Adapting and Innovating: New England’s Education Systems Navigate COVID-19 and Map a New Way Forward

Despite unimaginable disruptions and dispiriting scenes in public education this year, we saw remarkable examples of innovation, ingenuity, strength, and commitment to supporting student success. Working with a diverse group of researchers, we are partnering with The Barr Foundation to uncover these examples and learn from them. Insights from those who blaze new trails and solve this moment’s essential problems—particularly in ways that recognize and respond to students’ context and identity—will be invaluable as educators and education leaders navigate the pandemic. They will also be important to building a stronger and more resilient school system in the future. 

In this project, we are mapping the New England region’s landscape of learning, surfacing new instructional approaches and strategies that solve essential problems, and probing on the conditions that shape school systems’ adaptations. This region reflects America with sprawling metropolises and vast rural areas, increasing diversity in communities and schools, and a deep, historical commitment to improving public education. The independent efforts of schools and districts to reframe the profile of a graduate to include more than academic assessments and to provide students with more personalized learning along with state initiatives like New Hampshire’s competency-based performance assessment pilot, Massachusetts’ investments in college and career pathways, or Rhode Island’s advancement of new learning models show the imprint the region continues to make on the future direction of public education. 

How these approaches evolve in the face of the pandemic and what new ideas emerge to solve challenges that have long simmered just under the surface will guide our inquiry. The central questions of the project—around adaptation and innovation during the pandemic—are of nationwide importance. We are sharing insights from CRPE and our partners here in a new series called Think Forward New England. This collection of blog posts and written products translates research findings into actionable insights that resonate with parents, practitioners, and system leaders in New England and beyond. 

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Our Analysis

Mapping the landscape of learning in New England

Sean Gill, Ashley Jochim, Cara Pangelinan  |  Mon, 11/16/2020

Our first look suggests that the New England region’s success in driving down community transmission rates may have opened more possibilities for in-person instruction. But the region’s work to reel in the public health crisis did not translate into definitive actions on all the issues confronting students this fall.