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.

Back-to-School: Start Spreading the News

As long as I’ve been working in public education, this time of year has always been very special. On behalf of the entire AASA family, we hope our superintendents and those aspiring to become superintendents have a fantastic school year filled with the creation of positive solutions that will translate into greater academic outcomes for our students.

I’ve been saying for years that superintendents are the nation’s foremost thought leaders in public education. Last week, our school system leaders spoke out about some very critical issues that directly affect the lives of our students. We need to listen to what was said and do something about it.

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Brown v. Board and a New Generation

As we continue to observe this month’s 64th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down segregation in public schools, we must be mindful that much work still needs to be done on behalf of the millions of children growing and learning in our classrooms.

To quote Chief Justice Warren:

“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he (or she) is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

I couldn’t agree more.

We are now at a time when our schools are being torn apart by gun violence. We’re at a time when more than 50 percent of the children attending our schools are living in impoverished conditions. We’re at a time when we must scale up the dialogue in our country that we view every public school as the foundation of our communities.

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A Look at Two Prominent Private Schools in Scotland

A guest post by AASA President Gail Pletnick

[Pictured from left to right: AASA Past President Amy Sichel; AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech; and AASA President Gail Pletnick.]

Just as in the U.S., there are both government sponsored and private school options available in Scotland. After visiting government funded schools, we had an invitation to tour some private institutions.

The Mary Erskine School (for girls) and Stewart’s Melville College (for boys) are schools within the Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools (ESMS) private system. These schools are single sex from ages 12-18. The schools offer day school, week boarding or full-time boarding. Tuition for the day school is approximately $14,000 and full-time tuition and boarding fees are approximately $26,000. Other services are available for additional fees, including coach transportation to the school and travel experiences.

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A Long, Hot Summer

Some of the images we’re seeing on television and stories we’re reading about in our local newspapers are describing some of the most disappointing and disheartening moments in the history of our country.

What has made it even more alarming? The violence, compounded with the flurry of discussions focusing on bigotry and hate, come at a time when we should be focusing on a more exciting time — the start of a new school year.

Make no mistake that these incidents are on the minds of every superintendent, principal, teacher and any other advocate for public education. Walk into any supermarket, bakery, barbershop, beauty salon or gas station and I would be surprised if people aren’t talking about it. The question remains, as I mentioned in a recent press statement, how do the leaders of the more than 13,000 public school systems pull through?

Once again, let me thank AASA members for the outstanding work they do in preparing our nation’s young people for the unique demands and challenges they will undoubtedly face in their lives beyond high school.

The examples of outstanding work being done by our superintendents are endless, but let me pinpoint just a few. I invite you to take a listen to the latest AASA Radio segment. Matt Utterback, the superintendent of Oregon’s North Clackamas School District and the 2017 AASA National Superintendent of the Year®, rightly points out that the academic success of the generations of students of tomorrow, is equally, if not more important to the academic success of students in our schools today.

Earlier this summer, Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Arizona’s Dysart Unified School District 89, was sworn in as the 2017-18 president of AASA. An outstanding leader in every sense, Gail proudly asserts the importance of redefining, redesigning and reimagining teaching and learning environments in our schools as a way to improve the overall quality of our school systems and communities.

 

Finally, in late July, Illinois superintendents Mike Lubelfeld (Deerfield Public School District 109) and Nick Polyak (Leyden High School District 212) successfully led AASA’s Digital Consortium summer meeting in suburban Chicago, where dozens of administrators engaged in meaningful dialogue about model digital transitions to improve student achievement.

AASA recently launched its I Love Public Education (#LovePublicEducation) campaign, an on-going effort to highlight why public schools are essential to developing the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. Shortly following the Labor Day holiday, we will formally introduce another section of our website that provides a collection of resources about equity for school system leaders at all levels to help them and their teams succeed.

Who could’ve imagined the inflammable rhetoric that has taken place in our nation over the past few days? Not many of us could have foreseen the most fundamental fabric of our country — the public schools in our communities — being threatened by the ugliness of the actions that have been carried out by a selected few.

I am unboundedly confident that despite the rhetoric, our nation’s public school system leaders will rise to the occasion. They will speak out about the value of the public schools in their respective communities. They will speak out about the partnership that we, as educators, have with families throughout our urban, suburban and rural communities. This is a partnership to ensure that all children in these communities will receive the quality education that they deserve and that they are entitled to.

 

Daniel A. Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.