Practice English Speaking&Listening with: What’s Happening, What’s Next: COVID-19 Lessons and What School Leaders Need Now

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-Welcome to everybody for this webinar put on

by Bellwether Education Partners

with a terrific group of four panelists

who I'm going to let, in the interest of time,

introduce themselves a little bit,

and by way of when they answer the questions.

We're super grateful to all four of them for making time.

This is a really busy time,

whether you're an organization leader or a frontline educator,

and so having both on the call is terrific.

I want to start. I don't want to belabor --

what we're going to do is have some conversation with them.

You all will be able to --

the audience will be able to submit questions,

which we will then, around half past the hour,

start to ask the panelists those,

so please participate that way. Hey, Sonja.

Please participate that way.

But let me start with Nina and Dan

for the big national picture.

What did you all see when this started?

What was the reaction from school districts, Dan,

and from charter schools, Nina?

And what did you see that you found encouraging?

And what in the initial reactions

for a few weeks has concerned you?

-Thank you so much, Andy.

I want to first take a moment to recognize Bellwether

for putting this great panel together

with such a diverse and esteemed group of panelists.

So I'm humbled to be on this session

and I think it's great to have more dialog around these issues.

In terms of what we saw in the charter school community

was a real interest in doing everything that we could,

not only to serve the needs of our own students,

but also to see if we could open up access

to our resources to the larger education community.

Some of these stories have already been told.

You have Eva Moskowitz from Success Academy on this panel,

who's going to talk a little bit about the resources

she's made available to the larger community,

but there are other networks that did the same,

such as Uncommon Schools, KIPP.

There's a great piece in the 74

by Robin Lake at the Center for Reinventing Public Education,

which has taken a look at the practices

that traditional districts have put in place.

I think she looked at about 82 school districts

and 18 charter school management organizations.

Out of the 18 management organizations,

it appears as if 16 of them

put something in place almost immediately.

So the nimbleness of the charter sector

certainly affords the ability to do certain things

that a large district may not be able to do very quickly.

But overall, we've been very pleased

with just the cooperation

and sense of unity by the entire education space,

whether it's public, charter, or magnet, private.

-So, Nina, in terms of the field response

that you're seeing frontline in terms

of serving kids, on a scale of one to 10,

if 10 is business is just usual,

just another day at the office,

and zero is absolute catastrophe --

What number would you assign where we are right now?

-Well, we haven't done a survey of everyone, as you know.

A good majority of charter schools are,

you know, single side operated schools.

We are discussing ways to see if we can dig a little deeper

to do the same type of work that Serpie did with large CMOs.

But by and large, in terms of the feedback

we've received from our state association partners,

there is a great need for computers

and the support you need around offering online

learning to students.

It's not enough just to give them a Chromebook.

You have to do teacher training,

and this is again why it's great to have Eva on this call.

A lot of entities have just made some links available to students

and to their parents in order to do online learning.

And online learning is, quite frankly,

a lot more challenging and complex than that.

Other than that, we haven't --

Anecdotally, I haven't seen anything.

I was in discussions last week

with Earl Fallon, with Fallon Schools,

which is a network of charter schools in several states.

And, you know, that's probably a more typical charter school,

and that he immediately offered

grab-and-go food services to his families,

as well as homework pockets, and he needed computers in order

to take the work to the next level.

So I would imagine a lot of them are in that boat right now,

which is why the stimulus money coming down the pike

is going to be really important.

-Okay. That wasn't a number that was like calculus.

But thank you. Dan, to you, same question.

What are you seeing nationally, the response?

What are you seeing that's encouraging?

And what are you seeing that's concerning?

And same thing on a scale of one to 10,

how would you rate the response of where the field is right now?

-Well, the initial concern really had to do

with a major switching from what K-12 public education

has been, with face-to-face learning in a classroom,

to online learning.

And the reality is that for the majority of school districts

in this country, they were not ready to switch

to online learning from face-to-face education.

A lot of it had to do -- As we know,

the inequity that exists in our school systems today,

that a lot of it is determined by the wealth of the community.

So those schools and community that have the resources

and had already equipped their kids for one to one

and had already trained their teachers

and had already had the software,

were able to make the switch fairly quickly.

But in those districts that don't,

districts where the majority of the students

are students of poverty who didn't have the computer,

and many of these students, even if they had the computer,

don't have the Internet connectivity in the house,

well, that became and still is a major problem.

So the switch from face-to-face learning to online learning

has been an issue

and will continue to be an issue for quite a while.

The second concern that our superintendents had was

that a lot of these youngsters --

again, the issue of poverty --

a lot of these youngsters were dependent on the school

in terms of being provided with a breakfast,

a lunch, and a snack.

And what were we going to do to feed those students?

And indeed, school districts immediately jumped on it

and provided -- thanks to the Agriculture Department,

by the way, for so quickly allowing these school

lunches to be served other than in the school cafeteria.

So immediately, locations were identified

where families could come and get those lunches

and that has been going on.

So those two issues were the first issues that developed.

And again, the district moved quickly to deal with it.

The feeding of the students, probably easier

than the online has been.

But as this has progressed to the point of we're seeing

almost every school system in the country shut down,

and many of them now saying that they're going to be shut down

until the end of the school year,

there are other issues that are developing.

One of the main ones that I was just talking

to a group of superintendents this morning

is how to deal with college-bound students

who need to have grades and need to have transcripts

and need to have a diploma to go to higher education.

