Strong, Collaborative Labor–Management Relations Can Move Postpandemic Education Forward

Commentary author
Summary

As we move into fall and the beginning of a new school year, districts are facing myriad decisions, the consequences of which will determine how quickly and effectively they are able to recover from the effects of the pandemic and move education into a new era. This PACE commentary focuses on the kinds of decisions districts and unions are confronting together as well as on the ways in which collaborative labor–management relations can contribute to a stronger education system designed to meet all students’ needs.

Improving Services for Students with Disabilities

The Opportunity and the Risk of Inaction
Commentary author
Elizabeth Kozleski
Summary

Students with disabilities have been especially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They and their parents have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression, the loss of specialized services and supports, and poor results from distance learning. Compared to the general student population, families with students with disabilities are more likely to express concern for their mental health and their children are more likely to experience little to no remote learning.

Implementing a Restorative Restart by Planning for the Four Ts

Time, Talent, Training, and Technology/Materials
Commentary authors
Summary

This fall, schools and districts will likely return to full in-person instruction amid a lingering pandemic while being faced with the challenge of addressing heightened student academic and wellness needs associated with lost learning opportunities, extended periods of isolation and physical distancing, and other challenges students encountered during the pandemic. Though the demands on schools will be high, the resources available to schools will also be considerable, with state and federal dollars filling many district coffers to a level previously unmatched.

Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness During the Pandemic

Commentary authors
Margaret Olmos
Ali Bloomgarden
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanding learning partnerships and learning in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving students experiencing homelessness. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically for students and families experiencing homelessness, who face compounding challenges of not having the tools and supports to participate in distance learning as well as the emotional and logistical consequences of economic and housing insecurity?

Reenvisioning Learning for Students with Learning Differences

Opportunities for Expanded Learning Partnerships
Commentary authors
Amy Andersen
Tamara Clay
Heather DiFede
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanded learning partnerships and learning hubs in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving students in special education. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically for students with learning differences?

Expanded Learning Partnerships to Help Reinvent School for Upper Grade Students

Commentary authors
Robert Canosa-Carr
Brad Lupien
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanding learning partnerships and learning hubs in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving older youth. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically for older youth who risk becoming disengaged from school and are at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression?

Compassionate Partnerships for Youth in Foster Care

The Role of Expanded Learning
Commentary authors
Michelle Francois
Margaret Olmos
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanded learning partnerships and learning hubs in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving youth in the foster care system. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically as we look to serve the state’s nearly 60,000 youth in foster care?

COVID-19 and the Educational Equity Crisis

Evidence on Learning Loss From the CORE Data Collaborative
Commentary authors
Summary

From the day California schools closed in March, researchers, policymakers, and educators alike have been concerned about the impact that the pandemic would have on student learning, and worried that our most vulnerable students will experience this so-called “learning loss” more than others. Given the critical importance of evidence to inform decision-making on school reopening, we are sharing early findings on student learning in Grades 4–10 in 18 school districts that are part of the CORE Data Collaborative. Our preliminary analysis shows that there has been significant learning loss in both English Language Arts and Math, with earlier grades, low-income students, and English learners most impacted.

Environmental Education and Nature-Rich Experiences

Essential for Youth and Community Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Commentary authors
Nicole M. Ardoin
Alison W. Bowers
Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic, which presents critical threats to education overall, also presents specific, potentially irreversible, and long-term threats to environmental education—an essential field that provides numerous cognitive, affective, and health-related benefits.

A Tiered Approach to Ensuring Students Are Present, Engaged, and Supported in the 2020–21 School Year

Commentary authors
Cecelia Leong
Summary

As schools begin this fall, educators across California are examining how they can promote students showing up for class, whether instruction is offered remotely or in person. In our previous PACE commentary, we made recommendations for expanding the metrics used to monitor daily attendance and participation in distance learning. In this commentary, we make recommendations for how educators can respond to student attendance data to ensure students get the support they need to be present and engaged in learning.

Measuring Daily Attendance and Participation During COVID-19

An Invaluable Tool for Reducing Educational Inequity
Commentary authors
Cecelia Leong
Summary

Absenteeism is a leading indicator of educational inequity. With COVID-19, taking daily attendance and monitoring absenteeism is essential as chronic absence is a key predictor of later learning loss and an early warning sign that positive conditions of learning are not in place for students. While taking attendance is more complicated in the context of distance learning, it is still possible—and necessary.

To Keep Students Safe and Learning, California Needs Strong State Leadership

Summary

In preparing for the next school year, California state policymakers must set clear statewide expectations for teaching, learning, and student support, regardless of whether instruction is online or in person. This spring, local school districts scrambled to adapt to COVID-19 with a wide range of responses largely focused on securing delivery of online resources. Now is the time to shift the conversation back to the core purpose of school: learning. The state should establish a minimum amount of instructional time; create an instrument of diagnostic assessment and require its use; adopt instructional continuity plans; and advocate for and secure additional funding.

