Week 78
September 7, 2021

It is week 78 of our new reality and across the country school leaders find themselves struggling to help their students recover from the crises of the past while trying to deal with the crises of the present. 

While the risks of hospitalization or death remain low among children, CBS News reported that “children accounted for 22.4% of reported weekly Covid-19 cases” with “more than 200,000 the past week.”

This growth of Covid cases–combined with schools’ rules around positive tests–forced 90,000 students into quarantine in August, a number that’s likely to be much higher in September. Parents’ frustration is growing. As 50CAN National Voices Fellow, Isis Spann, told The New York Times, “If I had an option and I could keep them at home and keep the lights on and feed them, it would be a no-brainer. But it just doesn’t work out for our family dynamic that way.”

Last time in the New Reality Roundup, we looked at what it will take to keep the focus on the needs of children and spoke with Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union.


This week, we focus on how to keep teaching going in another year of disruption and the importance of great instruction to make the time with students count. 


Don’t let disruption stop innovation

The belief that the nation turned a corner this summer in the fight against Covid-19 has caught many districts flat-footed. “A little more than a third of districts in our review describe plans to support learning for students required to quarantine. Half of these make a general statement of commitment to provide students with remote learning but give no further detail,” write Bree Dusseault, Travis Pillow and Christine Pitts for CRPE.

The story of Kayden, a 10-year-old student in California, is emblematic of the problem facing many families. As reported by CalMatters, Kayden was quarantined on the fourth day of school after contact with a classmate who had tested positive. “Kayden’s teacher provided a packet for him to complete during the 10 days of quarantine. His mother said he finished it in three days and has since then spent his time watching TV and playing video games.”

One potential solution suggested by CRPE is replicating the work of Houston ISD. The district “provides the most information of any district we reviewed, with a dedicated webpage for quarantined students to learn about their options. The district commits to four hours of real-time instruction a day.”

to partner with local districts to ensure quarantined students have access to high-quality remote learning so that instruction can continue no matter what.

Maximize student learning and leadership through great teaching

Back in April of 2020 in the fourth issue of this newsletter, I asked Doug Lemov for his advice on how teachers could adapt to a new world of education in the pandemic. In our video interview, he insisted no matter what environment students and teachers found themselves in, the underlying science of instruction was unchanging: “If I had to group it into a set of key principles, I would say it’s, one, ensure the engagement of every student in the class. Kids can be sitting in the room, but that doesn’t mean they’re engaged, and that’s one of the key tasks of the teacher. Number two, push for rigor.”

On September 15th, Lemov will launch a new version of his best-selling book called Teach Like a Champion 3.0, which has been revised and updated throughout to help teachers put these lessons to work at a time when students need great instruction more than ever. “We’ve got to follow the science for one thing–we’ve got to make sure students have a rich, knowledge-based curriculum and strong instruction that engages all students’ attention fully,” Doug shared. “That’s not making it into our classrooms consistently enough and we’ve got to recognize that that’s where the solution lies.”

Great teaching is also critical for Steven Farr, the head of the Global Learning Lab at Teach For All. His focus is on how teachers can cultivate student leadership not only through the way they organize and run their classrooms, but also how they guide students toward applying their growing skills in collaborative and creative ways. “When the Global Learning Lab studiesclassrooms where teachers are growing students as leaders of a better future, a fundamentally different approach to teaching and learning emerges–one built around purpose, relationships and discovery. Given the global challenges this generation will need to solve in the future, the time to reimagine our classrooms is right now.”

to commit to great instruction no matter what other obstacles come our way this school year and focus on creating a better learning environment for all.


“Albuquerque Public Schools wants the state to stop building more charter schools but at Wednesday night’s school board meeting, there was plenty of pushback on the idea,” reports KQRE. “Almost four hours into APS’ school board meeting, board members decided to not consider the idea at that board meeting. Before that, nearly two dozen students, parents, and teachers made it clear they don’t want a moratorium on new charter schools.” This strong pushback was organized by a coalition of groups including NewMexicoKidsCAN. “Every single minute was filled with coordinated testimony opposing the moratorium including parents, teachers, business leaders and Public Education Commissioners,” Executive Director Amanda Aragon shared. “We suspect the fight will continue but today we’re celebrating a victory!”

“The interest in homeschool has doubled on our parent surveys,” HawaiiKidsCAN’s David Miyashiro told KITV News on air, noting that over 15,000 students have left district schools over the past several years.

In Connecticut, ConnCAN Executive Director Subira Gordon responded to the annual state testing results that showed massive gaps for students from high-need backgrounds, who are performing 40% lower than their peers in reading and math. The numbers are the latest sign of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on low-income students of color and ELLs. “We can’t let this be normal going forward,” Subira said in a press release.

TennesseCAN’s Victor Evans appeared on WREG News to issue a call for transparency, explaining that parents have a right to know how federal stimulus dollars are being spent. “Thank you for sounding the alarm,” the anchors told him, “It’s a lot of money so it’s important to spend it wisely.”

National Voices fellow Nancy Poon Lue participated in a podcast with Gerard Robinson on STEM Access and Equity.

Key Resources

The Walton Family Foundation and Bellwether Education Partners released a new report, “The Overlooked,” focused on children who changed schools, disenrolled from schools or lacked access to a preferred educational option. Together, those children number 10.8 million. The report was co-authored by 50CAN National Voices Fellow Alex Spurrier.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers released their 2021 supplemental renewal guidance. Included in this year’s guidance is an evaluation of how effectively schools pivoted to remote instruction and identified student and family needs. 

Ohio State University’s Vladimir Kogan and Stephane Levatru analyzed 2021 state test results. Among the findings: third graders lost a third of their typical annual learning in ELA, with each week spent in remote learning contributing to greater losses.

Education Reimagined announced a new cohort and virtual series, the Learning Lab Orientation, that seeks to bring together educators, youth development organizations and homeschooling cooperatives to envision the future.

Emily Liebtag–who recently joined Education Reimagined as their new Senior Partner for Systems Transformation, authored a fascinating case study on the partnership between Transcend and Van Ness Elementary, a DC school that had previously shuttered for low performance. The case study focuses on shifting the school to one that supports social-emotional and student-driven learning.

Education Week memorializes the 1,000 educators who died of Covid-19. “We will continue to record their names,” Lesli Maxwell writes, “We will remember them.”

Moment of Resilience

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought immense flooding throughout New York City, Miguel Ramos, the senior facilities manager at Partnership Schools worked with teachers and staff at St. Athanasius to swab out the flooded cafeteria. It was only one stop on Mr. Ramos’ multiple-school journey that he made by car, where it was possible, and otherwise went by boat.

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