The closing of schools across the U.S. has been a disaster for most students, families and teachers. But in some places, educators are making things work, and even finding ideas that could outlast the pandemic and transform schooling for the better. 

Over the past few months, The Seattle Times Education Lab has partnered with reporters at AL.com, The Dallas Morning News, Fresno Bee, Christian Science Monitor and The Hechinger Report, with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, to produce “Learning from Lockdown”— a series of solutions-oriented stories about promising education practices.

Earlier this year, The Seattle Times reported on how a strategy called acceleration is moving all children ahead in the Highline School District, and took a look at a learning center created by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Port Angeles School District. (The Highline story can be found at st.news/highline and the learning center story at st.news/learningcenter.)

Today, as part of the collaboration, we are printing a story by The Hechinger Report — a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education — that looks at how schooling may change forever even after the pandemic ends. You can read the rest of the stories produced by the collaboration by following these links:

Lessons from a virtual school in Texas

The Dallas Morning News

When campuses suddenly began shutting down last March, Texas school administrators scrambled to figure out how they could educate the state’s 5.4 million students without seeing them in person. There weren’t many examples of high-performing virtual campuses to look to for inspiration or best practices.

But at one virtual school, iUniversity Prep, students routinely outperform the rest of Texas on state exams, recorded perfect attendance and excelled in advanced academic courses. It’s one of the state’s only virtual schools operated by a traditional district. The campus is also different as it was designed as a magnet school with admission requirements for students. These students tend to be self-motivated, seeking out virtual education to accommodate their commitments outside of class, ranging from intense athletic schedules to erratic acting gigs.

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Read the full story: www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2021/03/16/learning-from-lockdown-what-a-texas-school-district-can-teach-others-about-virtual-education/

Segmenting remote and in-person teaching duties in Alabama 

AL.com

It’s no secret that many families have struggled to manage the additional supervision, internet access and electronic devices needed to effectively learn at home. Teachers — many of whom had little experience teaching remotely — have struggled, too.

At least two Alabama school districts considered how hard double duty could be and segmented their teachers, who were given the option to either teach remote students or in-person students. Not both.

A year later, the school districts, Baldwin and Talladega counties, say the decision to segment teachers was the right one. Lessons learned could help other districts grappling with teacher shortages and poor morale after a year of pandemic learning.

Read the full story: www.al.com/news/2021/03/as-teacher-morale-hit-bottom-these-alabama-districts-looked-for-ways-to-ease-workload.html

The upsides of remote learning

The Christian Science Monitor

Resilience is more necessary than usual as districts in cities from Los Angeles to Detroit face decisions about whether to reopen or continue teaching remotely. For months, distance learning has tested the mettle of families and school staff alike.

Despite the challenges, educators, parents and students report silver linings: Some learners are thriving online.

For these students, remote models have meant more independence to work at their own pace, flexible formats for learning differences, or relief from social stressors. While research on student achievement since last March is limited, there is anecdotal evidence of remote learning success.

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Read the full story: https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2021/0121/Meet-the-students-who-say-remote-learning-works-just-fine

Solving chronic problems of quality and equity

The Christian Science Monitor

Though virtual challenges remain — like teacher burnout and learning loss — some districts are pinpointing remote practices worth keeping. Sifting out solutions from the struggle may help solve chronic problems of quality and equity, say education experts.

“After a moment of disruption — of major disruption — the conditions are ripe for accelerating innovation,” says Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. “We are in that moment now in education.” 

Hints of a remote learning legacy are emerging. The digital pivot made some districts solve preexisting tech gaps. Educators explored new social-emotional supports with heightened attention to mental health. And parents have transformed into stronger collaborators in their children’s learning.

Read the full story: www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2021/0316/The-pandemic-s-remote-learning-legacy-A-lot-worth-keeping

The tutoring revolution

The Christian Science Monitor

As the United States and its schools enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers, educators and families are struggling to address everything from learning loss among K-12 students to new pressures befalling the country’s nearly 7 million adult learners. Increasingly, they are narrowing in on an old, but potentially now groundbreaking, intervention: tutoring. 

There is a bipartisan push for expanding tutoring in schools, whether through a new national “tutoring corps,” a constellation of innovative initiatives such as the free global platform schoolhouse.world, or some combination of both.

Read the full story: https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2021/0316/The-tutoring-revolution-How-it-could-transform-education