In March, Congress approved the American Rescue Plan and initiated the influx of $128 billion dollars into our country’s education system. The investment is unprecedented, but so is the scale of the challenges facing states, school districts, educators, families, and students. And while there is federal guidance on how states should spend these dollars, there’s also a lot of room for autonomous decision-making.
Those decisions must include investments in educators. Educators and students alike are returning to an education landscape that is fundamentally different. Students are bringing with them increased social-emotional needs, as well as academic ones. Teaching can not and should not go back to exactly how it looked before, but there is also no playbook on how exactly it must evolve. It will be incumbent on educators to adjust to this new environment while simultaneously ensuring the education of their students. This is no small task. In fact, it’s an enormous one, which is why the government has committed such a monumental investment in our public education system. In order to leverage this investment and equip educators to return to schools ready to educate, nurture, and support students it is essential that we invest in strengthening professional practice, elevating great teaching, and prioritizing professional learning. We believe the Danielson Group’s Framework for Teaching can provide a roadmap for districts on how to do exactly that. Strategic investment, aligned to the domains of the framework, could be a transformative way to utilize these new funds. Here’s what that could look like:
Domain 1: Planning and Preparation.
With so many states and districts grappling with expectations on assessment this past year, in combination with the myriad challenges of administering assessments virtually, educators may not have less clarity on where students are as they reenter classrooms. Investing dollars in professional learning around designing student assessments, especially formative ones, and ensuring aligned and coherent instruction allows for more meaningful measures of student knowledge and skills. On top of that, using dollars in creative ways that increase collaboration and learning among educators is essential in knowing and valuing students and adjusting instruction effectively.
Domain 2: The Classroom Environment.
Many students will be reentering classrooms after a full year away from the traditional school setting and many of them will be returning with increased trauma and social-emotional needs. Districts must invest in training and support for educators on how to cultivate respectful and affirming environments that value and honor students. Bringing in experts to facilitate training for entire school communities on trauma-informed teaching, healing-centered practices, culturally affirming pedagogy, and restorative justice would provide educators with the baseline knowledge and tools necessary to meet the needs of their students.
Domain 3: Instruction.
While the true impact of remote learning is yet to be seen, it’s generally recognized that setbacks in academic progress have occurred for the vast majority of students, with the most significant impact on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Engaging students in learning through investments in innovative techniques such as personalized learning could ensure that no student is left behind and each gets what they need to succeed. Likewise, responding flexibly to students’ needs in when, where, and how students will learn by funding more before-, after-, and during-school interventions is an essential step on the path to learning recovery.
Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities.
was a chronic problem throughout the pandemic, leaving countless families and students disconnected from their school communities. As we rebuild these connections, engaging families and communities in meaningful, culturally competent ways is a key component in re-engaging students in their learning. Alongside this, districts and schools must provide the systems, technology, and time for educators to grow and develop professionally, as well as document student progress and effectively partner with families to support the academic success and social-emotional wellbeing of their students.
The Framework for Teaching is a trusted tool designed to promote the learning and effectiveness of educators. At this critical moment, it could also be used as a guide for states and districts on how to best leverage the funds being made available to them. Few things may be as important in this moment as supporting educators to learn, grow, and sustain in their profession, so that they in turn can truly meet the needs of students. The above suggestions are just a few of the many ways that we could invest wisely to allow that to happen.