As schools quickly moved to remote learning early in the COVID-19 pandemic, districts across the United States struggled to create the conditions that students needed to succeed in this new learning environment. FHI 360, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addressed this need by creating a robust, vetted and research-based guide of strategies and resources for secondary school instructional leaders.
The project began with a review of the emerging body of literature directly focused on education in grades 6-12 during the pandemic. FHI 360 sought sources that addressed the unique challenges that schools with Black, Latinx and low-income students faced, particularly the need to balance teacher support and coaching with the immediacy of student and family needs. We held virtual focus groups with teachers, principals and district administrators. In partnership with Results Lab, we also surveyed teachers and administrators across the country.
The researchers asked questions such as:
- How can we get and keep students engaged?
- How can we support social-emotional learning?
- How can we make sure materials are relevant?
- How can we balance rigor with compassion and individualization?
- How can we address students’ specific needs?
- How can we support families?
In addition to any learning loss that may have resulted from the disruptions in schooling, students experienced other challenges during the pandemic. Many lost friends and family, and others struggled with depression and anxiety. FHI 360 created an online guide to present the data and strategies that came from the research and continues to update the guide to help educators nurture students’ confidence, competence, connections, character and compassion in in-person, hybrid or remote classrooms.