The assistant secretary of the Army contacted me

and said, "I had thousands of high school students

that have enlisted to join the Army,

but I can't take them unless they have a diploma in hand."

So those issues are issues that districts

are now trying to deal with, how to grade their students.

A lot of the universities are asking for

just a pass as opposed to a grade,

but a lot of states require a grade.

So that's becoming an issue.

And we're almost at the point now

where we're beginning to think ahead --

What are we going to do over the summer?

What are we going to do in September?

And now I'm beginning to hear

from a lot of districts, two states --

Sonja's Maryland being one of them --

where your Secretary of Education,

Superintendent of Education

indicated that you may not be ready to open in the fall.

And the state of Washington has said a similar thing.

So, all of a sudden, we're now cycling

into not just the remainder of this year,

which I think everybody has pretty much agreed this year

is over to the next year.

And will there be a next year?

Those are the big issues.

Now, in terms of your question,

when you consider day-to-day instruction in a classroom

with a live teacher to what's going on now,

I wouldn't go beyond a five,

on average nationwide.

-And I want to come back to this issue in a minute,

of all the kids who are just

completely disconnected because we're hearing a lot

about the online and these things,

but there's a lot of kids who aren't getting

any education at all.

Why don't we say -- Sonja, you want to talk about

how this is being experienced in Baltimore and particularly

some of the steps you immediately took around,

like, you're using public television to deliver ELA

and things like that, and sort of take us

down to the ground and sort of how you're running a large,

complicated urban district.

You all respond to that, what you're thinking about right now.

-Sure. And I think one of the things --

I too want is a thank you. It's great to be on a panel

with such diverse folks and great thinking.

A lot of what has already been said

is also true in Baltimore at scale.

I think what one of the things that Dan just said,

which was true,

is, given the large numbers of students we're talking about,

80,000 in Baltimore City,

and clearly, I have colleagues who serve more.

But the big piece for us was very quickly we went

to "what are some of kind of the essential first steps."

And for us, it was feeding, like you've heard already.

But even a school lunch program that is probably

one of the smoothest operating infrastructure

points within an urban school district

gets taxed when you are talking about

not just feeding children, feeding families.

When you're talking about moving from one meal a day

to now approval from the USDA to get kids four meals a day,

and so, for our community, we knew immediately

that being able to put that in place was essential.

So that was one of our first priorities.

The other piece, which, again, is true, and I think, you know,

Nina even referenced this for the charter school community,

that this is a time

where really thinking about what's happening on the ground,

starting with the use of first and moving backwards versus

starting with the bureaucratic infrastructure and moving out,

I think has benefited us, and very quickly.

I think all schools and education leaders move to this,

and so for us, we knew that our device to student --

as Dan referenced -- our device-to-student ratio

was one to four.

And so we were not going to be able to, with two days notice,

lift to go to one to one.

So we immediately began looking at what are the other options

for communicating across the district.

And so, you know, one of the advantages

of having just adopted new ELA and math curriculum

was we were actually able to partner with Great Minds

and actually stand up fairly quickly with only a week

or two to do so online lessons. We partnered with Great Minds.

They aligned their lessons, and so we have been able,

particularly for our earliest learners

on our pre-K and elementary students,

to use cable television

and to make sure that lessons are up,

families have access to that because we knew we could not

only rely on Chromebooks.

And yes, we are, you know,

we're putting in orders and shifting funds.

But as Dan referenced, you know, we had to prioritize.

So we have been prioritizing our high school students,

particularly our juniors and seniors,

to make sure they have what they need in place for graduation.

But it really has been all hands on deck.

We've partnered with the city in our feeding

so that it's not just the school system and other partners.

So this piece, I think,

has really pushed kind of notions

of traditional ways of delivering instruction

and traditional ways of meeting the needs of kids.

And so we've really had to kind of expand

our universe of of who is helping.

But we know, for example,

that there are large numbers of young people

who we have to connect with in a different way.

And so for some of that, it's, frankly, very low tech.

It's teachers.

You know, we had one of our high school teachers

who posted the first day school was out,

the first day without complete school, posted on Instagram

and got 85% of her high school students

logging in with her because they follow her on Instagram.

And so what we've done

is we've we've used some of those folks

who are far more adept with technology,

with connecting, to then help train their peers.

But, you know, it's been a lift

of how do we narrow the band of young people

who aren't reached and then very quickly come in

to make that personal contact.

-Alright. Thank you. Eva, coming to you.

You run a network of schools across New York City,

which is obviously one of the parts of our country

that's been hardest hit, has more cases,

I think, than any other country right now at this point,

just by itself.

Everywhere I go right now, I guess I should say,

everywhere I go virtually right now,

I hear people talk about Success Academy,

what you guys are doing, and people are like, "Take a look

at what they've done up there." I hear that again and again.

So can you talk about, like, what have you done?

What was the mindset, the approach behind it?

And what specifically did you do to continue education

during this very disruptive time for you all?

-Sure. And so we have 18,000 students,

not quite as many as Sonja has or Dan represents,

but 18,000 students K-12.

The majority of our kids are in elementary

across 45 campuses.

And, you know, our challenges are it's not just disruption,


The communities we serve are the most

impacted by the fatalities.

And so our crisis support has been in quadruple overtime

just to support the deaths that our kids,

unfortunately, are experiencing. So there's that part of it.

But obviously, from a teaching and learning perspective,

you know, what was really important to us in so far

as it was possible is not just to have links for kids,

but really to stand up virtual schools.

