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The Trail of Essential Questions: Resources for Leaders to Manage the New Future

Blog post written by
Gene Silverman
Executive Director

As the grandparent of two high school students in upstate New York, one of which will be a senior next year; and as a retired - almost thirty year – school administrator for a Long Island BOCES (Educational Service Agency – ESA) in the area of secondary education and college and career readiness, I am wondering “have American schools been forever re-defined’? And if yes, what will come next?

For the past few months, we’ve been organizing distanced education, remote learning, online classes and services, virtual teaching, etc.  in an attempt to teach as much as we can in alignment with the school curriculum and keep students engaged. Grading has been revised, final assessments waived, and graduations/end of semester accountability benchmarks completed. For better or worse, we did our best.

But what happens in September? I wonder……..

This I believe to be true: education – “school” - has been forever changed. Instead of slow, incremental changes, boom! Overnight learning is 100% in a digital context with, hopefully, real world physical exercises and expressions of creativity, problem solving, inquiry, talent, and science. 

The numbers of students physically in one place at one time will be small so the physical plants of our school buildings can accommodate a distanced life. Events, calendars, schedules, events, sports, extracurricular, arts, etc. will all be framed in a new way. Our brick and mortar centers of learning and community life will open very differently.

I wonder for my senior granddaughter….

  • Will her senior year be framed around the outcomes she/we desire for college and career readiness regardless of the way school may “look”? 
  • Will accountability standards of measures be changed? 
  • How will counselors and support staff be there to support and coach her?
  • Are school and community leaders, principals and teachers up to the task?
  • How will the social aspects of school be realized? 
  • Exactly what is the new school ecosystem? 
  • Will 2020 be the year we left the industrial, information and digital ages behind to begin the age of virtual life?

I wonder for all of our children not can we do it, or will we do it, or even what it will become….but rather do we, the collective we, have the courage, strength and stamina, vision and leadership to begin the new age of teaching and learning for every student in our country in every community in just three months? For all our children? I hope so.

Some resources to consider as we follow the trail of essential questions:

When schools re-open to physical spaces if social distancing is still in place, how is that even possible on buses, in classrooms and cafeteria’s, to give teaching assistance to students with special needs, etc.? Will elementary and secondary schools have different models? If the school day changes with start and end times, how will parents and caregivers go to work?

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

If we can expect that distanced and remote teaching will continue even when school buildings open, how can we prepare?

Consortium of School Networking (CoSN); National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

School counselors are critical to the success and planning for students, particularly in high school. How will they be prepared to give every individual student and family the information and guidance they need to chose the best course schedule for each grade and be prepared for college and careers? How can we be sure our children are on their best path to college acceptance and readiness?

America School Counselor Association (ASCA) ; Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE);

Wellness and social/emotional health have always been, but now are emerging as the number one aspect of our schools, communities, and homes we must attend to. How will our new generation of schools for 2020 ensure everyone is health, safe, and engaged?

America School Counselor Association (ASCA); Collaboration for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL); National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National School Boards Association (NSBA) – Center for Safe Schools

Communication between and amongst school personnel and leaders, parents and families, and other involved community groups and organizations are more critical now than before. I’ve noticed a very wide variety of strengths in this area: from extremely limited and infrequent, to useful and use friendly information and opportunities for feedback and input almost daily. How can we impact this important aspect of school in today’s world?

National School Boards Association (NSBA); School Superintendents Association (AASA)

Although school districts are all unique and serve all students, some districts have high numbers of students in special populations: special education, English language learners, homeless students, at risk alternative learners, students and families with health and/or addiction challenges, poverty conditions, etc. Are they all being attended to in order to meet their needs, or are some children and families being left behind?

National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET); Council for Exceptional Children (CEC); Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE); National School Boards Association (NSBA); School Superintendents Association (AASA)

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