Reader's Guide / In Recovery, a New Start for Schools - ASCD
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September 1, 2021

Reader's Guide / In Recovery, a New Start for Schools

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If there’s one thing everyone in education can agree on, it’s that the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound implications for schools. Among other things, it has exposed and intensified deep systemic inequities, and it has left many students and teachers struggling with the effects of stress, trauma, and disrupted routines. At the same time, it has opened up potential new pathways for teaching and learning, and it has brought much-needed attention to the role of schools as social-service providers and connectors. It has also illuminated the ingenuity and resiliency of educators, students, and families.

All this has created a strong sense of urgency around this school year, as schools seek to regroup and heal from a year and a half of pandemic-clouded conditions. For many educators, a big part of that urgency is a recognized need for deep-seated change—not just from the makeshift approaches of the past year but also from the ways schools have historically operated. As U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says in our interview with him, “If our goal is simply to go back to where we were before March 2020, we’ll miss the chance to forge opportunity and needed progress from this crisis. We must rethink how we’re engaging with students, families, and ­communities."

In some ways, this issue of ­Educational Leadership can be seen as an extended follow-up to that statement. It takes a broad and strategic look at what’s important in education now and what’s next, exploring how schools and educators can work differently, in light of all that’s transpired and all we’ve learned, to better serve students in this pivotal school year and beyond.

Accordingly, the articles address a range of interrelated topics. Several of them focus on technology or systems change. They look at how schools’ recent experiences with remote learning and asynchronous learning, for example, might foster needed structural and curricular transformations—and, significantly, where they fell short. Other pieces shed new light on specific instructional approaches, such as differentiation, personalization, and inquiry-based instruction, that have gained heightened attention as learning-recovery solutions. Still others offer tips and reflections on strengthening social-emotional learning and ­relationship-building as schools reopen.

For all their differences, however, the articles have many things in common. The most critical of these is an emphasis on the importance of attending closely to students’ needs—that is, of becoming less bound by convention and more boldly student-centered. In his article, Tom Vander Ark quotes a superintendent on the chief lesson from the ­pandemic: “Always keep the needs of learners at the center of all decisions and actions. Never allow anything to be an excuse for why we cannot give learners what they need." In different ways, that sentiment is echoed throughout this issue. Acting on it, as our authors make clear, will require ingenuity, attentiveness, ­collaboration, and—perhaps most of all—empathy.


Whether you are reading this in print or online, you may have noticed that ASCD has a different look—­exemplified by a new logo, a new typography, and a new website. These changes, however, are more than skin-deep. Over the past year, we have taken a hard look organizationally at who we are and who we need to be to support educators in a rapidly changing world. This has resulted in significant changes intended to help us foster greater professional community, deepen and better align content, and provide more paths for educators to find the information and resources they need, when they need them. Most of all, as we hope this issue of Educational Leadership attests, we aim to better support you in your growth as a passionate, life-changing educator.

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