We have the benefit that we were largely digital

already -- 4-12 -- even though, you know,

we get less money than our district counterpart,

but we had that investment in the technology.

And so in 4-12, we are doing all of our units

just the way we would do them.

We're doing project-based learning.

We're doing our literacy units, our math units.

K-3 was more challenging

because we don't have a one-to-one.

We soon will, but don't have it yet.

And what we decided to do there was really focus

and prioritize reading and do the conferencing

that we would also do in bricks-and-mortar school.

So, you know, we have a long school day

and we are educating our kids

and we have had some interesting findings

that we're able to do certain things

actually better in this context.

Obviously, we miss hugging the kids.

We miss the community that is formed

when you have your community meeting.

But we are able to take some of our best teachers,

for example, our seventh grade math teacher,

and use that person to do the launch

and the discourse and have our teachers

that are still learning kind of watch that

and spend more time giving students feedback.

And so we've tried as best

we can to make lemonade out of lemons.

-Both Sonja and Eva, how are you finding out?

Can you say a little more, how are you finding out --

what techniques you're using to find out

day to day, week to week? What's working?

What's not working? What's the feedback?

How do you need to change things?

What are you all doing?

-Well, I can say that we are able to sort of parachute

in much more easily than going to 45 campuses.

We are listening to the launch with the younger ones.

We are getting on those phone calls

and FaceTimes to really see,

and our teachers have planning meetings

just the way they would in a bricks-and-mortar school.

We have math planning meetings.

We have literature planning meetings,

science planning meetings. All of that is happening still.

And so we can see the quality of those planning meetings,

so that's what we do at Success.

-So I think with ours,

we're probably still a little earlier,

so a little lower tech in that regard

and what I would say for Andy, one of the benefits of this

has been far tighter adult planning and our iterations --

I was describing it to someone this morning --

our iteration cycles around practice

have become a lot tighter

because we've had to focus on key functions.

So, for example, part of what helped us

set up our cable lessons that we launched this week

was the fact that we got a lot of feedback

from teachers on their packets

they put together before, right, for that first week

when we got word on Thursday that school

would be closed on Monday.

And so some of what we've been doing

is really -- and our chief of schools,

John Davis, has done an amazing job --

is we have much tighter check-in schedules,

one with principals.

And we've really had to lean on some of the infrastructure

we already had put in place for principal meeting

and principal reporting.

And it has made, because the visibility, you know,

because I have gone out, for example,

to feeding sites and laptop distribution sites

to be able to have eyes on the ground,

but I think what we have had to do

is very quickly get feedback from a variety of standpoints

and then turn it around the next,

you know, very quickly. So instead of, you know,

discussions that might have normally taken two months,

they now take two days.

And we've got to make those shifts.

So in our food distribution,

we've iterated our standing operating procedures

probably two or three times as the volume has increased.

The other thing I will say is for some of it, you know,

the very low tech piece is, just for example,

when we check in on kids,

it is saying "This is the number setting the target.

This is the number of times young people

and families need to be touched,

and how successful were you at doing that?"

And then having a system

where we literally get reports from teachers

that then go to principals, that then come to area supes,

and then get aggregated centrally.

Where we can do that with technology, we do.

But where we can't, it's reliant on, you know,

in some cases, phone logs for schools

that are just getting up with that.

So a lot of it has really forced,

I would say, a different kind of planning.

And then, you know, some of the national associations,

you know, it's helpful to get on

with other district leaders

as well as leaders in other sectors.

So that piece also helps shorten the learning cycle.

Because if I can learn from somebody who is two

to three weeks ahead of me,

you know, just hearing Eva talk about being in New York.

Right? That is ahead of a curve

both for COVID as well as implementation.

That's the kind of piece we become far more attuned

to as we put things in place.

Like I just got off a call with Council of Great City

Schools before this,

and Miami-Dade is much further ahead on the curve.

And so a lot of the things we're putting in place,

we're checking with colleagues who are further along the curve.

-And briefly, Sonja, just staying with you,

real briefly for a sec.

One of the complaints we're hearing

in a lot of communities is people are saying

they want to go faster. The schools want to go faster.

The central office is holding them back.

Can you just talk a little bit about,

like, these urban school districts

are like really complicated systems,

so what are some of the constraints

that you all are operating under

they may not be visible to someone --

either a frontline educator

or a parent -- that may not be visible to them

that are sort of constraining you guys

and some of the obstacles you're bumping into?

-Yeah, so some of the constraints, frankly,

are just regulations,

and not that I don't understand.

You know, I've spent time in the policy world.

I understand where regulations come from.

But I'll give you an example, you know, just on feeding alone.

Right? Being able to know on the ground,

we knew day two on the ground that one lunch per child

was not going to work. We knew that when we set out,

just based on being out of school for a week.

But the fact that we had to wait for that release

until we got a sign off -- and let's be clear,

it was a faster sign off

than 85% of the other kind of,

you know, kind of legal or procedural guidance.

So that's kind of one thing.

So, you know, I had people calling me like,

"Look, we can get boxes of food here.

I can get people on the ground there."

And, you know, at some point, you know,

maybe I shouldn't say this on a national call.

At some point, you just make the call and you go and you say,

"I'm going to make up for it later."

And fortunately, we were fortunate

that the federal guidance that came out later

actually matched what we put in place.

So, you know, some of it is making those calls in real time.

