Schools and classrooms across the nation need to implement systemic changes that support personalized and rigorous learning based on equitable practices, a group of education, business, advocacy and philanthropic leaders said in a report published Thursday by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
Although the report outlines core component areas for school redesign improvements and specific steps to meet those recommendations, the leaders’ work is ongoing and will continue with the release of case studies of demonstration school districts and virtual forums to share success stories.
The report emphasizes a school system’s transformation is not a quick, one-time process, but rather a comprehensive multi-year, multi-layered and stakeholder-inclusive journey. However, the report urges school leaders to start the process now so a holistic redesign of the public school system can be reached by 2025.
COVID-19 and the growing acknowledgement of racial, economic and social injustices have created a sense of urgency and opportunity to make long-desired changes to public school approaches that have positive impacts on student well-being and learning, the report said.
Among the recommended areas for systemic change are:
- Attending to the social, emotional, cognitive, mental health and trauma-based needs of all learners.
- Diversifying the educator pipeline.
- Accelerated learning.
- High-quality early learning opportunities.
- Data collection and analysis regarding student learning.
“If we are to deliver learner-centered, equity-focused education to all learners, then we must experience a paradigm shift in how these positions function,” said Kristi Wilson, president of AASA and superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District in Arizona, in a statement accompanying the report.
There are many examples of schools and districts from across the country that already have set a path to transformative change. Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts has focused on student engagement and cultural responsiveness, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, is creating positive school cultures through attention to professional development and resources for educators.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has also recently promoted future-forward thinking even as schools continue to respond to the public health crisis. He wrote in a March letter to students and families, “If we all commit to approaching the remainder of this school year — and the years to come — with this same mindset of possibility, dedication, and innovation, we can and will make good on our promise to America's students.”
Additionally, early childhood educators are building momentum to fix long-existing barriers to childcare and preschool successes through improved and sustainable pay and training for childcare workers and educators, expanded affordable access to programs, and better coordination between early learning and K-12 systems.