Press Release

The following statement can be attributed to Ian Rosenblum, Executive Director of The Education Trust–New York:

“Alongside the paramount issues of health and safety, a responsible plan for reopening New York’s schools must address the reality that school closures worsened pre-existing educational inequities and recognize the ‘dual pandemics’ of COVID-19 and the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism that are already shaping the upcoming school year.

“The guidelines issued by state leaders represent a path to reopen New York’s schools stronger this fall, protecting the health and safety of students and teachers and taking concrete steps to make our education system more equitable regardless of whether schools are operating in-person, remotely, or a combination of the two.

“Today’s ‘Reopening Guidance’ from the Board of Regents the State Education Department can help school districts meet the academic and social-emotional needs of all students, including students who have been historically underserved by our education system. The guidance document’s clear expectations for equitable instruction for all students, daily interaction between teachers and students regardless of whether students are learning in-person or remotely, social-emotional learning, parent and family communication, technology access, and addressing the needs of multilingual learners, students with disabilities, and students experiencing homelessness and their families are all critical elements of an equity-driven reopening plan.

“The State Education Department guidance operates alongside New York State Department of Health guidelines issued earlier this week. The Department of Health guidance provides clear health and safety requirements for reopening school buildings, driven by data and science. In addition to addressing important issues like social distancing, masks, and health monitoring, the guidance wisely emphasizes that schools prioritize efforts to return all students to in-person instruction, use community spaces to make in-person learning possible for more students, address the needs of children coming from the same household when schedules are developed, communicate with families on a regular basis and in their home languages, and support community schools that provide health and other support services to students and families.

“The next step is for school districts to submit their reopening plans by July 31. The state’s emphasis on flexibility, while understandable, means that critical decisions about how schools will address many key educational equity priorities will be made at the local level. Parents, students, and community stakeholders can all be partners in ensuring that the state guidance for reopening are reflected in implementation at the local level, and that is why it is critical the public be able to immediately view the plans and commitments made by school districts across New York on a single state website as soon as they are submitted, not only relying on school districts to post these documents and make them easily accessible.”

Equity Highlights from the New York State Education Department’s “Reopening Guidance”

General Excerpts: 

  • During the upcoming school year, it is of the utmost importance that individual student needs and equity are put at the center of all learning experiences.
  • Mandatory teaching and learning requirements include providing clear opportunities for equitable instruction for all students; ensuring continuity of learning regardless of the instructional model used; providing standards-based instruction; ensuring substantive daily interaction between teachers and students; and clearly communicating information about instructional plans with parents and guardians.
  • Schools must insure that students receive high quality rigorous, standards based instruction that will meet their academic needs and allow them to attain the learning standards in all curricular areas.
  • Along with physical health and well-being, schools and districts must also prioritize social emotional well-being – not at the expense of academics, but in order to create the mental, social, and emotional space for academic learning to occur.
  • School policies and procedures must focus on the academic consequences of lost instructional time and address absences before students fall behind in school. It is critical for schools to use a variety of creative methods to reach out to students and their families who have not engaged in distance learning.
  • Schools and districts must determine the level of access all students and teachers have in their places of residence; to the extent practicable, address the need to provide devices and internet access to students and teachers who currently do not have sufficient access; and provide multiple ways for students to participate in learning and demonstrate their mastery of the learning standards in remote and hybrid instructional models.
  • Schools and districts must provide all communications to parents/guardians of ELLs in their preferred language and mode of communication to ensure that they have equitable access to critical information about their children’s education
  • As suggested by the DOH guidance, schools should present information through a wide array of platforms, including, for example, traditional mail, email, telephone calls, texting, social media, news media, and website postings.
  • Regardless of the instructional model implemented, equity and access must be the priority for all students including, but not limited to, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students experiencing homelessness.

Mandatory Requirements: 

Health and Safety

  • Districts/schools must engage with school stakeholders and community members… when developing health and safety reopening plans.

Teaching and Learning 

  • Instruction must be aligned with the outcomes in the New York State Learning Standards.
  • Equity must be at the heart of all school instructional decisions. All instruction should be developed so that whether delivered in-person, remotely, or through a hybrid model due to a local or state school closure, there are clear opportunities for instruction that are accessible to all students. Such opportunities must be aligned with State standards and include routine scheduled times for students to interact and seek feedback and support from their teachers.
  • Instruction aligned to the academic program must include regular and substantive interaction with an appropriately certified teacher regardless of the delivery method (e.g., in person, remote or hybrid).
  • Schools must create a clear communication plan for how students and their families/caregivers can contact the school and teachers with questions about their instruction and/or technology. This information needs to be accessible to all, available in multiple languages based on district or charter school need, widely disseminated, and include clear and multiple ways for students and families to contact schools and teachers (e.g., email, online platform, and/or by phone).
  • Schools must plan for the possible contingency of fully remote learning. Remaining connected with a methodology in place to support student learning while at home must be considered in a school’s reopening plan.

Technology and Connectivity

  • Have knowledge of the level of access to devices and highspeed broadband all students and teachers have in their places of residence;
  • To the extent practicable, address the need to provide devices and internet access to students and teachers who currently do not have sufficient access; and
  • Provide multiple ways for students to participate in learning and demonstrate mastery of Learning Standards in remote or blended models, especially if all students do not yet have sufficient access to devices and/or high-speed internet.