I think the other piece is, you know,

we had to make a decision

that good could not be the enemy of perfect.

Right? We knew we were not going to get every family,

every student on day one. But that was not, for me,

the license to say, "We're just going to wait."

Right? So what what we became comfortable with, you know,

very quickly was, you know,

we knew that different schools were in different places.

I had some schools who, day one, were ready to go.

And so, you know, the question became,

how do you balance that knowing you've got one parent

on one side of the district whose school is ready to go.

And you have another parent on another side

of the district whose school isn't ready to go.

And it has required, to be very blunt,

some real flexible thinking on the part of principal

supervisors, and others who are used to having to follow

all of these dots to be able to say,

"I need you to think in the moment,"

like, "I need you to be in tuned and be able to, frankly,

with a different level of decision making."

So we've pushed some boundaries.

I'm fortunate that I land in a place that's okay after.

But, you know, this is one of those times

where a lot of that --

and I don't want to call it bureaucratic red tape,

but, you know, I had principals calling me saying, "Really?

You want us to wait for X and Y?"

And I decide to say, "Go, just go.

We'll cover you. Do what you need to do."

And it's been a lot of that, quite frankly.

-Alright. And that resonates a lot of the incoming requests

we've gotten from school districts

at Bellwether for support have been around stuff

like decision-making protocols,

how to figure out who has decision rights,

how do you get that to happen in a decentralized way.

And often that stuff's held pretty close by superintendents,

and so just processes and so forth, so that resonates.

Dan and Nina, let's talk a little bit about

where we are now going forward.

And I'm really interested in your take

on the CARES Act.

Hard to miss. It was a $2 trillion package,

unprecedented historically.

And yet education was a pretty small slice of that,

despite the role of schools as a social and economic center

in a lot of communities.

Can you talk about why you think schools

weren't more represented in that?

And then what do you want to see in what seems to be

inevitably a future stimulus packages

as this situation wears on?

-Well, let me jump in on that,

because we've been very much involved with that.

We were very disappointed that this last CARES Act

only provided $13.7 billion to education.

Of course, every little bit helps,

but that's nowhere near the amount.

That's because now, along with 12 other national organizations,

we have submitted a proposal to Congress for $200 billion

because that's the amount of money

that schools are going to need as we go forward into next year

to deal with the many cost factors

that have emerged in this process --

from the cleaning of classrooms,

the cleaning of schools,

the feeding of our students above and beyond

just the one lunch a day,

the technology factor, and the ability of districts

to be able to have the technology.

How do we solve the needs of all of those

thousands and thousands of students

who don't have connectivity in their home?

There's a proposal there really to use the E-Rate,

which is very much capable of doing that

with $2 billion.

That was a request that we'd made in the last act,

but was not approved.

So then homes can have that connectivity.

There's the issue of unemployment.

Think about it -- as we go into this next school year

and as we're going to be continuing,

and as I'm sure we probably will,

this online instruction.

Well, what happens to the personnel

that are not directly involved

in working when schools are closed.

How do you want to continue to pay them?

It was interesting that this last act completely overlooked

the needs of government workers and school district employees.

We're taking care of the private sector

in terms of allowances for pay

and allowances for family leave,

but did nothing to deal with the needs

of public school employees, which, by the way,

are the largest employee group in the country.

So there is a lot of need there,

a lot of thinking that has gone on.

We're pushing that $200 billion package

because it's really going to be needed

to deal with all of these issues

that have not been taken care of at this last time.

The other point, if I may add very quickly,

a major concern that has developed right now.

And Sonja can probably give you a ground-level

look at that is the IDEA,

our special needs students.

There isn't a an educator,

a teacher that doesn't want to do

everything for those students that they deserve to have.

But if schools are closed and you have the restrictions

that you now have and you have students

that need the physical presence of a person to work with them,

we can't send the teachers to the home of the students.

And conversely, we can't have

the students coming into the schools

because the schools are supposed to be closed.

So superintendents are acting, and basically we'll be subject

to violation of their civil rights of these students.

The IDEA that is being conformed with

because that's what the law calls for,

even though there's a pandemic going on and all of the issues

that we have in place that prohibit us

from physically doing those things.

So those are two -- -You don't think the guidance

that Secretary DeVos has issued,

is it not giving you all enough cover?

-It provides no cover at all.

It talks about "Do the best that you can."

Well, how do you do the best when you know you can't do it?

It's a problem. And then are you going to be subject to lawsuits?

Are you going to be subject to being out of compliance

because you're not doing what you want to do

because you can't.

-So what specifically do your members

want from the Department on that?

-Flexibility. We want flexibility short-term.

We're not looking for waivers.

We're not looking for anything permanent.

Just short-term flexibility that recognizes the situation

that exists today.

A perfect example, if a student is identified

and there has to be an IEP developed

within a certain period of time,

how can that be done?

No, you can't. It can't be done.

So recognize the realities and give flexibility to do it

after there's the opportunity to do it.

-So if I'm hearing you right, because I think, like, a lot

of the debate you see on social media

around this has been about, like, serving kids.

And people are saying, "Well, there's lots of --

there's online schools that serve special-ed kids."

You're saying it's more about these procedural issues

associated with getting IEP plans

and all the timelines. Is that it?

-Absolutely. Exactly. We're not talking about online.

There's a lot of specialist students

that can be served online

and they are being served online.

But where there are procedures that require physical

involvement and presence, that can't be done.

