By Susie Miller Carello
Dear School Leader,
Last year was a monumental achievement. We know that. You, as leaders and as educators, did all you could in the wake of so much ambiguity, so much uncertainty, to maintain not just educational continuity but academic excellence.
But we also know the reality of the situation as we grapple with a third consecutive year of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity & ambiguity). This VUCA? The disruption to instruction and learning (and ‘regular’ growing up too) have combined to leave students in many areas without predictable, consistent supports for academic success. The data is there. Missed learning and the social and emotional toll of the past year and a half is real. Students across the country, especially those from vulnerable populations, have experienced a significant setback in terms of both their academic achievement and SEL compared their counterparts from years past, in many cases by a substantial amount.
This year we will be tested on our ability to mitigate this missed learning among our own students and set them up for success this year and for the years to come. It won’t be easy. But our experiences over the past year plus provide a roadmap. (more…)
Dear School Leader,
Throughout this past year we’ve talked at length about (and celebrated) the herculean efforts by our school leaders to ensure continuity of learning amid a historic crisis. The transition to remote learning last spring. Technology and meal distribution. Reopening plans. New health and safety practices. Flexibility in the face of rolling mandated school closures, ever changing rules and regs and so, so much uncertainty.
What we haven’t touched upon enough though to this point is how all these efforts are being reflected in the perceptions of those parents and student communities we serve. Through the parent and student focus groups held this charter renewal season though we are starting to get a glimpse – and they offer critical insights for where we can go from here. Four big themes:
- A Successful Transition to Remote/Hybrid: Despite the immense challenges presented last spring after New York went on PAUSE and schools closed, parents of students throughout our renewal schools expressed satisfaction generally in how quickly schools were able to distribute technology and other devices, deliver meals, and adapt their in person instruction to a virtual environment. City School of the Arts parents cited how the schools provided students with materials, including pianos (!) to ensure they could continue arts education remotely.
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?
The closure of school facilities and the transition to remote instruction in the wake of COVID-19 represented a fundamental reimagining of teaching and learning for schools, both here in New York and nationally. Among the diverse array of independent, community based, small scale replicators, and large networks that comprise the more than 200 authorized charter schools in the SUNY portfolio, the unique approaches to navigating the disruption offer critical insights as administrators multiple scenario plan for a fall return.
On July 29th, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), a non-partisan research and evaluation organization, released the results from a survey of New York State charter schools that explored the various responses. The survey focused on schools authorized by SUNY, the New York State Board of Regents, and the New York City Department of Education, and the full report is available on CREDO’s website.
Among the key findings: (more…)