The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all students; however, its impact has been particularly devastating for students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, and other marginalized children and youth. As transmission rates decline and vaccination rates increase in California, many are eager to return to normalcy, but we must all recognize that even the prepandemic normal was not working for all students. The 2021–22 school year, therefore, constitutes a critical opportunity for schools to offer students, families, and educators a restorative restart.
This brief was developed by California-based family and student engagement organizations, associations representing educators and system leaders, research institutes, and civil rights and equity groups. The recommendations arise from the evidence that has collectively emerged from focus groups with educators, parents, and students; polls and surveys of stakeholders; a deep review of the literature; and original research conducted on COVID-19’s impact on schools and students.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant negative effect on the oral reading fluency (ORF) of US students in grades 2-3 in over 100 school districts, with students falling 30% behind expectations. While there was some recovery in the fall, it was insufficient to make up for the spring losses. The impact is particularly inequitable, with lower achieving schools being hit harder, and 10% of students not being assessed. Addressing accumulated learning losses and supporting struggling students is necessary.
Restructuring California Schools to Address Barriers to Learning and Teaching in the COVID‑19 Context and Beyond
Collaborative networks using continuous improvement principles can accelerate and spread learning. This brief highlights the importance of understanding the benefits of collaboration, building a culture of trust and vulnerability, and engaging in true collaborative work, not just "show and tell." These lessons can help network members work together effectively to improve outcomes for students in changing conditions.
California is the wealthiest state in the US, yet its school funding is insufficient to meet educational goals due to the high cost of living. A series of 12 charts provide an explanation of what is happening, with solutions outlined in the final section of an accompanying report.
California schools' funding had improved, but still fell short of what is necessary to meet the state's goals. Now, schools face three major challenges: declines in student achievement and social-emotional well-being due to COVID-19, increased costs associated with distance learning and school reconfiguration, and the need to tighten budgets. Securing necessary funding will require an enormous and sustained effort from many stakeholders to improve schools and student outcomes and strengthen the economic and social outlook for future generations.