Social Emotional Well-Being

  • Ensure that a district-wide and building-level comprehensive developmental school counseling program plan, developed under the direction of certified school counselor(s), is reviewed and updated to meet current needs.
  • Establish an advisory council, shared decision-making, school climate team, or other collaborative working group comprised of families, students, members of the board of education, school building and/or district/charter leaders, community-based service providers, teachers, certified school counselors, and other pupil personnel service providers including school social workers and/or school psychologists to inform the comprehensive developmental school counseling program plan.
  • Address how the school/district will provide resources and referrals to address mental health, behavioral, and emotional support services and programs.
  • Address professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on how to talk with and support students during and after the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as provide supports for developing coping and resilience skills for students, faculty, and staff.

Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

  • Schools are responsible for developing a mechanism to collect and report daily teacher/student engagement or attendance regardless of the instructional setting. 

Special Education 

  • The school reopening plan must address meaningful parent engagement in the parent’s preferred language or mode of communication regarding the provision of services to his/her child to meet the requirements of the IDEA.
  • The school reopening plan must ensure access to the necessary accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services, and technology (including assistive technology) to meet the unique disability related needs of students.

Bilingual Education and World Languages

  • Maintain regular communication with the parents/guardians and other family members of ELLs to ensure that they are engaged in their children’s education during the reopening process Provide all communications for parents/guardians of ELLs in their preferred language and mode of communication

Child Nutrition

  • District/School Plan must provide all students enrolled in the [School Food Authority] with access to school meals each school day. This must include: students in attendance at school; and students learning remotely. 

Transportation

  • School districts and other applicable schools are expected to fulfill existing mandates regarding the safe and effective transportation of students who are homeless (McKinney-Vento), in foster care, have disabilities and attend non-public schools and charter schools.

Considerations and Suggestions:

Teaching and Learning

  • Develop instructional experiences that are inclusive, culturally responsive, consider the needs of all students, and adhere to all established state regulations and guidelines
  • Develop a plan for how to support students who, due to the 2019-2020 school closure, need additional social, emotional, or academic support to ensure success in the 2020-2021 school year. Students and their families should be involved in the planning for any remediation or support whenever practicable.
  • Use a locally determined formative or diagnostic assessment to determine individual student needs and target extra help to ensure both academic and social-emotional needs are addressed.
  • (For grades 7-12) It is important to ensure that all students have equitable access to high quality rigorous instructional opportunities, and experiences, provided by highly qualified, certified teaching professionals, competent in the content or discipline of the course. The key question that districts should consider when developing or adopting new modalities of instruction is the following: Are the instructional experiences, when considered as a whole, comparable in rigor, scope and magnitude to a traditionally delivered (180 minutes/week) unit of study?

Technology and Connectivity

  • Regardless of whether in-person, remote, or hybrid models are utilized, schools should seek to provide students and teachers, for use in their places of residence, with access, to the extent practicable, to:
    • A computing device, such as a laptop, desktop, Chromebook, iPad, or full-size tablet, for their exclusive use; and
    • Consistent, reliable access to high-speed internet at a sufficient level to fully participate in remote/online learning (e.g., a hotspot).
  • Provide professional development for leaders and educators on designing effective remote/online learning experiences and best practices for instruction in remote/online settings.
  • Adjust Information Technology (IT) Support as necessary to support teachers, students, and families.
  • Provide flexibility to decrease stress and increase equitable access for students and families. Older students may be taking on responsibilities such as caregiving or working outside of the home and may not be available during traditional school hours. Younger students may not be supervised by a parent or guardian during the school day, and their caregivers may not be in a position to effectively guide remote/online instruction.

Social Emotional Well-Being

  • Considering implementation of restorative practices within your school community invites an opportunity to reflect on school culture, discipline policies, practices, and disparities, and how policies and practices may contribute to the school to prison pipeline…. Replacing traditional discipline with restorative alternatives offers opportunities for youth to learn from mistakes and may reduce disciplinary disparities and negative outcomes.
  • Survey staff regularly. Ask about their needs. Do not wait for people to come to you. Be prepared to respond with assistance or referrals.
  • Leverage Transformative SEL to support the work of adult anti-racism and anti-bias work. Nurture SEL competencies to improve cultural and linguistic responsiveness and sustainability.

Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism

  • Assign each student an “ally” – an adult who is responsible to check in on the student every day, whether instruction is in-person, remote, or online.

Bilingual Education and World Languages

  • Adopt or develop progress monitoring tools to provide data that identifies gaps in student learning towards English language proficiency and towards content area proficiency in both English and students’ home languages.
  • Resume and create programs to address the specific needs of Students with Interrupted/Inconsistent Formal Education (SIFE), ELLs with IEPs, and other vulnerable populations during the reopening process.
  • Schools are advised to keep the unique needs of parents of ELLs/MLLs in mind and provide support and guidance on the logistics and functionality of a remote or hybrid learning model—including interpretation and translation needs as described above—to ensure that they have equitable access to critical information about their children’s education as they transition back to school in fall 2020.
  • Implement the practices described in the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework during hybrid or remote learning. 

Health and Safety

  • District/School plan should be translated into any additional languages spoken in the school community

 Child Nutrition

  • More families may now qualify for benefits than prior to the public health emergency due to changes in the economy. Before school starts, remind families that they can submit a new application for free or reduced-price meals right now and at any time during the school year;
  • Provide multiple opportunities for families to complete meal benefit applications;
  • Assess if new technology may be needed in order to provide online household applications, obtain electronic signatures or transfer protected student identifying information;
  • Provide meal benefit applications with summer meals;
  • Make applications available online and at the front office of each school site; and
  • Provide phone and in-person support to assist families in applying.
  • Determine if there are students who are unable to access school meal distribution sites and identify ways to address these gaps[.]