5 Resources to Inform School Reopening Plans

How can we reopen schools to #ReThinkHighSchool more equitably? Here are 5 resources to get you started.

By Team XQ

All month long, we’ll be talking about how to develop original thinkers for an uncertain world, an XQ Learner Goal.

As the school year comes to a close, we know that back-to-school planning is already on your minds. How can we reopen schools to #ReThinkHighSchool more equitably? We hope these Give Me Five resources help you do exactly that.

1. ADAPT: How to Reopen Schools With a Focus on Equity

“If we don’t aim high [when we reopen schools, we are going to end up right where we were.”

We need a paradigm shift in how we approach education—one that’s rooted in beliefs about what’s possible. Although the work to get there won’t be easy, it’ll be worth it.

Why it matters: Our students’ futures are in our hands. What will you do with that power? Let’s use it to create schools where students and teachers alike feel empowered to use education to improve lives. The Holdsworth Center held a webinar on how to reopen schools with a focus on equity.

Here are some tips from the webinar on how to set a high bar:

  • Help students develop their talents and passions
  • Foster collaboration, curiosity, and encouragement of intrinsic motivation to learn
  • Use assessments to guide learning 
  • Cultivate a love of learning 
  • Leverage parents and families as thought partners

Here are some tips from the webinar on what to avoid:

  • Emphasizing control and compliance
  • Using pressure, competition, and fear of failure as motivators
  • Enforcing a punitive school culture
  • Ranking students based on assessments
  • Teaching merely to cover the material

Extra Credit: Find out the questions to ask yourself when drafting your school reopening plans. →

2. PLAN: Things to Think About When Planning to Reopen

Educators must face harsh realities while drafting school reopening plans.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic can serve as a catalyst for changing education. And education is the key to addressing our country’s most pressing systemic inequities. The Brookings Institution held a webinar to talk about the implications of schools reopening.

The webinar outlined the factors policymakers and education leaders should plan for:

  • Schools will face budgetary challenges to meet the CDC’s social-distancing requirements; current school budget proposals don’t have the resources to safely serve all students
  • At least ⅓ of teachers are at risk of illness; many parents say they’rewilling to continue remote learning to keep their children safe

Here are some tips from the webinar to help inform your school reopening plans:

  • Understand and accommodate family and teacher preferences
  • Create a system to identify the specific needs of each student
  • Use evidence-based practices to address individual student needs
  • Prioritize the needs of your most vulnerable and disadvantaged students

Extra Credit: Read the answers to questions panelists didn’t have time to answer during the webinar. →

3. TRY: Apply the Whole Child Approach When Reopening

“Children don’t leave behind their emotions, their diet, their traumas, their safety fears, their dental problems and so on when they get to school. If you’re going to help kids, you have to help the whole kid all at once.”

      – David Brooks
        New York Times Op-Ed Columnist

If we want to improve the quality of education students receive, we must also address issues that affect them outside of the classroom.

Why it matters: Education Post wrote about the Good Neighborhoods Initiative, a 10-year strategy aimed to measurably improve students’ lives in six Detroit neighborhoods by focusing on community building. Here are some of the results from the initiative:

  • Crime rates declined by 40% in all neighborhoods
  • High school graduation rates increased from 65% to 81%
  • Youth employment opportunities increased from 2,500 paid jobs to 8,000
  • 80% of youth reported high-quality support from neighborhood adults

Here are tips on how to use these learnings in your school reopening plans:

  • Increase the availability and use of data
  • Support and empower student and family advocacy
  • Identify youth-support networks that already exist in your community
  • Leverage community resources to address both academic and non-academic barriers to learning

Extra Credit: Borrow insights from an education expert’s journey to improve educational quality in high-poverty school districts. →

4. SHARE: Solutions for Reopening Safely and Equitably

Reopening schools during a global pandemic is unchartered territory for all of us.

Why it matters: It’s easier to overcome unprecedented challenges that come with planning to reopen by sharing insights. Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools created a comprehensive framework detailing their school reopening plans.

The framework complies with CDC and AFT guidelines, including recommendations for health checks, seating configurations, and more. Here are some tips from the framework:

  • Stagger shifts of in-person instruction
  • Leverage spaces outside of the main school building
  • Develop a school entry and exit experience

Extra Credit: Download the Brooklyn LAB framework as a guide to inform your school reopening plans. →

5. SHIFT: Adopt the Mindset of an Equitable Educator

How will you address systemic inequities the pandemic amplified when schools reopen? And how will you prevent inequities from recurring?

Why it matters: Becoming an equitable educator takes deliberate study and practice. The TeachLab Podcast discussed educator mindsets you can adopt to explore new ways to support your students:

  • Equity mindset: Provide individual supports for every student
  • Asset mindset: Focus on student assets rather than deficits
  • Aware mindset: Discuss taboo topics like race, gender, and religion
  • Context-centered mindset: Understand external factors that impact student learning

Extra Credit: Listen to the podcast for strategies on how to address race in the classroom. →

XQ Expert Recs for Reopening

School reopenings create an opportunity to do things differently and to serve our students more equitably. Here are some recommendations from our Data, Research, and Policy team:

  • Reimagine your current educational practices
  • Focus on holistic needs to support learning
  • Ensure access to broadband and technology

Connect with others and share your tips on the Rethink Together Forum. →