We are now at the beginning of the fourth week of our new educational reality. Here is where things stand: 10 states have ordered that all public school buildings must stay closed for the entire academic year and two additional states have recommended the same. That means that 15 million students, more than one-quarter of all public school students, will not be returning to school buildings until autumn, a number that is almost certain to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
We are faced with a clear choice: make distance learning work or lose the next three months, or more, of learning. This is education’s Apollo 13 moment. We can’t get distracted with a debate about what our schools were or were not designed to do. What we need to focus on now is how to meet the immediate needs of students. That means accepting we have a new mission, identifying the problems standing in the way of success, and rapidly trying out new solutions until we find the ones that help us achieve this mission.
Last week, we put a spotlight on the need to connect with every child every day and to put in place plans for innovative instruction and real learning. We are thrilled that starting today in Miami-Dade Public Schools, America’s fourth-largest school district, the district will be taking attendance for their distance learning classes and families will receive a phone call if their children haven’t logged in.
This week we focus on the most immediate needs that have surfaced: finding what is likely hundreds of thousands of children who have been lost by the education system in the wake of the pandemic, and adapting best practices in instruction to our new world of distance learning.
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