California-based education, advocacy and civil right groups are calling for schools to make a “restorative restart” that emphasizes relationship-building, staffing supports and promoting equity as students return to schools in the fall.
Specifically, schools and districts should dedicate six weeks this summer or at the start of the new school year to not only focus on student and staff wellbeing and equitable practices, but to also plan for long-term systematic transformation, according to the "Reimagine and Rebuild: Restarting School with Equity at the Center" framework released Thursday.
Rigorous academics must also be a focal point, and schools should ensure their curriculums are high-quality, engaging and culturally relevant. Instructional materials and books should help students of all backgrounds feel “safe, acknowledged and respected,” the framework recommends.
As school systems move from pandemic crisis to recovery mode, many education stakeholders are using the moment to not just bring schooling back to normal, but to create or expand initiatives that better serve students who historically have been underserved.
For example, the U.S. Department of Education’s COVID-19 Handbook, Vol. 2, recommends school systems consider equitable and adequate school finance reforms such as targeting additional funding to schools and communities that were underfunded in the past.
Additionally, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is advocating for a holistic and multi-year redesign for schools that supports personalized and rigorous learning based on equitable practices. Early childhood education supporters also say this is an ideal time to put in place long-desired practices — such as better compensation and training for early childhood educators — that could expose more young children to high-quality and inclusive programs.
Much of the drive for education reform is tied to the availability of large increases in federal stimulus funding. California, for example, has received $35.7 billion in state and federal pandemic relief since last year, according to the framework report.
The “Reimagine and Rebuild” framework provides specific steps on evidence-based practices for:
- Centering relationships.
- Addressing whole-student needs.
- Strengthening staffing and partnerships.
- Making teaching and learning relevant and rigorous.
- Empowering teams to reimagine and rebuild systems.
The framework is endorsed by 39 diverse groups and organizations, including the California State PTA, California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association.
“There has never been a more important time for us to focus on relationships and racial equity than in this moment,” said Jill Baker, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, in a statement. “Our students are depending on us to walk with them and to help them have hope for the future.”