May 14, 2020
New Chiefs for Change/Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy Report Provides Expert Analysis of Research, Offers Recommendations for Reopening K-12 Schools

Chiefs for Change and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy today released a report that outlines relevant research and provides key recommendations for reopening K-12 schools when public health officials deem it is safe to do so. A bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, Chiefs for Change turned to the Institute for its expert analysis of approaches to modifying school operations in ways that can protect the health and safety of school communities and support student learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, titled, “The Return: How Should Education Leaders Prepare for Reentry and Beyond?,” offers recommendations in four areas that Chiefs for Change and the Institute believe will have the greatest impact on student achievement and wellbeing during this unprecedented period in the nation’s history. Drawing on scientific studies, lessons from international systems, and the insights of education leaders on the ground, the report recommends:

  • Transitioning from the agrarian school calendar to a longer and more flexible academic year;
  • Adopting staffing models that ensure students are taught by teachers with deep subject-matter and instructional expertise, while other educators provide one-on-one academic and social-emotional support;
  • Intently focusing on the social and emotional wellbeing and skills of students, including providing opportunities for students to practice self-regulation, perseverance, and ownership of their learning in distance environments throughout the year; and
  • Comprehensively adopting high-quality instructional materials with robust teacher supports and curriculum-aligned formative and summative assessments.

“We are facing a challenging and uncertain future,” said Chiefs for Change Board Chair and San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez. “The coronavirus has significantly impacted our students and staff, and we are planning for the possibility of rolling school closures and massive budget cuts. Ultimately, we as superintendents will need to work with our local communities to determine what is best for our schools. This report is a valuable resource that can help us develop strategies to protect students’ health, meet their wide-ranging academic and emotional needs, and emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”

According to the report, all reopening plans should ensure physical school environments align with public health guidelines designed to prevent an outbreak of the virus and additional closures. As a result, districts may need to rearrange classrooms to allow for social distancing; stagger attendance; continue some amount of distance learning; organize students into small mentor groups that learn together, whether in a school building or not; and implement other novel strategies. In the event of space constraints, the report recommends prioritizing in-person learning for elementary school students.

“COVID-19 requires more than a conventional response,” said Dr. Ashley Berner, Deputy Director at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and a lead author on the report. “By drawing on the strongest research from the United States and abroad, educators can implement high-impact strategies that accelerate learning for all students.”

The report stresses that plans for reopening schools must be comprehensive, credible, and transparent so that students, families, and educators feel ready to resume face-to-face teaching and learning. In addition, it emphasizes that the needs of multilingual learners and students with special needs will have to be addressed with a commitment to equitable access. Chiefs for Change and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy will monitor work taking place in districts across the United States and around the world and will provide strategic updates in the weeks ahead.

About Chiefs for Change
Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.

About the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy
The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Education Policy is dedicated to integrating the domains of research, policy, and practice to achieve educational excellence for all of America’s students. Our work focuses on ensuring that all students have access to deep and intellectually challenging curricula; highly-effective educators; and school models that meet students’ diverse needs.