Across the country, there's been a lot of talk about how to support students as we recover from the pandemic and deal with its lingering impacts.
Drawing on my career in education, I know that there are some essentials we'll need to have in place in order to help all our students thrive. I also know that many of these measures would benefit students well beyond the period of pandemic recovery--and so I am hoping we'll make many of these standard operating procedures in APS.
1. Start with basic needs. Kids can't learn if their basic needs aren't being met. Those needs include food, shelter, rest, health care, economic stability, and secure relationships with trusted adults and peers. Schools, in close collaboration with other community organizations, have to ensure that the children in their charge are ready to learn. We can do this in the following ways:
2. Commit to healthy school culture. As we recover from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to do more than just "get back to normal." If we're honest, we'll admit that "normal" wasn't working for some of our students and that we can do better. Here are some things we can do:
3. Reframe "learning loss." I've been thinking a lot of about the term "learning loss" and its cousins, "achievement gap" and "academic deficit" and "struggling students." What do these terms have in common? They emphasize what students lack and ignore the strengths they bring. The blame rests with the student, not with the system.
I thank Gabriela Uro and her colleagues at the Council of Great City Schools for introducing me to the term "unfinished learning," which I like much better.
Why does our word choice matter? Because of the message it sends to our students about their value. Our kids are more than their reading levels, SOL scores, and end-of-quarter grades. Many have exhibited unbelievable amounts of determination, patience, and maturity during the pandemic. If we reduce them to a score on a standardized test or measure their "grit" only by on-time completion of a difficult assignment, we'll do them an injustice.
Here's how we can address academics in a more thoughtful way:
For more on this topic, I recommend "Accelerating Learning As We Build Back Better" by Linda Darling-Hammond, writing earlier this month in Forbes.
If you agree that our students deserve support like what I've described here, and you agree that we can do better than simply "getting back to normal," then I urge you to make a plan to vote in the ACDC School Board Caucus May 17-23.
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