5 Ways District Leaders Are Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges
Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA – The School Superintendents Association, is one of the most plugged-in leaders in K-12 education nationally. In working with district leaders everywhere across the U.S., he has the opportunity to hear about, and advise on, the most challenging issues superintendents and other administrators are facing. In a recent interview on Building the Bridge, he shared insights on the ways superintendents are addressing hot topics such as the digital divide, food access, and social emotional health, particularly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Digital Divide
A huge challenge superintendents face, whether it relates to pandemic-associated remote learning or homework assignments for students who learn in-person or in a hybrid setting, is the lack of access to education. There are millions of students who do not have the required technology or the internet connectivity at home. Once many schools and districts were forced to learn online, without having previously prepared for it, this caused significant challenges. As we know, blended and online learning are extremely powerful when done correctly, but without proper planning, schools aren’t equipped to deliver a seamless teaching and learning experience.
Students who lack adequate access to a flexible, resilient learning model risk falling behind each day. How do we fix that? Many districts have answered the call throughout the pandemic, first utilizing their existing budgets and ingenuity, and more recently tapping into COVID Relief funding, such as ESSER Funds, to provide devices and home broadband access to families and students.
Learn more about education funding here: https://www.edisonlearning.com/funding
Millions of students in the public school system rely on their school to provide them with breakfast and lunch. During the pandemic, superintendents have found ways to continue to provide for those families, either by having the families come to the school to pick up the food, or in many cases having school buses become delivery wagons to bring food into the various communities. That process has been facilitated by the government and prior to the pandemic, it was not allowed for children to be fed other than when they were in the school cafeteria. Now, provisions have been made for food to be either delivered to the homes or picked up by the parents in various locations in the community, if not the school.
Related Reading: How Superintendents Approached the Pandemic: One Leader's Perspective
Online and Blended Learning is Here to Stay
Domenech believes that remote learning is here to stay based on the successful cases that he has seen over the pandemic. We know already that there is a group of students that thrive with remote learning. These are students that are independent self-starters who love the fact that they can proceed at their own pace. Some students, particularly those in the younger grades, find full-time remote learning to be a challenge, and this is why in-person, hybrid, and blended options are all important.
“The technology is here to stay and it has improved already this year. It will continue to [improve] in the future, and it’s going to be very much a component of regular instruction in the near future.” - Dan Domenech
More Personalized Learning
In considering what positives may result in the wake of the pandemic, Domenech expects a greater effort to personalize education through the use of the technology as a support mechanism. This would provide every child an opportunity to learn at their own pace, which will benefit students who are self-starters and use technology for their advancement and to be independent. On the other end of the spectrum, it will also help students that are given the time that they need in order to learn, and in order to acquire the concepts that are being taught without being rushed through in order to keep up with the rest of the class. So that in essence, both ends of the spectrum – the advanced children and the children that need more time and more help – will be getting what they need and working at pace that makes sense for them.
Additionally, the other important issue that Dan would hope to see addressed is a greater effort to do away with the inequity that exists in our school systems. We are very much aware of the huge difference that exists across our country from district to district in terms of the amount of dollars that a district can spend per pupil. The difference is huge. There are school systems that spend four times as much as other school districts. And yet, the expectation is that all of the children, regardless of the district that they’re in, will achieve at the same time, at the same level. That has never been the reality, and it never will be until something is done to equalize the resources and the opportunities for all children.
To hear the full interview and all episodes of Building the Bridge, visit https://www.edisonlearning.com/podcast