Archive for September, 2020

New Resource! Tools for Success in Disruptions: Immediate Recovery and an Opportunity for Change

For the last 6 months, I’ve been part of the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) and tasked with supporting education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). We just released a number of resources, described in more detail below. Not only do I hope that these resources are useful to practitioners in the field who are doing the hard work of figuring out how to safely educate students across the country, I also recognize that working on this collection (in particular the overview guide, Tools for Success in Disruptions: Immediate Recovery and an Opportunity for Change) has been one of the most challenging projects in my professional life. My colleagues have been, and continue to be, incredibly supportive as I’ve bounced a baby to sleep, nursed, shoved teething toy after teething toy into a mouth, and managed both a 3.5 year old and an infant (now 10 months!) through our conference calls and team meetings. I did much of this work during precious rest/nap times and in the evenings sitting on the stairs, while patrolling the toddler’s millionth bedtime aversion tactic, and precious hours when my husband took time off so I could get a few hours on the clock. While challenging, it was great to get my hands and brain into a project that I hope adds value to the field during this current crisis, and future disruptions to come. Kudos to all the working parents out there trying to figure out how to maintain careers while parenting in this crazy time. 


Now for the real purpose of the email – getting folks to use the resources! Education disruptions can be short or long, can be planned for, or can catch us off guard. As education leaders across the country grapple with how to get students and staff back in traditional or remote classrooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have the opportunity to build an education system that better meets the needs of students post-disruption. Tools for Success in Disruptions: Immediate Recovery and an Opportunity for Change guide walks state and district education leaders through a variety of operational, systemic, and teaching & learning topics and provides discussion questions that can be considered during and post a disruption. The questions are designed to probe thinking and identify current and future needs. Additional resources and tools are highlighted that users can dig into for more information and support. A disruption can create a new host of issues and problems to work through, while also creating an opportunity to build a better system for students in the future. 

The rest of the collection that I’ve highlighted in the last week on the blog includes: 

 

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New Resource: Better Together: A Coordinated Response for Principals and District Leaders

Here’s the fourth document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). This brief, Better Together: A Coordinated Response for Principals and District Leaders, highlights the important role that principals play in operating school buildings every day (with even more responsibilities during a disruption), and how districts can support them do that job.

Districts often discuss the social emotional learning (SEL) needs of their students, but it’s also important to assess the social emotional needs of staff – including building principals. These leaders are managing a school, supporting their staff and students, calming parent/family fears, while also coping with COVID’s impact on their personal lives. Regular one-on-one check-ins and peer networks, and the effective use of a district crisis response team (to lessen the overall burden on individual principals), can be effective tools in supporting principals. In addition, student SEL needs must be addressed to enable students to begin tackling academics again, especially in hard hit communities where students have experienced family loss due to illness or increased trauma during the disruption. The bottom line is that coordinated support for the leaders as everyone figures out how to operate in this new and constantly evolving environment.

There are a few pieces to this collection coming. I’ll post when they are released!

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New Resource: After Action Review Guide

Here’s the third document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). The After Action Review Guide describes the important, but often neglected, process of monitoring, reflecting, and making mid-course corrections. An After Action Review (AAR) is easy in concept – a conversation about what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be done to get better – but this “simple” conversation is often filled with organizational silos, blaming, scapegoating, personality conflicts, and emotions. A strongly facilitated AAR focuses on the process and the systems, not the people. An AAR helps an organization and a team get stronger.

Right now, school systems (from school buildings up to the state) are barely treading water with figuring out how to keep schools running. But, in a few short weeks, it would be the perfect time to sit back and bring a team together to reflect on the “Return to School” process – what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be done to improve. Holding an AAR in mid to late October allows a team to make mid-course corrections and start off the next semester with improved systems and structures to operate even more effectively.

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New Resource: Strategic Budgeting: Using Evidence to Mitigate the “COVID Slide” and Move Towards Improvement

Here’s the second document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). In Strategic Budgeting: Using Evidence to Mitigate the “COVID Slide” and Move Towards Improvement, my colleague Bi Vuong examines the impact of school disruptions on student learning, increased learning loss for our most vulnerable students, and the realities of impending budget shortfalls in districts and states across the country. The strategic budgeting process is presented and details ways that budgets may be shifted to better meet the needs of students and their needs (i.e. fixed or mandatory vs variable or discretionary expenses), while acknowledging that student needs must be assessed to figure out which expenses are needed. In addition, strategies to strategically allocate resources by determining impact, and then ways to make trade-off decisions are provided. Finally, the tool encourages aligning resources – from normal operating budgets and any additional disruption-related funding to make the most effective use out of all available dollars. As districts and cities begin their annual budget cycles this Fall, this work is particularly important to ensure that maximum impact is achieved while adverse consequences are limited.

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New resource: Return to School – A Toolkit for Principals

Here’s the first document in a collection of resources that the National Comprehensive Center’s Systemic Technical Assistance Team (STAT) developed to support education agencies (SEAs, LEAs, etc) successfully meet the needs of students and educators during significant disruptions (such as COVID-19). While many school districts are back in action and offering in person, virtual, or a hybrid learning, other districts will fluctuate between the models depending upon local infection rates and cases. Returning to School: A Toolkit for Principals, In the Classroom, at Home or Both is organized around four primary sections: change, communication, collaboration, and care. The sections delve into school and classroom level practices, structures, and systems that support both staff and students (and their families). As learning modes will likely shift throughout the 2020-21 school year, it is important to continually reflect on current practices and how to best serve students and staff as we all function within the constraints of the pandemic.

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