Promising Practices Emerge from Expert Peer Review of District Reopening Plans

Brief for Download

As school districts across the country braced themselves for the immensely complicated task of preparing reopening and recovery plans amid a global pandemic, CRPE and the Collaborative for Student Success convened experts in emergency planning, health and safety, parent and family advocacy, special education, and school district and state leadership to review school districts’ plans to educate students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This brief presents practices that the review panel identified as particularly strong and replicable. We hope that by highlighting promising practices early in the new school year, other district and state leaders may have an opportunity to identify and reproduce those that best serve their needs and help foster an environment where teachers and students can succeed.

Over 100 districts were considered and 20 were selected for panelist review based on their level of comprehension, geographic representation, and variation in size. Using a rubric designed by the Collaborative and CRPE to support district officials, panelists reviewed reopening plans, as well as online communications and resources.

About the Expert Panel

In June, the Collaborative for Student Success (CSS) and CRPE released a planning tool and launched a national call for peer reviewers to analyze school district response plans to COVID-19.  

After receiving applications from more than half of the states, we selected 16 distinguished individuals from diverse backgrounds, including parent and community advocacy, education, and public health, to serve as our peer reviewers. 

These experts are highlighted below. To learn more, read our complete project description here.

Tequilla Brownie
Executive Vice President, TNTP

“I hope to ensure that educational inequities that already exist for many of our most vulnerable students, including students of color, are not further exacerbated, and that instead we find ways to accelerate student achievement rather than simply remediate.”


Dale Chu
Independent Consultant

“It is difficult to overstate the urgency and complexity facing schools and districts as they prepare for reopening. We are in the throes of the biggest event of the century, a problem that touches every single child in the country and threatens to derail the life trajectory of tens of millions of students. It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to support our families and educators as they prepare for a school year unlike any in recent memory.”

Steven Hodas
Senior Strategic Lead, citiesRISE
Former Executive Director, NYCDOE Office of Innovation

“This moment represents a remarkable opportunity to rethink fundamental assumptions about how we deliver educational inputs and outputs. The rigor and creativity of districts as they navigate instructional, operational, and equity concerns this fall provides a rare opportunity for both quantum improvements for kids and parents and a natural experiment in service design for policymakers. 2020 could be the most consequential year for public education since 1954."

Lindsay Jones
President/CEO, National Center for Learning Disabilities

"As our nation turns to the topic of how and when to bring children and educators back to school, we must not only ensure safety, but we must seize the opportunity to deeply rethink and remake education so it works better for all students."


Amanda McAdams
Assistant Superintendent, Lincoln County School District #2
2011 Arizona Teacher of the Year

“The strength of an independent peer review process is the bringing together of voices from differing perspectives and backgrounds to offer sound guidance and analysis. Those of us in the field are confronted with unprecedented challenges right now, and my hope is that districts can learn from one another as this panel identifies the best practices emerging across the country.”

David Rosenberg
Partner, Education Resource Strategies

“I am excited to highlight how forward-thinking leaders are organizing for a safe, sustainable return to school, and how we can ensure that all schools are set up to help all students succeed, even in this exceptionally challenging time.”


Paymon Rouhanifard
Former Superintendent, Camden City School District

"I am deeply grateful for all the work school district leaders, educators, and support staff are doing to prepare for a safe and productive start to the school year this fall. I'm honored to play a small role in reviewing and supporting these plans." 


Nisha Sachdev
Adjunct Professor, Center for Health & Health Care in Schools at GWU Milken Institute of Public Health

"A one-size-fits-all solution is not appropriate for the decision if children should return to school, it is important that best practice guidance and innovative solutions are provided to leaders that take in account the health and safety needs of the communities and schools - and we must ensure that reopening decisions do not exacerbate the long-standing inequities that have been highlighted by COVID-19."

James Schwab
Chair, Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division, American Planning Association

“I do believe strongly that this pandemic implicates some very serious social equity issues that must be addressed both in remote learning and in any reopening plan. My background in hazard mitigation and disaster recovery will offer a unique perspective in addressing this challenge.”

Rebecca Shah
Fellow, Chiefs for Change
Former Chief of Staff, Tennessee Department of Education

"At Chiefs for Change, our members—state and district education leaders from across the United States—share a vision that all children can lead fulfilling, self-determined lives as adults. Our chiefs are working to fulfill this promise for all kids, including low-income, Black, and Hispanic students who are disproportionately affected by school closures. Ensuring access to an excellent education requires planning, and amid the current health crisis, we're asking systems leaders to plan for the unknown. Despite the impossibility of this task, district leaders are finding ways to continue serving students. I'm excited about this opportunity to identify and highlight best practices and hope these ideas inspire leaders across the country."

Matt Shaver
Teacher, Minneapolis Public Schools
Advocacy Fellow, Educators for Excellence

 “Great teachers pay attention to the tiniest details as they develop a vision for their classroom. That degree of scrutiny is needed to determine the practicality reopening plans. Having the opportunity to review district plans and provide feedback from a teacher’s perspective is an invaluable opportunity to help craft and refine the vision for schooling in the era of a pandemic.”

The Oakland Reach

From left: Lakisha Young, Co-Founder & Executive Director. Lisa Babbit, Co-Founder & Fellowship Manager. Keta Brown, Co-Founder & Special Project Director. Dominique Malone, Co-Founder & Program and Operations Manager. Hakeem Bey, Co-Founder & Community Organizing Manager.

"A pandemic doesn't change people's desires and aspirations for their children to succeed in school and compete in college. As hard as this tragedy is hitting families - especially Black and Brown families - there's still so much passion and hope. And that's why we are proud to participate in this process - to offer our insights about what works for parents and kids to make sure families can still access high-quality learning. Falling behind during school closures isn't an option. We need to think creatively with opportunities like this about how to reach for more."