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Blog Apr 20, 2021

Department of Education Releases Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting Student Needs

Recently, the Department of Education released Volume 2 of their COVID-19 Handbook: A Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs, which will serve as a guide for state and district leaders, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders across the country. Turnaround for Children was honored to work alongside major contributors such as the Learning Policy Institute, The Education Trust and others to provide input to the DOE through focus groups and written submissions.

The DOE explicitly notes the importance of grounding in the science of learning and development, linking to the SoLD key science findings, which will significantly increase the reach and application of these science findings and build demand for scientifically-grounded approaches.

Many of their recommendations are aligned with whole-child design. They reference the integrated nature of learning; recommend asset-based and culturally-affirming approaches to student development; emphasize the importance of adult-student relationships for accelerating learning; and relate educator wellbeing to opportunities to contribute to reopening planning in a way that’s aligned with shared leadership and ownership.

They are also explicit about the effects of systemic racism on students and our education system, including acknowledging the disproportionate use of exclusionary discipline on students of color and the importance of school practices and policies that seek to eliminate rather than maintain racial disparities.

The Handbook calls for the use of practices and tools such as student engagement surveys and measures of students’ social, emotional, and mental health and regular check-ins / morning meetings. They also call for teacher PD on understanding and meeting students’ holistic needs.

At Turnaround, we work to create conditions that enable broad adoption and implementation of whole-child design, practice, and measurement toward the outcome of equitable whole-child thriving. This guidance facilitates and enables this work. It means that states and districts are more likely to prioritize whole-child approaches and aligned policies and funding, and that educators who want to focus on the whole child will face less of an uphill battle. We’re excited and appreciative that the federal government has recognized how critical whole-child approaches and the science of learning and development are to addressing needs in the COVID context and building toward a more equitable education system.