A Consensus for Action: Key Policy Priorities to Respond to COVID, Informed by the Science of Learning and Development
This is a time of unprecedented challenges in education. States and districts across the country are beginning this school year in the midst of several ongoing crises, including the COVID pandemic, racial injustice, and economic recession. A key question for education policymakers is, what priority actions can you take to both address current needs and seed fundamental, long-term changes to address systemic inequities and help each and every child achieve their full potential?
The science of learning and development presents powerful, actionable lessons to transform education systems as a matter of practice and policy. Over the summer, the SoLD Alliance published Six Priority Actions (download PDF) based on the science of learning and development to help education leaders prioritize actions this school year, particularly in response to the COVID crisis. In the coming months, the SoLD Alliance will publish an updated, comprehensive policy agenda to help inform and advance a new vision for education transformation.
In the meantime, there are several policy actions that states, districts, and the federal government can take now to help build education systems that are aligned with the science of learning and development and designed for equity. There is substantial consensus for these policy priorities as well, as evidenced by the multiple organizations that have published policy recommendations that are closely aligned with the science of learning and development. One particularly salient example is the recently released framework from the Learning Policy Institute (a SoLD Alliance Governing Partner) titled Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond (August 2020). The framework provides ten priority actions consistent with the science of learning and development along with multiple concrete policy recommendations in each area. These include:
- Closing the digital divide by taking actions such as expanding broadband access through state and city initiatives;
- Strengthening distance and blended learning through several actions including shifting from measuring seat time to engagement;
- Assessing what students need through actions such as prioritizing authentic diagnostic and formative assessments, as well as tools to assess social-emotional needs;
- Ensuring supports for social and emotional learning by implementing comprehensive systems of support and adopting clear guidance for SEL, trauma-informed practices, and restorative practices;
- Redesigning schools for stronger relationships by supporting structures such as looping, advisories, and mentored groups;
- Emphasizing authentic, culturally responsive learning by providing additional capacity of school staff and designing professional learning opportunities that include proactive strategies to cultivate identity-safe schools and classrooms;
- Providing expanded learning time through actions such as the infusion of high quality tutoring services during and beyond school hours;
- Establishing community schools and wraparound supports through several actions including blending and braiding federal, state, and local funding streams to provide integrated comprehensive services to support the needs of community schools;
- Preparing educators for the reinvention of school by supporting actions such as the investment in quality educator prep, core retention strategies and pathways, especially in communities of high need;
- Leveraging more adequate and equitable school funding by making strategic decisions on the use of federal funds through the CARES Act to build local capacity, particularly in marginalized communities
Moreover, these policy ideas are reinforced by overlapping recommendations from multiple education organizations representing a wide diversity of constituencies and perspectives, such as the Schools Superintendent Association’s (AASA) report titled Guiding Principles & Action Steps For Reopening Schools, the American Enterprise Institute’s report titled A Blueprint for Back to School, and the Aspen Institute’s report titled Recovery and Renewal: Principles for Advancing Public Education Post-Crisis.
These policy recommendations from organizations across the political spectrum show that there is a growing consensus that field leaders can and must respond to the current crises with actions that are aligned with the science of learning and development, designed to advance equity, and can seed long-term transformative change.