Centering Education Equity During COVID-19
Virginia and the nation are facing unprecedented challenges due to the current COVID-19 public health emergency. On March 23, 2020 Governor Ralph Northam extended his order that all public and private K-12 schools in Virginia close to mitigate the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). While distance learning is new for most families, for many in our community it also means immediate challenges to ensure digital equity. Today, there is an urgent need to ensure that all Virginia students—especially those furthest from opportunity—are provided the resources and support they need to continue their education.
The Office of Equity and Community Engagement remains committed to sharing vital resources and guidance during in the wake of COVID-19. We recognize that many educators, schools, and school leaders are navigating uncharted territory. As local school divisions explore options for virtual or online instruction and other instructional delivery methods, we urge careful consideration of providing equitable access and support for a variety of student learning needs.
Ensuring that we continue meeting the needs of ALL learners, with special consideration for our vulnerable student groups including; early learners, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities, must remain a priority during this time.
Please bookmark our COVID-19 & Virginia Public Schools webpage for the most recent guidance issued by VDOE.
COVID-19 Remote Learning Equity Resources
Achieving equity in remote learning requires leaders to be intentional about ensuring support for student populations who often already have reduced opportunities for academic success in our traditional in-person education model. As you review the guidelines and resources provided here, please take care to keep equity at the forefront of your planning.
Virginia Learns Anywhere-Continuity for Learning (C4L)
When Governor Northam announced the closure of schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year, VDOE quickly formed a Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force to develop guidance for educators to meet the immediate needs of supporting learning outside our brick and mortar classrooms.
C4L’s document provides guidance on how schools can prevent further widening of achievement gaps and meet the social and emotional needs of students while schools are closed.
More than 120 teachers, administrators and specialists from school divisions across the commonwealth, as well as representatives of educational organizations and the Virginia Department of Education came together to create the document, which has a focus on ensuring equity in decision making around COVID-19 school closures.
Key steps to ensuring educational equity during COVID-19 School Closures:
1. Strive to meet students’ immediate needs first:
Prioritize the physical and social-emotional needs of particularly vulnerable students. Ensure safety, belonging, and mental health as a foundation for learning.
Actions stakeholders may consider:
- Provide training/guidance to school staff on culturally responsive student and family outreach strategies.
- Consider the historical impact the spread of the disease has had on native populations and how the COVID-19 pandemic may be impacting student members of Virginia’s Tribes.
- Establish a protocol to assess the needs of vulnerable students, including, ELs, immigrant and refugee students, and students experiencing food, housing, or healthcare insecurity. Additional consideration should also be provided for students under state care (foster care, detention facilities, and hospitals).
2. Ensure equitable access to learning resources and provide the adequate supports necessary for students to achieve success:
While online and e-learning models are attractive, to reach all student groups, school divisions must consider equitable access to the Internet and technology and provide the necessary resources to ensure that families are able to support their student’s education. Insufficient availability of supports for families and students may widen disparities instead of narrowing them. Keep in mind that it is not enough to simply provide resources; there must be adequate support to students and families to ensure student success
Actions stakeholders may consider:
- Monitor the impact your model will have on underserved groups, including students of color, English Learners, and students experiencing poverty and homelessness.
- Send out a questionnaire to gather information about each students’ learning environment, access to technology and adult learning support.
- Ensure instructional approaches, assignments and learning opportunities are culturally relevant and culturally responsive.
- Evaluate whether your distance learning model will improve or worsen disparities between student groups. Examine barriers to equitable implementation and unintended consequences.
- Monitor compliance with Federal and State Civil Rights laws and continued guidance being issued by VDOE and USED.
3. Provide clear, centralized, and regular communication to all families.
Actions stakeholders may consider:
- Develop a user-friendly, multilingual online hub for families to receive up-to-date information, educational resources, and request support.
- Establish common, division-wide systems for touching base with every student (via email, phone or text message) and family once per week in the family’s primary language and ensure availability of on-call division teams that can connect students and families to statewide and community services when needed.
- Leverage all community wrap-around services including partnerships with local civil rights organizations, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and relevant media outlets, to ensure that information reaches every population.
