A Framework and Resources for Measuring Student Needs and Development During Remote and Blended Learning
The abrupt shift to remote learning in the spring of 2020 coupled with existing systemic inequities and varied access to technology led to inconsistent, and in some cases nonexistent, contact between students and schools. As a result, many schools had a limited understanding of the needs and development of individual students, and districts and the State had an incomplete picture of the conditions of their constituencies. As Illinois moves forward through the crisis over the course of the 2020 – 2021 school year, educators and system leaders have the opportunity to design stronger information gathering systems for measuring engagement, social-emotional and physical needs, and academic progress to adapt to the new contexts of remote and blended learning so that they are better able to make informed decisions to support student needs.
Representatives from Illinois schools and districts indicated that it would be helpful to have a tool to guide the development of their information gathering systems in remote and blended learning and to reference successful models and useful research. This framework organizes the types of information pertaining to student needs and development into three overarching categories:
- Social-Emotional and Physical Needs
- Academic Progress
Each category includes a number of subcategories where we describe (i) teacher and administrator insights relating to remote learning and information collection; (ii) promising practices from across Illinois and the nation; and (iii) exemplars, resources, and research from national and state sources to inform strategies for information collection. (Note: The resources were identified through EdSystems’ research and recommendations from teachers and administrators. Their inclusion in this framework should not be viewed as an endorsement by the P-20 Council or the State.) In some areas, recommendations for additional projects or State-level resources are identified.
The framework’s organization of categories and subcategories can help districts and schools to self-assess their information collection and reporting approaches as continued shifts between in-person and remote instruction are necessary over the course of this school year. The promising practices and resources can help to guide action as part of a continuous improvement process.
Since COVID-19 and school disruptions exacerbated long-standing inequities, information gathering systems should capture differences in need and development by race/ethnicity, income level, English learner status, and diverse learner status so that resources can be directed appropriately. Sharing applicable information with families and communities will provide transparency and promote the trust and collaboration which will be necessary to provide each child with a quality educational experience during the unprecedented nature of this school year, and also can serve to strengthen communication into future years. While information is crucial to capture the magnitude of the impact of the crisis for resource allocation and policy making, any reporting should make clear that areas of need or deficiencies caused by the pandemic-related school disruption should not be attributed to a single cause.
This framework and associated resources were developed over the course of several weeks as the 2020-2021 school year in Illinois began, with districts in a variety of modes including all in-person instruction, all remote instruction, hybrid models, and various combinations of all three. Education Systems Center at NIU (EdSystems) facilitated meetings of a working group of the Illinois P-20 Data, Assessment, and Accountability Committee to define the project and refine the categories of inquiry. Concurrently, EdSystems reviewed available research, expert recommendations, best practices, and current requirements from Illinois and across the country regarding data and information collection and instructional models in the context of previous and ongoing school disruptions, with particular attention to issues of equity. After a succession of focus groups and roundtables with teachers and administrators with diverse experiences from a variety of settings, draft findings were brought before the full Data, Assessment, and Accountability Committee for input and thought partnership. A draft framework was presented to the working group for further refinement and finalization.