How schools should teach in a pandemic, according to research

August 3, 2020

Nearly 500 education scholars sign call to action, with recommendations for going forward

By Ross Brenneman

Image licensed under Flickr Creative Commons via user stnorbert.

Schools should be prepared to address seven key areas if they should hope to successfully teach K-12 students this fall, education researchers say.

In an open letter, crafted by 16 education scholars and signed to date by nearly 500 others, the researchers offer recommendations about how to make sure students feel cared for and engaged.

The letter is aimed at the federal and state governments as well as local school and district administrators.

“Knowing the inequities exacerbated by this pandemic and the need to attend to students who are historically underserved and marginalized, I believed the research community needed to weigh in,” says Professor Julie A. Marsh, one of the 16 authors of the letter. “We know the resources and supports that are essential for educators, students and parents during this difficult time.”

Pedro A. Noguera, the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, is another principal signatory, and 15 additional USC faculty have also signed.

Seven recommendations

States and districts have been engaged in difficult and often heated debates this summer over when and how to reopen schools. Federal officials have weighed in as well, with the Trump Administration even threatening (albeit with little leverage) to cut off funding to states that don’t reopen all schools. But with many districts set to begin the school year by mid-August, such arguments have also come at the expense of time spent preparing for better online instruction.

“I’ve been concerned all summer that we are talking a lot about whether to teach in person or online, but ignoring how they will teach,” Marsh says.

The authors’ seven main recommendations:

  • Provide substantial additional resources to prevent looming school budget cuts;
  • Implement universal internet and computer access;
  • Target resources to those most in need;
  • Provide the most personalized and engaging instruction possible under the circumstances, even when it is necessary to be online;
  • Address the learning losses created by the crisis by expanding instructional time in ways that challenge, support, and engage students;
  • Offer tailored, integrated support to each child in order to address social-emotional, physical health, and family well-being; and
  • Make decisions about teachers that support pedagogical quality and equity.

While the first two recommendations must in large part be tackled by state and federal governments, each recommendation comes with additional, detailed ideas for implementation. For example, in describing how to target resources to those most in need, the authors point out how funding systems often build in discretion that can allow administrators to drive additional resources toward specific populations of students—students with disabilities; English learners; students of color—who have been most harmed by the pandemic.

While the principal authors note that they are often on different sides of educational issues, they hope that by joining together, they can convey the extent to which education research offers helpful and practical solutions.

“Policy decisions about how to educate and support kids in the fall need to be driven by evidence, not politics,” Marsh says.

Read the full letter.

Resources at USC:

Related Stories: