Barriers to Bridges

Barriers to Bridges (form Anya Grotte-Brown blog)

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to close, teachers have served as the main resource on remote learning; supported students’ social-emotional and mental health needs; and broken down multiple barriers to help children learn and grow. Our new report examines the frontline experiences of educators during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides recommendations for education leaders and policymakers based on teachers’ guidance and input.

“The central lesson of this report for school and policy leaders is to empower and recognize the expertise of teachers in responding to this pandemic. They must make room for our teachers to continue to lead planning and bring forth solutions that will benefit students and their learning.”―Roberto J. Rodríguez, Teach Plus President and CEO.

From the Report:

Findings from the focus groups:

  1. Teachers want to ensure that school leaders prioritize the mental health and well-being of both students and teachers in the coming school year.
  2. Teachers want specific professional development in order to bring their best in this new era, including on how to teach remotely and on how to integrate social and emotional learning into their instruction.
  3. Teachers see this moment of crisis as a potential transformative point in education, to address inequities and support innovation in teaching and learning. They believe schools can and must use it to shape longer-term solutions for the future of education.
  4. Teachers support the use of student learning data — including data collected through diagnostic assessments — paired with curated or “power” standards to tailor their curriculum and pace of teaching.
  5. Collaboration across school roles and more distributed leadership in schools are needed to meet the challenges of the coming school year. Deeper partnerships and relationships with families and community partners are also urgently needed to better serve students, especially students with disabilities, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students.

Recommendations for school, district, and state leaders:

  1. Embrace teacher leadership and include teachers in the decision-making process.
  2. Prioritize and incorporate the expertise of teachers in school planning and instruction.
  3. Increase resources for trauma-informed instruction, student mental health, and the well-being of teachers.
  4. Strengthen communication, connections, and partnership with parents and families to better support students.
  5. Identify, evaluate, and scale-up promising practices and approaches, particularly from teachers who are uniquely qualified to understand and re-envision how schools can best serve children.
  6. Prioritize education funding — and pay particular attention to those schools that serve the highest need students.

“Teachers across the country are seeing this moment as an opportunity to be innovative through learning new skills that will enhance their ability to teach virtually and better meet the needs of their students. School districts are now acting with urgency to fund the resources needed to finally close the digital divide. This shift in education opens up a world of possibilities for both students and teachers and may just be the rainbow after the storm we have been looking for.” ― Natalie Brown, 2nd grade teacher at Frank Guzick Elementary in Dallas ISD and Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow.