Ensuring Equitable Pathways for Students Amid the Coronavirus
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in significant issues to the American high school curriculum, leading to the closure of schools for the remaining part of last year. Besides, the pandemic created a new norm for learners across the globe. Coronavirus pandemic impacted the high school class of 2020 regarding studies, graduation, and post-high school enrollment. To assist families and high school learners in navigating this new reality better, it is crucial for all districts and states to provide an easily accessible and clear guide to help learners prepare for their post-high school pathway.
Despite the scramble of districts and states to assist learners remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, the findings of CAP indicate that there are presently no adequate established practices and policies concerning how high school learners would continue to learn, graduate, then move to university, college, work, or military. Regrettably, these guidance gaps would disproportionately impact marginalized communities like learners with disabilities, English language students, first-generation college students, and learners from low-income families.
Make Sure that High School Students Continue With their Studies
Despite the closure of schools, high school learners must continue with their studies so as to follow the post-high school pathway of their choice. According to the analysis of the author, 42 states in the U.S. provide specific guidance on continuous education, but more learners might fit if states mandate that the plans attain minimum guidelines.
States like Washington, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Alabama offer guidance to districts to develop and implement plans that have different learning choices to ensure continuous instruction. All these states recommend that districts provide multiple high school curriculum delivery choices; provide specific resources for English language students and learners with disabilities; offer guidance on continuous communication with families, and utilize established remote service providers to ensure learner privacy.
The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) mandates that all districts submit an academic continuity plan which meets specific guidelines. Notably, the plan makes sure that local education agencies utilize vetted outside resources or accessible state resources for remote curriculum delivery. Moreover, districts require the accreditation of other instruction options, that is, assessment options, content delivery, and content differentiation, and make sure that technical support is accessible to families and students. Also, ALSDE recommends that high school learners continue to get weighted credits for dual enrollment programs, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced Placement in the event they are not in the position of taking relevant assessments.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington outlines the chances of increasing student voice in learners’ “High School and Beyond Plans.” Notably, these plans are crafted as early as the eighth grade and assist high school learning in mapping out necessary credits and courses so that they can attain their learning goals. The resource provides instructors customizable fewer plans on career exploration, lists online platforms for students to learn about available career choices, and motivates teachers to assist learners in adjusting their goals when relevant.
Localities and three states provide guidance in order to promote continuity of learning. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recommends districts and instructors consider “equity of access and support” for all learners prior to the introduction of new instructions, particularly at the high school level. Washington motivates teachers to implement strategies for emotional and social learning in order to support learners together with their families for continuous learning.
Ensuring Equity with Resources for Marginalized Learners
It is important that education plans address how to serve learners with extra requirements like English language students and learners with disabilities. Presently, each state has guidelines that are readily available to the public in an online location in regard to learners with disabilities. Notably, 16 states do not have the same guideline for English language students. Nevertheless, states like Massachusetts and Oklahoma provide nuanced examples that are beneficial to these learners.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education issues a resource regarding special education, which stipulates that districts require to design flexible instruction with learners at the center to ensure access and equity. Besides, the department recommends districts establish and maintain regular communication with parents as well as adjusting individual education plans objectives to be realistic but still make sure that students are progressing well.
The Massachusetts DESE develops for teachers and families to assist their English language students and a list of digital learning resources in assisting learners in listening, writing, and speaking English. Besides, the resources recommend instructors to uphold flexible pacing so as to integrate learning styles of students, employ many activities to increase the engagement of learners, implement various strategies for learners to practice English like journaling and role-playing.
Offer Clear, Accessible, and Equitable High School Graduation Requirements
Despite the uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, high school learners require to equip themselves fully for their future life. To accomplish this, districts and states provide easily accessible and clear guidelines regarding the requirements of graduations – as well as credit and coursework requirements – to enable learners to obtain their high school diplomas. Presently, 34 states do not have easily available graduation guidelines for learners who are off track due to Coronavirus. Particularly, off-track learners comprise of high school seniors without sufficient credits for graduation prior to Covid-19 and might have attained those credits during summer.
States should learn from Louisiana and Hawaii, which have issued guidelines regarding graduation requirements to ease the transition of students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Resources issued by the state consist of clarity on the graduation requirements that can be and can’t be waived, specific methods to assist off-track learners for graduations, guidelines to districts for learners who were on track to graduate prior to the pandemic, and grading suggestions.
Guidance regarding graduation requirements is detailed when it provides nuanced strategies for learning in various learning circumstances. For learners about to graduate, Washington’s Highline Public Schools outlines a strategy – as well as a script – for counselors to contact learners and make sure that they are on track. This requires counselors to check the emotional and physical wellness of students, the evolution of graduation requirements, and academic progress.
Hawaii outlines the graduation eligibility of students on the basis of four bands: Learners who might only be on track with summer school; learners with potential to be on track in the fourth quarter; learners on track to attain their diploma; and learners who have been on track from the first semester and those who want to work directly with their teachers. These four bands assist in sorting students and prioritize assisting those in need to make sure that learners are ready for their graduation.
Likewise, Louisiana offers guidelines for schools to assist learners in meeting credit requirements for their graduation. The differing choices consist of work-based learning, portfolios, project-based learning, written work packets, and online coursework. These opportunities enable learners to develop proficiency in various ways so as to accommodate for changing internet accessibility as well as a differing form of instructions.
As states provide guidelines for learners who are off track for graduation, nevertheless, they have to make sure that students do not face needless barriers to finish their high school credentials. To make sure that cost is not an obstacle, West Virginia announced that all schools would waive fees for online credit recovery and online summer school.
Facilitate and Clarify High School Pathways to College Enrollment
After attaining all their graduation requirements, students require guidance regarding how they can complete their high school pathways into postsecondary choices like career and technical education (CTE), dual enrollment, and the same guidelines regarding transitioning into college enrollment and military. An analysis by CAP shows that 23 states do not have publicly accessible guidelines accessible in an online location. 23 states offer no guidance for double enrollment. Nevertheless, for more conventional post-high school pathways like a four-year institution and community college enrollment, many states leave guidance to the pleasure of higher learning.
Among states that provide guidance on career and technical education and dual enrollment, there is an explicit language that describes how learners finish these programs. For instance, West Virginia eliminated the definition of “CTE completer” in the school year of 2019-2020, moved its advanced career learning course delivery to virtual platforms to enable learners to continue learning, issued guidance for licensed practical nursing programs, and made the assessment of career skills optional. Students in Louisiana can obtain dual enrollment credit through virtual learning or allow learners to withdraw from courses without penalties.
Despite the novel coronavirus, districts and states can make sure that high school education, graduation requirements, and the transition of students into post-high school pathways are equitable. With adequate planning – as illustrated by districts and states mentioned above – students can thrive and persist without sacrificing educational quality or delaying their tomorrow.
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