A Blueprint for Back to School

Writing for AEI, John Bailey and Frederick Hess, in collaboration with a group of former state education chiefs, federal policymakers, district superintendents, and charter school network leaders, have released a blueprint for how to address the challenges that lie ahead in reopening America’s schools. The authors deliberately decided to work with mostly former—rather than current— public officials to ensure that the group would have more freedom to speak freely and without the constraints current officials inevitably experience. The report should be useful for state and district leaders, as well as community leaders, state legislators, journalists, and concerned parents. 

Key Points

  • Families and communities need schools to be ready to reopen as soon as public health officials signal it is safe. When public health officials give the green light, schools should be prepared to reopen. And a number of public health officials have indicated that they expect schools will likely be able to reopen this fall.
  • Together with a task force of accomplished educational leaders-including former state chiefs, superintendents, federal education officials, and charter school network leaders-this report sketches a framework that can help state policymakers, education and community leaders, and federal officials plan appropriately for reopening.
  • As communities and public officials start to think about the problems ahead, states, districts, and schools should consider at least six different buckets of work: school operations, whole child supports, school personnel, academics, distance learning, and general considerations. Because of the unique challenges of this moment, it is imperative that planning start now. 

Guiding Principles

Four principles should guide decisions, preparations, and actions as education leaders, community leaders, and public officials work to reopen our nation’s schools.

  1. While governors have the authority to close and open schools, these decisions are best made by consulting with those closest to the problem, including school leaders, health officials, and community leaders.
  2. Schools are responsible for meeting the needs of all students, including the distinctive needs of students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English language learners.
  3. Schools are obliged to find ways to serve all students, even during times of disruption when remote learning requires students to connect from home.
  4. Given that school systems cannot reasonably have been expected to plan for the current situation, state and federal officials must help provide the resources schools need to help weather the crisis.

For more, see: https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/A-Blueprint-for-Back-to-School.pdf