Voices of Educators

Supporting Student Learning Amid the Pandemic Requires Prioritizing Social-Emotional Care
Commentary authors
Krista Fairley
Rebecca Norwood
Janice Phan
Cynthia Sanchez
Summary

The global pandemic and resulting economic devastation, not seen since the Great Depression, have underscored how schools are essential to the well-being of their communities. During this time of high stress, students are reporting anxiety, depression, and thoughts about hurting themselves, as well as increasing abuse. Moving from crisis triage to action guided by core principles that center student well-being is necessary but, to do so, social-emotional care is paramount, both for children and adults. For these reasons, our recommendations include reaching out to families, adjusting expectations, developing flexible guidelines, and investing in teachers’ professional development.

COVID-19’s Impact on English Learner Students

Possible Policy Responses
Commentary author
Summary

As an immensely diverse group of students, English learners (ELs) will have widely varying experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and thus a broad range of educational, physical, and mental health-related needs. This commentary offers recommendations for how policy can support ELs whether education is online, in person, or both.

Understanding, Measuring, and Addressing Student Learning Needs During COVID-19 Recovery

Commentary author
Summary

Students re-entering the classroom following the COVID-19 crisis will likely experience severe learning loss and emotional challenges arising from their time out of school. Schools will need to develop tools for assessing students’ varied needs along with the resources, clear guidance, and flexibility to address them. This commentary is modified from testimony delivered to the California Assembly Budget Committee on April 28, 2020.

Our Children’s Education Should be a Priority as California Recovers from Coronavirus

Commentary author
Summary

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed California and the nation into uncharted waters, especially with the impact on our schools. With the economy in decline and unemployment on the rise, school funding is likely to dip, triggering cuts across the system. This financial impact will come when our schools need more money, not less, to serve our state’s children. As we look toward recovery, Californians should make the kind of significant investments in our public schools that reflect their true importance to our students, families and future.

Evidence to Inform Recovery

PACE’s Response to COVID-19
Summary

The closing of California’s physical learning spaces has significant implications for educational equity and access. In the coming weeks and months, PACE’s efforts will be focused on supporting real-time crisis response and helping the state build toward recovery. This commentary, the first in a new series designed to raise up evidence quickly to inform crisis response and recovery, details our approach.

Can Social-Emotional Skills Drive Continuous Improvement?

Commentary author
Summary

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has become a pillar of innovative learning.  In California, we have started a thoughtful conversation on how managing emotions, setting positive goals, showing empathy for others, and maintaining positive relationships connects to overall educational success.

Testing the Causal Links Between School Climate, School Violence, and School Academic Performance

Commentary author
Rami Benbenishty
Summary

Many studies show that positive school climate and low levels of student bullying and violence are associated with improved academic performance. Currently, scientists and policy makers interpret this robust finding as evidence that climate improvement and violence reduction cause academic improvement. Nevertheless, this causal link has rarely been tested.

Policies on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Pay Off for Schools

Commentary author
Stephen Russell
Summary

It is now well-known that LGBTQ students often have a hard time in school, including feeling unsafe and being bullied, and those experiences are strongly linked to academic, mental health, and other problems for LGBTQ youth. For over a decade now, schools have been trying strategies to create safer schools for LGBTQ and all students.

The Potential for School-Based Interventions that Target Executive Function to Improve Academic Achievement

A Review
Commentary author
Robin Jacob
Summary

Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a growing interest in the potential for school-based interventions that target executive function to improve academic achievement.  Executive function can be thought of as the set of cognitive skills required to direct behavior toward the attainment of a goal, including the ability to prioritize and sequence behavior, inhibit dominant responses, maintain task-relevant information in mind, resist distractions, switch between tasks, use information to make decisions and create abstract rules and handle novel situations.

The Racial School Climate Gap

Within-School Disparities in Students’ Experiences of Safety, Support, and Connectedness
Commentary author
Adam Voight
Summary

Racial and ethnic disparities in academic achievement pose challenges to educational equity in the United States. One feature of schools that may be related to these gaps and that has garnered increased attention of late is school climate, which refers to feelings of safety and connectedness, opportunities for meaningful participation, and the quality of relationships between students and staff. While climate is typically understood as a characteristic of schools, there is some evidence that students within the same school may experience safety, support, and relationships differently based on their race and ethnicity.

Physical Activity Breaks Improve Student Attention in the Classroom

Commentary author
Jordan Carlson
Summary

Leading public health organizations recommend that children receive 60 minutes of daily physical activity and that elementary schools provide at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity during school hours. California mandates 200 minutes of Physical Education per every 10 school days (20 minutes per day) in elementary schools, though there is currently not a mandated number of minutes of physical activity during school. To provide children with the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity during school, some schools are providing opportunities for physical activity in the classroom in addition to Physical Education and recess.

At Risk for School Failure

Students with Special Health Care Needs
Commentary authors
Dian Baker
Samantha Blackburn
Kathleen Hebbeler
Summary

Schools’ primary mission is the education of children. However, for over one million children in California with special health care needs (e.g., asthma, diabetes, food allergies), schools also must provide health services to ensure their safety and access to the curriculum. Students with special health care needs (SHCN) are at higher risk than their peers for missing school, repeating a grade, and dropping out. Yet in many cases, schools are not aware of students’ health conditions and do not monitor them as a group at risk for school failure.