What prepared some schools and districts to pivot effectively when COVID struck? What were the capacities, conditions, and pedagogical hallmarks that enabled them to adapt? NGLC and partners are finding out.

The public narrative about public schools and COVID does not often reflect the hard work and extraordinary flexibility demonstrated by so many schools and districts during these times. Districts and schools that seized the moment and moved to even more project-based learning. Districts that doubled-down in their virtual instruction to emphasize the competencies and outcomes stated in their graduate profiles. Schools that "didn't skip a beat" with their learning and support when buildings closed.

WMTSP markThe Project

Answering a Critical Question through Qualitative Research: The pandemic has challenged all schools and districts to exhibit many of the attributes that define the missions (and visions for student success) of next gen learning schools and districts: resilience, adaptability, complex problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, effective communication.

Using a survey and interviews, the project seeks to answer these questions:

  • Among those schools/districts that genuinely reflect these attributes in their learning models and in their professional cultures and operating habits, have they been better able to respond to COVID-19 challenges?
  • If so, what were the most important capacities, conditions, and cultural or pedagogical hallmarks that enabled them to adapt so well?
  • What does that look like in practice—and how can the many thousands of other schools and districts in the U.S. benefit from what they have learned?

Whatever it was that enabled some districts and schools to rise and meet the pandemic with resilience and adaptive creativity: that’s what every student in the U.S. needs to be experiencing every day.

What We Are Learning

We invite you to learn with us from over 70 participating schools and districts. Starting in August 2021, we are sharing findings in a blog series, to be followed by a final report.

middle schooler in maskThis Epiphany Changed These Schools and Districts and the Lives of the Families They Serve. It Could Do the Same for You. by Emily Liebtag, Education Reimagined, and Andy Calkins, NGLC. Is your school or district truly living your graduate profile? Among students and adults? If not: shouldn’t it? The stories of these schools’ response to COVID vividly demonstrate why.

teachers hands all inPrepare for What Comes Next: 3 Essential Factors of a School's Successful COVID Response by Elina Alayeva, Springpoint. Distributive leadership, a collaborative culture, and student voice can keep students engaged and learning, even in the most challenging of times.

educators in libraryClear Values, Compassionate Leadership, and a Can-Do Attitude by John Watkins and Kim Frumin, Deeper Learning Dozen. These districts faced the complex challenges of the pandemic with a human-centered approach that allowed their response to be nimble and agile.

teacher joyAdult Learning Culture: An Underrated Ingredient for Success in Uncertain Times by Chelsea Waite, Christensen Institute, and Beth Rabbitt, The Learning Accelerator. Three next gen schools demonstrate why it's so important to invest in adults to build a learning culture that's strong enough to weather any storm.

home visit with studentThree Schools that Found the COVID-19 Pandemic to Be “Business as Usual” by Alin Bennett, Lindsy Ogawa, and Paul Haluszczak, Education Reimagined. During the pandemic, three learner-centered environments doubled down on what they were already up to: providing learner-centered experiences focused on relationships and the conditions for each child to thrive.

2 remote learning students collaborateHow Two Schools Went Remote but Stayed Connected by Elina Alayeva, Springpoint. Systems and practices that prioritized relationship-building with students and staff helped these schools stay on-mission and keep students healthy, engaged, and learning during the pandemic.


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The Partners

With funding from the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, eight partners joined Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) in the project, which runs from January through December 2021.

We all share a premise: that schools/districts that had fully committed to deeper, student-centered, personalized, next gen learning before the pandemic should have been able to capably pivot to high-quality, equitable online/hybrid learning during COVID. Their learning models and their professional structures and cultures are designed to value adaptive problem-solving, agency, resilience, and self-direction. This project will answer if those attributes did help schools and districts to respond effectively.

2Revolutions | Christensen Institute | CityYear | Deeper Learning Dozen |
Education Reimagined | LEAP Innovations | Springpoint | The Learning Accelerator

Prepared Research Project Partners

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