‘More Great Seats for Kids’ Newsletter: Future of Schooling

Dear School Leader,

Eleven challenging months. Those glimmers of hope and optimism we’ve been looking for? We see them. Vaccination eligibility is expanding, cases are dropping, and more school buildings are on the cusp of reopening in NYC. While there are still areas of concern around variants and the process and pace of vaccinations, many in the educational space are beginning to ever so turn attention to what life – or at least school – looks like in a post pandemic world.

Fortunately, the myriad of approaches to COVID employed both by our very own charter leaders and peers across the country offer an opportunity to mine new knowledge. I find myself thinking, which of these changes should become common (best) practice and which fade away?

Here are a few things I am thinking about:

    • Online Learning – After a year of Zoom calls (lets me honest, should any of us see our own faces hours and hours each day? Well…not me.), what role will online learning play moving forward, whether as a stop gap measure in the face of an emergency closure or as an integrated part of a high quality curriculum? And how can schools integrate technology in a manner that supports rather than supplants strong pedagogical practice? Can we construct creative and flexible learning environments and scheduling that meet the personalized needs of ALL students (and their families)? Can we stay true to our sector’s guiding star: student learning success drives charter success?

    • Health and Safety – Masks and social distancing have driven flu rates to historic lows. Considering the connection between healthy students and better academic achievement, how can schools balance welcoming students back to the classroom with proper safeguards and hygienic practices?
    • Inequality – The pandemic has sharpened the focus of the deep inequalities embedded across schooling. District, private, charter. What will our school leaders (and policymakers) do to alleviate these issues through expansive wrap around services, technology distribution and access, stronger community partnerships, and more effective communication and involvement with parents? How do we drive reforms that result in real outcomes for our kiddos?
    • Teacher Support – Strong coaching and professional development for teachers has long been a hallmark for SUNY charters. How can we continue to build programs to support and ensure all teachers are better prepared, organized, and effective in class (virtual or in person)?
  • Assessments – The decision to cancel 2019-2020 state assessments amplified the conversation regarding how we hold schools accountable for student academic achievement. The Institute’s Active Ingredients project was launched with charters and authorizers across the nation. How can we create credible, countable, replicable and mission aligned measures for schools to demonstrate success that compliments traditional standardized testing? These are thorny issues that require deep discussion in the coming months.
SUNY Charter Schools Committee Chair Joe Belluck and I were texting yesterday about just how much we miss being in schools, learning from leaders and watching students and teachers reach for the stars. Words failed us both in the shared emotion to see each of you in person again and craft from the challenges we’ve mastered new, strong, and sustained solutions for the future. The entire Institute team joins Joe and I in deep yearning to see how you shape the future of schooling.

We have so much to look forward to.