-Alright. Now, I don't know if you're going to share

your $200 billion with Nina or not, but --

-Yes, we are. Yes, we are.

They're covered. -From the charter side,

what do charters -- what do charters need here?

-So, first of all, I agree to a large extent with Dan

around the need for more resources.

I think this last relief package was seen as a Band-Aid

to stop the bleeding around industries

that were suffering immediately.

The amount that we received

was not as much as we should have received,

but I hope that in the next relief package,

we can definitely bump those numbers up.

Just so folks know what that number is right now

in the current relief package,

It's about 80% of your Title 1 allocation.

So that injection should be helpful,

and again, we need more, but it's not insignificant.

Gosh, you know, the other issue

that I will just raise, I mean, in fairness to the department,

I do think the waivers they put in place in order to get,

you know, tell states to have flexibility around testing

was probably timely.

The application that they've put together is fairly simple.

So, again, they're not doing everything perfectly,

but there are some things that they've done well

that we should recognize.

I also think their website has some pretty valuable resources

that, again,

we don't have a national school board in this country

and a national education system. At times like these,

Some of us wish there was a little bit more centralization,

but absent that, I do think they've done the best

that they can under the current circumstances.

I think the issue with special-ed, quite frankly,

is, you know, a legal issue.

And the special-ed lobby and sector

certainly are one of the constituents

that the department is concerned about

when it comes to offering --

I don't know that waivers is the right term --

but any kind of flexibility.

So we just have to be cognizant of that.

In terms of your question around what the charter sector needs,

I'm glad that Dan is on the record

that he's going to encourage school districts

to share resources with us.

But that's always been the key problem for charter schools.

Charter schools only see about 70 cents of every dollar

that goes to traditional schools.

In some jurisdictions, that number drops

to 40 cents on the dollar.

So the fact that we're not getting our full share

and we're not, in many instances,

operating like a school district

with bond authority and things of that nature

is definitely front and center. So we want to make sure

that we are fully engaged in these discussions

and fighting for the same thing.

I will say on the online instruction and virtual

and remote learning side, E-Rate is really the key thing

that we believe needs to be addressed immediately

so that those who are getting education at home can access it.

And some of the regulations at the FCC are regulations

that need to be lifted,

and those are things that the FCC can do immediately.

And I'm not quite sure why they're waiting for.

-And that seems to be an area where there's agreement

across the education sector. Eva, I see you.

-Yeah, I was just going to jump in

to say that, obviously, Corona is unprecedented.

But I think, Andy, we really need to be thinking about this.

The schools were not in such great shapes before all of this.

And that was not -- that was sort of --

There was disparate impact there on the quality of schooling.

Right? Our most vulnerable children

were struggling to read and do math at grade level, et cetera.

And then you have Corona.

And as Dan mentioned, I am very concerned

that we don't know when getting back to normal.

What? What is that? When is that?

The planning that we need to do

to figure out how to make up for many,

many years of perhaps poor education

and then the loss of learning,

I think that that is going to add to just a very,

very serious educational problem.

And I wouldn't want us so focused on Corona

that we forgot what we had before Corona,

which was a pretty big educational problem. Right?

If you look at the NAEP scores, if you look at internationally,

we were not doing so well before.

And this is just sort of another kick in the gut.

And we're going to have to be imaginative,

even more imaginative than we were before.

How are we going to get out of this?

That worries me greatly.

-Yeah, I mean, Warren Buffett always says about recessions

that it's like -- it's like at the beach

where the tide goes out, you find out

who is swimming naked. And I think, like, you could say

the same thing about the education system.

Like, something -- and the health care system,

for that matter. Like, something like this,

like, reveals, like, all these vulnerabilities

that people who weren't necessarily,

you know, working on them day to day

may not have been aware of. They all become --

All these problems become very apparent.

On that, just picking up on that,

and this is a question to all of you.

One of the audience members has a question that essentially

is that given the unprecedented nature of these times,

the immediate demands on kids for sort of health, connection,

security, SCL, and so forth.

Is this the time education leaders

should be thinking big about, like, redesigning the system

because of all these other things?

Or the person says, "Is this actually the best time?

Because once this passes, we'll go back to business

as usual relatively quickly." You know,

how would you all respond to that?

-Let me say that -- Go ahead, Nina.

I think she's muted.

-Sorry. I was going to give you the floor, Dan,

but I'll go very quickly. Absolutely.

But, you know, I was reflecting back this morning

on the last time there was a big relief package.

This was back when President Obama was in office

and Arne Duncan was the Secretary of Education.

And the amount of energy the department spent

in bringing philanthropy together

to do a whole host of things that,

for better or for worse, were pretty transformative.

I don't see that kind of dialogue currently taking place.

And I think it's definitely time to have that,

especially around the notion of one-to-one learning

and the digital divide

that this crisis has definitely kind of demonstrated

or put to the forefront.

-And I think that this pandemic has exposed,

as Eva mentioned,

the problems with our school systems

and the inequity that exists in our school system.

It's not being addressed and it hasn't been addressed,

and now we see that it needs to be addressed.

The inequity that exists among districts

because of the way we fund education in this country,

that needs to be addressed first and foremost.

But after that,

I don't think we'll ever be back to the way it used to be.

I think we've seen that online learning is the future.

And here we are 20% into the 21st century,

and we're still educating

as if we were back in the 20th century.

This is a time to move into the 21st century aggressively.

