading

Economic Reconsideration of the College Track


By Daniel A. Domenech/School Administrator, June 2019

I RECENTLY HAD the opportunity to travel to Warsaw, Poland, where I gave a presentation titled “It’s Just Not About a College Degree” at the Council of Eastern European Schools Association. This is hardly a revolutionary idea to our colleagues abroad where apprenticeship programs have flourished for hundreds of years and where typically, from the 6th grade on, students either enter the “gymnasium,” or academic program, or follow a vocational track.

Those students on the academic track are the ones who in all probability will attend and graduate from a university while the students on the vocational track will learn a skill in an apprenticeship program coupled with schoolwork that will lead to certification and employment in a trade.

Continue reading