School reopening policies must be responsive to the needs of all families, students, teachers and schools. To ensure equity as schools reopen, IDRA makes the following policy recommendations to state, higher education, and school district leaders, including students and families. For a printable, sharable infographic, check out our equity checklist below.
1. Additional funds and resources should be channeled to face pandemic-related issues.
* Funnel CARES Act and other federal stimulus funding toward the K-12 settings that serve high populations of marginalized students.
* Invest in additional mental health professionals, including counselors and social workers. It is more important than ever to achieve recommended ratios and even go beyond in order to address the unique trauma and needs of students, families and school staff. Additional professionals can help to maintain contact with families during school closures.
* Ensure emergency funds (state and federal) are used to address schools' virus-related needs that arise and supplement not supplant basic education funding. School districts that do not have additional resources to address unanticipated COVID-19 related needs should be not penalized with a subsequent funding shortage.
2. School districts should develop support systems for students' academic, social and emotional needs.
* Develop small committees that include a counselor, social worker or family liaison who can ensure that the particular social circumstances of the family are taken into account in some way when determining the needs of the student.
* Expand use of formative assessment systems (such as individual graduation committees in Texas). Formative assessments measure student progress over time and consider a variety of factors to determine course mastery.
* Involve families and other stakeholders in decisions about uses of funds through surveys, meetings, etc. Use family support specialists for this purpose.
* Encourage peer-to-peer mentoring and cross-age tutoring programs among students. These programs can encourage community bonds while using young adults' digital skills to build academic relationships. Programs can be monitored by teachers and other educational personnel.
3. Educators should maintain high academic expectations for students that prepare them for college admission, enrollment and success.
* Work together with K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to heighten college counseling and enrollment information for students and families. Schools should provide clear online information and communications about college admission requirements, instructions for obtaining transcripts and teacher letters of recommendation, COVID-19-related adjustments, and resources for seeking financial aid and scholarships.
* Develop, refine and maintain open platforms of communication with students and families to alleviate confusion and be responsive to emergent needs and concerns. Online platforms should be coupled with robust in-person outreach, particularly with families and students that districts have struggled to reach.
* Advise students to access rigorous college preparatory coursework in high school, provide compensatory services and summer learning opportunities, and enhance instructional support so that students can succeed in those courses.
4. State agencies and educators should prioritize students' safety, privacy and well-being.
* Ensure supervisors of juvenile justice facilities and residential treatment centers - including county facilities, halfway houses and other residential arrangements for youth - provide students consistent and appropriate access to education plans, supports and devices.
* Establish state agency and educator protocols to perform periodic, comprehensive local needs assessments to assess the safety, privacy and well-being needs of local students and families.
* Manage and store student data carefully. Data uses that jeopardize student privacy or risk marginalizing students should be prohibited.