A University of Denver researcher and her colleagues across the country have released findings about school districts’ decision-making amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and how an inconsistent, decentralized approach put unnecessary pressure on educators.
“My biggest surprise is that we are not learning from the experiences last spring and letting them inform decisions for the fall, particularly at the policy level,” Erin Anderson, assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education, told the campus news service. “There have been ample studies highlighting the importance of dealing with emotional and physical needs before engaging in instruction, but policy for this fall has not reflected this understanding. Districts have been rapidly changing the format of schools and asking teachers to teach in untenable hybrid models.”
Anderson and three other academics published in November their findings from interviews with more than 100 school principals. They recommended that going forward, district leaders focus on the “3 I’s”: infrastructure, interaction and instruction.
“In districts without collaborative processes, much of the planning and decision making shifted to the school level and teachers, which limited the command-and-control of senior district leadership and produced inequitable instructional approaches across online learning experiences,” the researchers reported.
They recommended an early, unified approach to emergency planning, streamlined communication, and contingencies for teachers who must perform their jobs while also caring for children at home.
“We found that principals have assumed the role of caregiver of all,” Anderson added. “Our research found that principals and teachers are taking on a lot of stress and responsibility for care while trying to maintain rigorous instruction, increase communications to families, and support the mental health of students, teachers and families.”