So I think that we're going to begin thinking

about the good things that were done during this process

and how they need to be continued,

and then questioning some of the things that we've been doing

all along that we all of a sudden stopped doing.

And guess what? The world didn't end, you know?

The standardized tests that are administered every year

are not being administered this year.

Wow. You know, what's going to be the consequences of that?

Kids that are applying to go into college

and have to have their scores ranked, ordered,

and take all of these tests in order to be admitted,

that's not going to happen this year.

Yet colleges will admit these kids.

So a lot of the things that are going to happen

as a result of what's going on are not necessarily bad

and could be an impetus,

as we think, after this is all over.

And I'm thinking the September of 2021

as the closest thing to normalcy

that we're going to see.

When we get back to that stage,

what are the things that we're going to look at and say,

"You know what?

There are some good things that happened as a result of that.

Those things we ought to keep.

There were some things that we were doing

that we have to question whether we should continue doing."

-So I'm going to combine two questions here.

This a little bit more tactical/ There's a question for you,

Eva, that was about how did Success build teacher staff

scheduling that requires sort of set-upon time,

and how did you balance that with the needs of your teachers?

And then to all of you more generally,

the second question came in, like, "We just watched, in L.A.,

these sort of marathon negotiations around

within the union and the school district,

which looked a lot like the marathon negotiations

between the union and the school district

that happened there even in normal times.

And so the question sort of is that really the best use

of our time and energy right now,

or what needs to happen on the ground

to prioritize the needs of kids immediately?

So one of those is right to you, Eva,

and then the other ones to the three of you.

-Sure. So in terms of standing up a teacher schedule,

you know, we were watching this epidemic from afar,

pandemic from afar,

and we had a little more not lead time by design,

but it seemed pretty clear that we were going to have to close.

And so about two weeks before we did,

we started imagining what would virtual school look like

and how do we have a teacher's schedule.

And we really started to think

about what is the school leader's role

in this new virtual world? What is the teacher's role?

What is the kid's role? What is the parent's role?

And really sketched all that out and designed a schedule

that would optimize all of our constituencies.

And we did that while having a very explicit value system,

which for us is that reading is a priority K-12.

Conceptual math is a priority K-12.

And we took all of our educational values

and we stood them up against a constrained,

remote, virtual school

and we crashed those things together.

And that's what our virtual school looks like.

-Anyone else?

That's a hard pass on the labor union one.


-Okay. Well, I don't think it's just about labor, Andy.

Yes. -Labor and management. Yeah.

-Yeah. I mean, it's, you know,

you're good flame throwers, so that --

I'll take that. But look,

I will say this, and I think this is true across the board,

and people -- I've been asked this question

at least 20 times since this began.

Like, what will be different? How can we change?

And unfortunately, being a student of history

and there's a deliberate reason I'm married to

a glass-half-full kind of guy,

because, you know, I think human nature is human nature.

And we have gone through a whole lot.

And there are still certain things that have not changed.

Right? We've been through world wars.

And, you know, we went from slavery to Jim Crow.

Right? [ Chuckles ]

And so we change for a little bit and then we quickly go back.

I think the hope is, from my standpoint, that the light

that is shown on things that work,

particularly as somebody who serves and walked into

and served large numbers of young people

who are behind already. As Eva said,

this wasn't just something that happened because of COVID-19.

What I am hoping for is that the room in the space

of the suspension of certain interests,

be that union, be that federal, be that state politics

gets suspended long enough for us to get some insight

into where is this acceleration of achievement working.

Right. What are those? What are those methods?

How do we surface those?

And then, too, you know, it might sound too fuzzy

on a call about academic achievement,

but one of the things that we're finding that

I don't think is a surprise

that it doesn't get talked as much about in the day

to day of learning is the number of our young people

who are probably more engaged now

because they have adults actually reaching out to them

who care about where they are, families who are being contacted

in ways that they were never contacted before.

You know, we talked earlier about, you know, the whole IDEA,

and I know that policy-wise,

well, we haven't had a flare up yet

because we actually -- and it was our legal team --

we actually reached out to our special-education advocates

and said, "Work with us through this."

Now, that doesn't mean we're going to, you know,

never have another lawsuit or anything like that.

But I will say the willingness to be creative

when you know everything is not perfect, to me,

is where the pockets of promise are.

And the same is true for our union, like

I'm sure we will continue to have places.

I'm convinced that we disagree, and that's okay.

But I will also say we have been able to partner on things

and turn things around in certain areas

much more quickly than we have before.

So I don't -- look, this country has a long arc,

and we tend to like to institutionalize inequity.

So I'm not holding the big parade yet,

but I do think we have space to to actually scale some things

that that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

-And I think around the country, you're hearing

the kind of stories you're talking about,

about people figure out how to come together to solve as much

as you're hearing about some of the usual stuff flaring up.

Nina, you mentioned philanthropy.

A few people are interested.

How are you all feeling about the response

from philanthropy this time around?

And what would what do you need? And obviously, like,

Eva, you're more adjacent to philanthropy

than some schools.

But from your different perspectives,

are you getting what you need, or what are things

you'd like to see coming out of the philanthropic sector?

-Well, my point earlier was really to the moments in time

where you can bring philanthropy to align with national goals.

If you recall, after 9/11, one of the reasons

No Child Left Behind passed so quickly

was because everyone wanted to come together

and get rid of their differences to do something monumental.

