"Public Education Will Never Be the Same": How COVID-19 Forced School District Leaders to Innovate on the Fly

February 2021

A recent RAND report presented survey findings from the American School District Panel, a collaboration between RAND, CRPE, Chiefs for Change, and Kitamba. It found that one in five districts planned to create, expand, or maintain online learning after the pandemic is over.

A deeper dive into the open-ended responses from district and charter network leaders reveals more detail about what district leaders have discovered in this crisis that they want to keep. In this brief, we summarize themes from the 218 total open-response items to the question, “Did your district adopt any innovative practices in response to COVID-19 that you anticipate continuing in future years, even after the pandemic has passed?”

The panel spoke to several topics, including:

  • Durable commitment to social-emotional and mental health and racial identity
  • New staffing arrangements and professional development
  • Parent and community connections
  • Expanded choices and options for students

While there is no way of knowing how representative these individual responses are, they complement RAND’s quantitative data and make meaningful contributions to our understanding of what America’s school systems leaders want people to know they are hopeful and concerned about.