Virtual School Meanderings

November 21, 2020

Addressing barriers to teaching and learning in the COVID‑19 context and beyond

Several items in this newsletter that may be of interest to readers.

November 18, 2020

COVID-19 and recent social justice protests have highlighted systemic imbalances in the California education system. This policy brief argues that this moment offers an opportunity to address the overlapping learning, behavioral, and emotional problems that hinder effective learning, and offers a blueprint for both state and local involvement to make organized systemic change. As we look ahead to rebuilding systems in the wake of the pandemic, equity of opportunity must be the focus of educators’ efforts. Schools in California should take the current discontinuity in education as a moment to consider transformative policy and structural changes that can overcome barriers to learning.

Students living in multigenerational households comprise a significant population in California. To protect vulnerable family members from COVID-19, these students might not return physically to the classroom even when schools open their doors, potentially affecting their learning. Districts should work to identify these students and offer additional resources to mitigate risks to them and their families. Educators should work to ensure that these students’ learning needs are met by, for instance, providing adequate technology resources and confirming that students learning from home have remote options for one-on-one and small group support.

Collaborative networks that use continuous improvement principles and tools can accelerate and spread learning across sites and contexts. In collaborative networks, members come together to study data, identify effective strategies, and adapt and adopt strategies for their own unique contexts. Collaborative networks can be powerful drivers of system improvement—particularly now, as districts face unprecedented challenges in meeting students’ and families’ needs in the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment. This policy brief lays out three important lessons about how network members can work together:

  1. Participants must understand the benefits of collaboration in order to overcome the “costs” inherent in working together.
  2. Collaboration requires a deliberately nurtured culture of trust and vulnerability.
  3. True collaborative work is different from “show and tell.”

These lessons help network leaders and members advance the quality of their work together to improve outcomes for students.


PACE Executive Director Heather J. Hough was interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum to discuss the impact of distance learning on student learning and mental health.

Over the past year, dozens of experts have collaborated to design a longitudinal data system for California schools. PACE Executive Director Heather J. Hough urges continued long-term investment in a cradle-to-career data system.

Carrie Hahnel, PACE senior fellow, discusses possible paths towards more school funding in the wake of the failure of Proposition 15.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the Cal State system is seeing record high enrollment amid COVID-19; however, community college enrollment is down about 8%. PACE faculty director Michal Kurlaender discusses the equity implications of these trends.

California is only one of two states that lacks a viable school-level measure of academic growth. This commentary describes the benefits of such a measure over California’s current year-to-year measure, citing the Getting Down to Facts II report by Morgan Polikoff, Shira Korn, and Russell McFall.

Responding to PACE research on the need for increased funding to provide all California students with opportunities to succeed in college and career, this commentary questions whether public schools in California need more resources.

PACE Director of Strategic Partnerships H. Alix Gallagher discusses current challenges facing educators, parents, and students in K–12 schools relying on distance instruction.

PACE Executive Director Heather J. Hough discusses the state of school funding in California and describes research on the need for increased funding for public schools in the state.

Featured Content by Partners
via Center for Poverty and Inequality Research at UC Davis
In this new policy brief from the Center for Poverty and Inequality Research at UC Davis, authors Patti F. Herrera (School Services of California, Inc.) and Heather Rose (UC Davis School of Education) highlight how COVID-19’s $54 billion budget deficit for California has significant implications for K–12 school districts and the potential to harm high-poverty districts more severely. The brief examines the current and future impacts of budget deferrals as well as their disproportionate strain on districts with higher proportions of low-income students or English learners.
via Stanford EdLEADers
The Stanford EdLEADers professional certificate program is now accepting applications for the spring 2021 cohort. This program for school system leaders blends content from the Stanford Graduate Schools of Education and Business, providing educators with immediately applicable curriculum for leading their organizations.
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