Again, in 2008, after that big package,

you had Race to the Top and those things,

and philanthropy really was involved

in a lot of those discussions. Right now,

I think a lot of what I've seen is definitely a flexibility,

a sense of if you had a programmatic funding stream,

you can use it for general operations purposes.

And there have been some activities around kind

of making Internet

and, you know, computers available to schools.

But I haven't seen anything coordinated national

that brings everything together and connects the dots.

Really, if online learning,

having a Chromebook in every house

is the thing that we need to do,

there are just a lot of dots that need to be connected

at the national level.

So I see pockets of hope

and improvement and flexibility, certainly,

but there hasn't been one coordinated place,

and that's potentially also because

politically, usually, you have a president

or someone like that that brings these things together,

and that hasn't happened.

But let me just say, Silicon Schools

just recently put out a playbook.

I encourage everyone who's listening to this

to please go to their website and take a look at it.

It has a lot of great resources

for those that want to do online learning well,

including school districts, not just charter.

-Let's stay on that for a sec. I'm just curious.

There's a couple of questions that have come in like this.

I'm going to band them together. One was for you, Eva,

explicitly, that says you've been

a thoughtful skeptic of technology.

Has this changed your views?

And I would just put that to everybody.

How has the experience of just the past few weeks changed

your views in any kind of different way -- positively,

negatively -- changed your views

on online learning and technology and education?

-Yeah, I have some sort of strong views on that.

I mean, I don't ever want to be -- even before this,

I never want to be a Luddite.

I think technology can be very powerful and useful.

And I'm very, very grateful that for our fourth

through 12th graders, we had a one-to-one.

But when I was an elected official

and chaired the education committee,

I saw, certainly, the district of the City of New York

spend literally billions of dollars on technology,

and it was not effectively used.

And just because you have a one-to-one does not mean

that you have good curriculum, et cetera.

And if there was only one thing I could do as a school leader,

I couldn't do anything other than one thing,

it would be reading,

and books online are incredibly cheap.

And sometimes we don't do the cheap things first.

We do the fancy high-tech things.

And then we don't have kids reading.

What I love about Audible books or online books

is listening to books, even if you cannot read,

that has profound educational advantages.

And yet we're not resourceful in this country

in taking advantage of the libraries in this country

that have free online resources.

And part of the reason we're not able to take advantage

is not a technological one. It goes back to something

Sonja said about a culture of achievement.

You have to have a culture of attendance,

a culture of achievement.

Otherwise, the resources are not going to be fully utilized.

And I think we -- long before Corona,

we didn't invest enough in that culture

to take advantage of the resources.

-Others -- and I know several of you have seen this

from you've worked on the publishing or the vendor side

on this, you worked in schools,

as this experience changed, how you --

Dan, Nina, Sonja -- how you think about

education technology?

-Well, I have to tell you that I'm very impressed and grateful

for how many of our our companies have stepped up.

Our publishing companies,

our software companies have all stepped up and

and basically made their products available for free.

A lot of the online programs are available for free.

So districts have been able to take advantage of that right now

and use that material without having to worry

about the cost of purchasing, et cetera.

And again, a lot of our foundations

have donated millions of dollars to provide computers

for the kids that need them and do a lot of these things.

So it's impressive the way that people have stepped up

to help in this factor.

Let me just take the opportunity at this point

to thank all of our educators, to thank all of our teachers,

to thank all of you that are in this school,

Sonja and Eva --

Nina, you and I are out in left field --

for the great work that you're all doing.

And everything that we can do to support your efforts

is terrific. We're proud of the work that you all do.

-With these adjustments that are being made

from the pandemic, so a number of things,

like the way education is being delivered,

changes in flexibility in operations within districts,

all these different things. How likely do you all think

these will be to become permanent features of education?

And how likely do you think we'll just kind of go back

to organization business as it was,

whether it's 2020 or 2021

when things get back to normal?

How will this change us or how will it not?

-Well, Andy, to Eva's point,

I agree that technology is not the end-all, be-all solution,

and there are some districts

that are doing remote learning without technology.

So it's not just about the hardware,

but the mechanism you have through which to communicate,

whether it's through PBS or some other mechanism

where your teachers are calling you at home

directly to see if you're doing certain things.

I do think, though,

that the whole discussion of distance learning

and seat time, I do hope that a lot of states

will look to a state like New Hampshire

or to a school system like Miami-Dade's

a little bit more carefully

because they have had these built-in structures

that just make it easier to react to this.

We all know, and I've heard this before,

and this pandemic may kind of slow down this summer,

but it's likely to pick back up and you do want to be ready.

I do think the fact that this is front and center

is definitely an incentive for people to act quickly.

So I'm optimistic, but the fact that every state

is going to have to make their decision on their own

is going to be a kind of a stumbling block here

because a lot of these legislatures have also gone home

and it's unclear when they're going to come back

and if this is going to be ready for them to consider

when they're back, if the advocacy community is ready

to push some of these things forward.

-Sonja, how do you think, in terms of what you're doing

in Baltimore, how much this is going to stick?

Oh, sorry, Nina.

-The one thing I'll just say is

some of the waivers around testing,

I hope those don't stay in place.

I mean, you know, to the extent we've given states a pass

on annual testing and all that.

Those are the waivers and things

that I hope will go back into place quickly.

-Dan, was that a thumbs up on that

or you just touching

your face like none of us are supposed to?

-I was just touching my face, but definitely not a thumbs up.

