Charm City Leaders Adapt as They Tackle Equity Gaps: Lessons from Baltimore City Public Schools’ COVID-19 Response Spring 2020

Baltimore City Public Schools

A long-suffering district in a long-suffering city has its fragile progress threatened by the virus amid a mounting reckoning with race and inequality. Rather than succumb to the threat or try to wrest control from a decentralized system, leaders moved boldly and swiftly to control what they could (food, devices) and became an organization set on learning and adapting quickly.

Key lessons:

  • Online instruction can give district leaders new visibility into the variation in teaching quality and what’s taught. Districts should try to expose as many students as possible to the best teachers and courses.
  • Social supports, including those offered by community schools, can help form connections with families and remove barriers to learning.
  • In a crisis, decentralized districts can benefit from centralization in some key areas, including communication, expectation-setting, and curriculum quality. 
  • It pays to review data and feedback from parents, teachers, and students, and make necessary course corrections.