Learning Continuity Guidebook: Maintain & Improve Your Learning Continuity Plan

July 9, 2020
AUTHOR
HOST
AUTHOR
HOST

Donna Williamson

Former CTO

,

Mountain Brook Schools, AL

AUTHOR
HOST
AUTHOR
HOST

Laurence Cocco

Former Director of Educational Technology

,

NJ Department of Education

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Welcome to the Learning Continuity Guidebook, this is the final post in our nine-part series. Click here to learn more about the guidebook and its contributors.

As you stare down a complicated new school year ready to roll out your updated learning continuity plans, it’s important to remember your work is far from over. Your learning continuity plan needs to be iterative to be effective.

As you learn from your success, mistakes, and, most importantly, the feedback of families, teachers, and students, your plan should evolve and change.

Your next steps are to track how effective your plan is, what changes you need to make, and how to incorporate improvements going forward.

Never stop listening

Throughout the school year, you’ll need to measure and monitor which elements of your plan are working and which need to change.

This is complicated. You’ll need to gather information often and consider many perspectives, including teachers, staff, students, and parents. Then dig even further into subgroups such as at-risk and special needs students and those who speak English as a second language.

It’s critical to gather feedback from your entire school community to understand if your most vulnerable students have access to learning and if that access is working for them. You must include all ethnicities, backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and learning abilities to fully grasp what’s working and what needs to be adjusted or scrapped.

This could mean providing surveys in several languages, in printed and digital formats, and then sharing them through a variety of methods, including e-mail, mail, newsletters, or your district homepage.  

Surveys will help, but they won’t give you the full picture. You also need phone calls, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups to dig deeper. Even focus groups should be broken down into small group sessions or, if you must hold a large session, break out into smaller groups by grade levels or other criteria so you can better understand specific needs, challenges, and successes.

CoSN, ClassLink, and SEDTA have partnered to create open community tools to help you evaluate your back to school and learning continuity plans.

Andover Public Schools is listed as an exemplar district for plan evaluation in the Rubrics for Back to School and Education Continuity Plans. The following are links to samples of the surveys they send to elementary, middle, and high school students.

Update and iterate

It’s not enough to gather information, you also need to put your findings to work. Armed with data and information, you can update and improve your learning continuity plan as situations change and new ideas emerge.

  • Debrief after each school closing and discuss challenges and successes.
  • Update your plan annually and share it with everyone in your district.
  • Incorporate student voice to increase engagement.

A critical note: Change can be difficult for many, but negative feedback doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going. Had Mountain Brook Schools in Alabama just listened to the feedback they received from surveys during their first three years of implementing eDays, they would have given up and never done it again. Keep what’s working, fix what isn’t, but don’t give up, persevere.

These weekly video updates from Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie are a great example of an extensive system iterating, improving, and communicating effectively.

Hold ongoing PD and training

As you improve and update your plan, you’ll need to offer professional development and training to keep everyone up to speed on the latest technology, processes, and approaches to teaching and learning. This keeps your district in a state of readiness at all times.

  • Give teachers guidance on integrating digital resources into instruction and clear expectations around using digital resources in classrooms.
  • Hold school-based or district-wide meetings each year so parents are familiar with core resources and methods for finding technical support.
  • Train families and students to ensure everyone is familiar with policies, procedures, best practices.

Along with training current staff, students, and families on new approaches and technology, districts need to offer in-depth training at the beginning of each new school year and even throughout this year. This is necessary to onboard new students, families, and staff, who aren’t familiar with your learning continuity plan.

Practice

Even when schools are open, consider implementing several remote learning days into the school calendar each year. These days can be used for inclement weather make-up days, professional learning days, or worst-case scenario, another pandemic.

These practice runs should include several scenarios, such as

  • blended learning where students spend some time in school and some time at home,
  • remote learning where students learn entirely from home,
  • and times when all students return to school and need to practice protocols like social distancing.

We suggest practicing during different parts of the school year. This can help uncover unexpected issues such as teachers and students not having enough time to build connections or practice using digital tools to submit work online. Then use your findings to add supports to your training.

Check on social-emotional and mental health

Most importantly, be ready to monitor students’ well-being and teach them the social-emotional skills they’ll need to cope with changes in routine, stress, anxiety, etc. Don’t forget these skills aren’t just going to help during remote learning, these are life skills that will help students thrive. From phone calls or texts home to quick social-emotional surveys, districts need to be familiar with ways of measuring student wellness and then providing support.

It takes concerted effort but connecting with students, monitoring their mental health, and teaching them the social-emotional skills they need to learn successfully is possible and happening around the country.

Here are some samples:

Use this series as your guidebook

As we wrap up the Learning Continuity Guidebook blog series, we encourage you to revisit the entire series and use the advice and experience we’ve outlined as a guide to review and adjust your learning continuity plan in the coming weeks, months, and years.

As always, we’re here to help and will continue to support you as we collectively grow and move forward in this new era of education.

Resources

Don’t forget to refer back to the outstanding resources we’ve shared with each post in the series. You’ll find advice, resources, and examples that stand out for their vision, expertise, and usefulness, just like those listed below.

Districts to follow

Leaders to learn from

Practical tools and news you can use

Categories:

Education Leaders
Remote Learning
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Donna Williamson

Former CTO

,

Mountain Brook Schools, AL

Laurence Cocco

Former Director of Educational Technology

,

NJ Department of Education