4. Begin developing a return to learning equity plan:
Disruptions to the stability of traditional schooling that come with continued school closures may be particularly challenging for students to manage. Inequitable access to technology, learning supports, and family resources will disproportionately impact vulnerable students. The impact of sustained learning loss during this period of school closures combined with disparities in the implementation of continuity for learning models has the potential to exacerbate previously existing gaps in student achievements.
Actions stakeholders may consider:
- Form a division-level or school-based Return to Learning Equity Team that includes community based organizations, wrap around partners and representatives from state-operated programs (foster care, detention facilities, and hospitals).
- Evaluate existing data to identify students and student groups most vulnerable to learning loss disproportionality.
- Design diagnostic systems to evaluate student learning growth and establish accountability measures to monitor progress.
To access the recommendations and resources in its entirety, visit Virginia Learns Anywhere.
General Equity Resources
- Webinar How can we work for equity & access in challenging times? (STEM Learning Ecosystem)
- Five high-leverage and equity-focused uses of CARES Act dollars, designed to build systems, structures, and supports that increase long-term capacity and produce immediate benefits for historically underserved students. (Learning Policy Institute)
- Moving Beyond the Packet: Creating More Culturally Responsive Distance Learning Experiences
- Parents as First Teachers: Supporting Reading Development at Home in Culturally Responsive Ways
- Webinar: Beyond Back to School – Equity and Innovation in the COVID-19 era focuses on using data to structure strategic restart plans to meet the diverse needs of all students for their return to school and beyond. (NWEA)
- Webinar Series: Discovery Education – Equity Talks, every Thursday with new featured guests each session. Segments focus on how school leaders are cultivating equity and excellence in the wake of nationwide school closures. (Discovery Education)
Online Learning Resources
- Ensuring Equity in Online Learning – Considerations in Response to COVID-19’s Impact on Schooling (IDRA)
- Best Practices for Online Instruction in the Wake of COVID-19 (IDRA)
- Online Teaching Can Be Culturally Responsive: Amid school closures, online classes can offer new opportunities for culturally responsive teaching.
- Ensuring Equity in Online Learning – Considerations in Response to COVID-19’s Impact on Schooling. (IDRA)
Multilingual/English Learner Student Resources
- Explore the US Department of Education’s Technology Toolkit for English Learners. This Toolkit brings suggestions and resources for educators who want to utilize new technology-based resources to help their ELs.
- School Responses to COVID-19: ELL/Immigrant Considerations
- Online Learning Webinar for ELs: Strategy and Resource Share (part of VDOE’s EL Instruction Monthly Webinar Series)
- 5 Things Districts and Educators Can do to Support Instruction for English Learners During COVID-19
LGBTQ+ Student Resources
- Supporting LGBTQ Students During Social Distancing: Experts at The Trevor Project offered their recommendations for ways educators can support LGBTQ students through coronavirus school closures.
Combatting Bullying and Racism Recources
- Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus (Teaching Tolerance)
- Student Perspective: Coronavirus Racism Infected My High School (The New York Times)
- How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism: As COVID-19 infections increase, so too does racism and xenophobia. Use our “Speak Up” strategies to let people know you’re not OK with racist or xenophobic comments about coronavirus or anything else.
Family Engagement Resources
- Culturally Responsive-Sustaining (CRS) Family Engagement provides guidance to deepen family engagement and foster learning during the pandemic. (NYU)
- Rethinking Family Engagement During School Closures– a resource that encourages educators to consider how expectations for students are related to assumptions about family involvement—and why you might need to rethink those assumptions. (Education Week)
- Webinar: The Emotional Reality of Learning at Home: Meeting the Needs of Students and Their Families (Dr. Steve Constantino)
- Family Engagement Toolkit: Continuous Improvement Through an Equity Lens (WestEd)
Social Emotional Learning Resources
- As a follow-up to the “SEL and Equity: Follow the Data” webinar EdWeek is offering a free course to equip students with the critical social emotional skills they need to build confidence and habits of success to thrive in middle school. (MAWI Learning)
- Brief on responding to COVID-19 though Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) (Center on PBIS)
Some of the links on the #EdEquityVA pages lead you to websites not associated with the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education. VDOE does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the data and facts presented on these external sites. In addition, VDOE does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services.