-Sonja, in Baltimore, like, how do you, I mean,

how do you think this is going to change

and sort of you being this representative

of an urban district, how is this going to --

Are these changes going to stick and change how you do things

when things come back to "normal" or not?

-No, I think some of them will.

And some of that is because our families are now

having a different set of experiences. Right?

So previously, I think related

to what Eva said, we were focused

on how do we get reading instruction right.

Right? Like, that was our focus.

It wasn't how do we buy laptops for every student?

But I will tell you, our families

are now feeling a divide that was kind of distant.

It was, you know, "We know some folks over here

somewhere have access to something that we don't."

And now it has come front and center.

And so I do think it is going to shift community expectations

about access to technology

in ways that were not front and center

in a lot of urban school districts.

Again, and, you know, I'm glad that we're shouting out

my colleague in Miami-Dade

because I do think they've done some great work on this.

But the large number of my colleagues,

and I'm sure Dan has this for non-large

urban school districts, I sit and hear

my rural colleagues in the state of Maryland,

and they're saying something similar, like, "This divide,

families are feeling it."

And I think their expectation level,

which I encourage, is at a different place.

That being said, having three daughters myself

with three very different online experiences,

I can tell you that nothing is going to take the place

of the quality of interaction,

of questioning, of how rigorous the content is.

If it is online busy work, if it is a Google classroom

only to cue into,

you know, some kind of low-level engagement,

then it's going to go by the wayside.

I think what we're seeing, though, and I say this often,

it should not be that with certain communities,

we make a choice of either-or.

So I resist and reject

every kind of "Do we do technology or do

we do high-quality instruction?" It's a both-and.

And so for me, it is both of that.

But I will say, you know, again, three daughters,

three very different experiences with distance learning,

as they are in three different schools,

and I will tell you, the technology is fabulous,

but if you do not have a skilled educator

who understands how to use it and knows their content deeply,

keep your Chromebook

and give me the high-quality teacher any day of the week.

So we're going to have to -- we're going to have to have

a both-and discussion, not an either-or.

-So staying on that, and not to end on a down note,

but I think this is a big piece of the challenge.

So, some kids are engaging in online in different ways.

We've been talking about that.

Some districts are doing

sort of very creative things with distance.

But a lot of kids were sent home

with either nothing or with packets and so forth

that are wildly inadequate to the amount of learning loss

that they could experience over this time,

particularly the most marginalized kids.

So can you all talk about sort of going forward,

what are some of the steps that you want to see taken either

by the public sector, the government, philanthropy,

to address that, which seems to be sort of an emerging

and, you know, fairly serious,

if not catastrophic situation for a lot of families?

-Well, I think, first and foremost,

we've addressed this a number of times, is with the inequity.

You can't talk about online learning to people

who don't have the connectivity and don't have the laptop.

So you have to have the laptop and you have the connectivity

in order for these things to take place,

and that's a big miss right now.

That's going to have to be corrected

if we're going to be continuing with this coming school year.

-But do you see that getting corrected, like, in time,

even for, like, the summer, let alone, like, the rest --

the end of the school year?

So my question is a little bit more like, what do we do?

I think everybody on the panels would all agree,

and I would agree, that we need to address

the digital divide and broadband access.

But, like, that's going to take some time.

Like, what immediately do we need to be doing to make sure

that more kids are staying connected to school?

-So we are -- If we had been thinking probably since week

two concurrently about what I've called educational recovery

as much as,

you know, whatever we call this current state of COVID-19,

and part of what we are beginning

to have conversations with,

and I would say some of our best philanthropic partners

are those who are willing to hear from the ground,

not kind of staying with their predetermined

educational pet project,

but the ones who have been alongside us

and thinking we are saying, "Okay.

Is this the time to really think of time

differently in school structurally?"

How are we actually taking

two of our best high school principals

who figured out in a matter of days

how to individualize student needs,

prioritize those at a high school level

in ways we hadn't done before,

and actually use that then to feed information

for which students get targeted support?

How do we --

I'm fascinated by how Eva and her team are working on this,

taking the best teachers, the most successful teachers,

and putting them in front of kids who need it most.

We've talked about, "Is there a way

to do that through technology now

so that we are accelerating the learning faster?"

Because we do know, even in a district of 80,000 kids,

we know, based on our data, who our teachers are

that are getting two, three years worth of gains

in one year, and how do we expand

student exposure to that?

So, for us, our education recovery plan

really began very shortly

after this whole thing started to blow

because we knew the kids that are now a year or two behind

are going to quickly become kids who are three years behind

if we don't begin really putting in place

some of the best acceleration success

we have, and quite frankly,

it is political to have the best teacher

teach the lowest kids across 160 schools.

Like, the Ed Trust research was really clear that,

you know, achievement gaps or access

to quality teaching is larger within classes in a school

than it is actually between schools.

And so how do we begin pushing on some of those things,

but we actually have begun planning for that recovery stage

because it's inevitable.

-Andy, I apologize, but I'm going to have to leave.

I'm already like six minutes late for another webinar.

We started late. We ran over.

Actually, I think that is is a good place to end it.

I guess we can't have, like, virtual applause,

but I suspect everybody would applaud you,

and on behalf of Bellwether,

I want to thank you all so much for your time.

Contributing what you're learning, what you're doing,

and what you're seeing more generally.

So thank you all very much,

and please keep up the good work.

-Thank you. Bye, everybody.

The Description of What’s Happening, What’s Next: COVID-19 Lessons and What School Leaders Need Now