Taking the Lead and Adapting for 2020–2021 and Beyond

With the pandemic forcing school closures, education adjusted. Educators adapted. Students and their families adapted. Then George Floyd, who was raised in Houston, was murdered in another instance of police brutality against black people. Our nation and the world responded to this latest instance of systemic racism with historic protests. 

We as educators must embrace this opportunity to address student experiences, feelings, and thoughts on all that has occurred this year. This includes engaging in hard but critical conversations about the role of systemic racism in education. We have included resources at the end of this email to support you and your staff on this effort. We will be sharing additional research, resources, and insights from black educators and leaders on our blog and social media. And we invite you to email us with any resources you’d like to share.

Skills for the Future: Adaptability

Adaptability will be a critical skill for students as we return to virtual or in-person campuses later this summer. We are not saying that the onus is on our students to adapt to systemic racial injustice OR to confusing and at times conflicting communication about COVID-19 from health and government leaders. Rather, we acknowledge that our students, like us, are living through a rapidly changing moment in time.

Research suggests that adaptable students learn skills more quickly, participate more in class, enjoy school more, and have higher self-esteem and greater satisfaction in life. The pace of change we’ve witnessed this past semester may leave many of us reeling. Let’s use this moment to empathize with our students, who – in addition to current uncertainty – face a future in which many of the jobs they’ll end up in don’t even exist yet. 

Even though we have directed a lot of research toward understanding how children deal with adversity, we’ve paid less research attention to how children deal with change and the novel and uncertain situations that they face. This is documented in an article in InPsych titled “Adaptability: A Key Capacity Whose Time Has Come.” 

Adaptability is a skill that educators and students will continue to need when we return to school in the upcoming semester. Educators exhibit this capacity to adapt when they meet their students where they are on a daily basis. This quality drives the success of our educational system. It is also one we should be teaching our school-age children and adolescents so that they can adjust readily to our ever-changing world. Our students have experienced and witnessed so much adversity and uncertainty this last semester. It is our job to support them when we return to school in the fall of 2020–2021. Helping all students live in a world of hope where they can pursue equitable and accessible opportunities is a must.  

“Change is the law of life and those who only look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”  John F. Kennedy

What School Leaders Are Facing Now  

As our school leaders look ahead to 2020–2021, many are faced with tasks that include adapting instructional plans, submitting waivers related to COVID-19, modifying school calendars, implementing effective resources for students, and supporting students and staff through trauma and uncertainty. For each of these tasks, family and community engagement are the key to stakeholder support. To achieve this input and support, many districts are talking with the community and surveying families on how to maximize instructional time next year while keeping  students safe. 

Additionally, the guidance that the Texas Education Agency has provided in the following resources can be a great reference when navigating decisions about the return to school in the fall. The most recent documents that TEA has published include the following:  

Special Education Guidance: At Home Learning for Students with Disabilities 

A guide to help districts launch “at-home schools” that maximize instructional time and support students with disabilities who require special education support to access academic content to maximize their learning. 

Texas College Bridge

This new initiative was announced to address high school students who have not yet demonstrated college, career, or military readiness. Texas College Bridge offers districts a free alternative to support students and achieve district CCMR goals by providing online, self-paced College Prep courses to demonstrate readiness and receive academic credit. 

Adjusting 2020–21 School Calendars

This document presents sample calendar options for the upcoming school year.

Changing School Start Dates for 2020–21

This document shows the options TEA has outlined for districts interested in changing school start dates for the 2020–2021 school year.

COVID-19 Related Waivers

This document summarizes related waivers and accommodations with expanded information specific to each waiver.

For further resources, please see the most recently updated guidance on the TEA Covid-19 website.

Texas OnCourse Support 

As part of a sustained commitment to center racial equity in our work, we will be sharing antiracist resources, information, and research for educators. This includes a recent webinar, Effective Advising: Reducing Implicit Bias When Working with Students. Bias Adjuster founder Dr. Bentley Gibson led an exploration of ways to identify and reduce implicit bias in our advising and instructional strategies. Over the summer and into the fall, we will also publish a blog series on topics related to understanding and reducing racism in education. 

In the meantime, make your own first step toward self-awareness by taking the Implicit Association Tests from Harvard University. They provide a good introduction to concepts discussed in the webinar linked above.

Additional Resources for School Leaders, Educators, and Students

Let’s Talk: Facilitating Critical Conversations with Students

This free guide helps to facilitate critical conversations with students.

Teaching Tolerance Film Kits

These free film kits bring social justice to life with classroom-friendly films and user guides.

Anti-Defamation League – Anti-Bias Tools and Strategies 

NEA Edjustice League – Creating the Space to Talk about Race

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The College and Career Strategist is written by Texas OnCourse staff in collaboration with the Region 13 Education Service Center’s Accountability Team.

 

Topics: Data and Accountability, Administrators, Distance Counseling