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Planning for High-Quality Remote Learning

There is uncertainly at every turn and district and school leaders are working tirelessly with their teams to leverage all possible resources to feed students, meet connectivity needs, and redesign the educational experience on and off campusContinuouslyschool and district leaders are developing, refining, rewriting, and reviewing their learning plans  to meet the ever changing needs of students. 


The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), in conjunction with the Future Ready Schools® (FRS) advisory team of nationally recognized school- and district-level practitioners, developed this resource to share ideas, best practices, and practical considerations for addressing the unique challenges of high-quality remote learning. This guide helps school and district leaders develop and refine a learner-centered remote environment where digital learning is more than anytime, anywhere device access and instead focuses on the delivery of innovative instruction for every child in any setting.    

At the core of these recommendations, and at the heart of FRS, is equity. It is imperative that school and district leaders lead with an equity lens and keep historically marginalized student groups at the heart of all decisionmaking. 


Future Ready Framework

This guide uses the Future Ready Framework to provide insight and considerations around some of the most important aspects of high-quality remote learning. The Future Ready Framework includes eight interconnected “gears”  keeping the learner at the center. Each of the gears are foundational components of schools that are future ready. The framework creates the foundation for equity-focused, learner-centered experiences where each student graduates from high school with the agency, passion, and skills needed to be a productive, successful, and responsible community member 


Collaborative Leadership

Focus group conversations with teachers, administrators, parents, students, custodians, school nurses, school board members, guidance counselors, office staff, and paraeducators provided the framework for the remote learning plan. Stakeholders not involved in focus group conversations were invited to view a recorded summary with a survey attached requesting feedback.

Leadership and school culture lay the foundation for systemic change, whether in the school building, or during remote learning. Future ready school and district leaders utilize an equity-focused lens, and have the courage to embrace curricular and instructional enhancements as learning needs evolve and as the culture demands. A forward-thinking, future ready vision is advanced through leaders’ transformative thinking and collaborative endeavors, especially during times of enormous change. In preparation for longer-term remote learning, future ready leaders have the opportunity to rethink and redesign their vision to ensure that high-quality instruction, particularly for historically marginalized groups, remains core to their school and district’s vision. Accordingly, it is important that leaders develop a flexible and fluid remote learning plan to address unanticipated emergency situations resulting in the closure of brick-and-mortar schools in the future. A high-quality remote learning plan that is ubiquitous, robust, and learner-centered ensures the continuity of learning despite extended periods of disruption. As time progresses, leaders must reevaluate and refine their plan, continually seeking input from all stakeholders, as instructional and community needs evolve.


Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments

Curriculum, instruction, and assessments support a personalized instructional model that ensures that learners are prepared for life after high school graduation. Future ready schools create and communicate a learner-centric vision that provides personal and authentic learning experiences that support social-emotional development for all students, while implementing the needed policies and procedures to realize that vision. Leveraging digital tools and resources for instruction and authentic assessments to improve student outcomes, and ensuring support for historically marginalized groups are vital components of high-quality remote learning. Additionally, access to searchable digital content repositories and collaboratively curated materials is essential for teachers during remote learning.


Personalized Professional Learning

“We must remember that the best professional development is right down the hall. Schools must provide time for educators to learn from each other and this practice should be modeled by administrators.”

—Chris Legleiter, Blue Valley School District (Kansas)

Future ready professional learning mirrors high-quality teaching and learning. FRS leverages the talents of educators and empowers them to lead while promoting student voice, choice, and agency. During high-quality remote learning, modeling and implementing ongoing, job-embedded professional learning is more important than ever. For most educators, teaching in a fully online environment is new and they need additional professional learning support as they build their confidence around using new innovative pedagogical approaches and tools.



