Childrens' learning has been massively disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the need for more opportunities for differentiated, high-quality learning, stronger relationships with the adults in their school, and streamlined access to social-emotional support — especially for the country’s lowest-income students, Black and Latinx students, English language learners, and students with disabilities.
To support these redesign efforts, especially in light of the $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II and ESSER III) provided by the American Rescue Plan, we have identified five “power strategies” (Empowering, Adaptable Instruction, Time & Attention, The Teaching Job, Relationships & Social-Emotional Supports, and Family & Community Partnerships) to accelerate equity-focused recovery and redesign. Our Start Here Series features emerging examples of districts and schools around the country putting the power strategies to work. As district leaders begin to plan the use of their federal ESSER funding, state leaders must support state education policies that offer sustainable, long-term solutions that enable districts to fundamentally alter how they provide instruction, especially for students with the most need.
States Start Here builds on the Start Here Series by detailing how state leaders can empower districts with the flexibility to implement and invest in the kinds of changes driven by our power strategies — especially in Time & Attention. While state policies play a critical role across all the power strategies, policy areas related to instructional time and class size are particularly critical. We urge states to revisit current policies around amount of instructional time, class size limits, seat time, and more to enable districts to expand and vary the time and individualized attention students receive, while still holding districts accountable for strong student outcomes. In this paper, we discuss what strategic practice around instructional time and attention looks like, what the state role could be to enable these practices, and what other strategies state leaders might consider as they promote learning acceleration.