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Ponce: Amid new data on how students have been hit by the pandemic, 4 things LA schools should do next

Ana Ponce | November 30, 2022

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Last month, California released long held student data. And while standardized test scores don’t tell us everything, they do provide an important touchpoint to hold our school districts accountable for delivering an equitable and excellent education for all students. 

Here are four things our school system should do with this new 2021-22 school-level data:

Re-engage families

The first — and perhaps most critical — is engaging families as co-educators in their students’ learning experiences. 

Families are uniquely equipped to give educators context and insight into their children’s everyday lives as well as help educators create school environments that deliver on the specific needs of their students. By listening to families and supporting them in understanding the data, schools can provide the targeted resources students need to be successful. School districts should evaluate how they are engaging families with their school level data.

More equitable funding 

Second is using data to inform funding for equity and not parity. 

Funding for equity means a drastic shift in how we distribute classroom resources. As this school level data will undoubtedly show, providing every school with the same resources just doesn’t work. We know different schools have different proficiency levels and will need differentiated supports based on their individual starting line. For instance, national trends show that students who were below grade level before the pandemic are recovering at a much lower rate than their peers who were proficient pre-pandemic. Schools need the flexibility to leverage funding to address the specific needs their data is showing. As school districts move forward, they should be asking, how are we building a better public school system that is responsive to the data?

Learning beyond the classroom

Third, schools should use this data to guide out-of-school learning time. 

In addition to their regular classroom time, students need more time and differentiated support to recover or sustain academic progress, whether that is a longer school year, after school or over the summer. Districts should use the school-level data to ground out-of-school planning in the most up-to-date information and to close learning gaps by offering innovative and exciting models of learning. 

Rethink the school day

Finally, we have to use data to explore how schooling could and should be different. 

While the workplace, disease management, and so many other sectors have forever been changed by the pandemic, schools in California went right back to the pre-pandemic status quo. When this newest set of data is finally released, our response should not be to meet these challenges with the same remedies we’ve used for decades to little avail. 

Instead, districts should take this moment to rethink how they are using facilities, incorporating technology, and structuring school day to inspire joy of learning and maximize learning outcomes for all students.

We must reject the inclination to engage with this data as we always have. Students of color and those living in poverty — the students most impacted by the pandemic — need more from us. We must seize this opportunity to finally deliver on the responsive, innovative, and equitable schools that all students deserve.

Ana Ponce is the executive director of GPSN, an education grantmaking nonprofit in Los Angeles. 

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