Robust Infrastructure

High-quality, high speed technology and infrastructure systems, both onsite and at home, are essential to supporting anytime, anywhere learning and to advancing remote learning experiences for both students and staff. With all school and district leaders, teachers, and students working online, FRS leaders need to adjust their technology plans to ensure responsive technical assistance to solve immediate technical problems that negatively impact teaching and learning. A robust infrastructure, including both the technological and human components, provides the backbone for flexible remote instruction. During remote instruction, inequities around access are amplified. As such, future ready leaders provide a multipronged approach in supporting those students who lack the needed internet and device access at home.

“Our school set up a tech support page for our parents and teachers to help with any needs they had during remote learning. There were many resources and links to quick fixes and tech tips that our parents found very helpful.”

—Tara Desiderio, East Penn School District


Budget and Resources

An effective budget development and review process is guided by a deep understanding of school finance at the district, state, and federal levels. To be cost efficient, budgets at the school and district levels must align and include consistent funding streams for both recurring and nonrecurring costs. Funding for remote learning requires strategic, short-term, and long-term budgeting that leverages the use of digital infrastructure and access to searchable digital content to optimize a “return on instruction.” It also prioritizes the health, safety, and well-being of all students, particularly those from marginalized groups and communities.


Community Partnerships

Future ready community partnerships include formal, informal, local, and global collaborative relationships that advance school and student learning goals. Community partnerships extend students’ opportunities for learning far beyond the school walls and the limits of a traditional school day. Schools play a pivotal role in the stabilization of communities, particularly during emergency situations. Schools, in conjunction with communities, often provide social and emotional support to students and families. During the current COVID-19 crisis, schools were instrumental in providing meals at no cost to families in need. During times of uncertainty, the school-community relationship is even more essential. Future ready schools maintain an authentic, symbiotic, and ongoing relationship with organizations in the community to ensure the well-being of the whole child.


Data and Privacy

During remote learning, data and privacy considerations and concerns escalate. The use of data to transform instruction to support learner agency becomes even more essential. Without daily in-person interactions with students, teachers may need multiple measures of data to inform instructional planning to best meet the needs of each child. An effective digital learning structure uses technology to securely protect, collect, analyze, and organize data. It is a critical responsibility of the district to ensure data privacy and security policies, and to be transparent with the procedures and practices that are in place at the district, school, and classroom levels. During remote learning, these policies need to extend beyond the school structure and must include learning in a home environment.  


Use of Space and Time

During remote learning, the use of space and time is altered completely. Students’ homes become their classrooms, and full-time synchronous, in-person learning changes to, at least, partially asynchronous seemingly overnight. Future ready schools and districts rethink, redesign, and transform learning spaces to meet the needs of teachers and students and provide flexibility in these areas during remote learning. Future ready leaders promote and support flexible, learner-centered spaces that amplify student voice, choice, and agency. During remote learning, teachers, parents, and students adapt to flexible schedules and nontraditional learning environments. However, physical distancing does not mean social and emotional distancing and districts should work diligently to find the right balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning for their school community.


School District Examples 

  • East Penn School District (Pennsylvania) set up a technology support page for parents and teachers to help with any needs they had during remote learning. There were many resources and links to quick fixes and completely “tech tips that parents found very helpful. Additionally, two weeks after school closed the district began offering “pop-up PD” for all team members. Sessions were offered three to four days a week for all district employees by district technology coaches. Some examples of sessions offered included SeeSaw, Loom, Google Classroom, Google Meet, FlipGrid, Screencast, creating a YouTube channel, and\ more. The coaches also had one block per day and another whole day for “ask a coach” sessions for any remote help they needed, which the teachers loved. 
  • With the implementation of distance learning in March, the educational services team in Orcutt Union School District (California) immediately developed a menu of choices for teachers and staff to access what they needed, when they needed it. These sessions featured in-house experts that were using the platforms, apps, programs, or technology from the districts adopted curriculum successfully. The district also developed a list of mentors at each school and shared this with teachers so they could receive individualized support, personalized for their own needs. The district met teachers where they were in a supportive way, and teachers immediately were able to apply what they learned. Teachers told district leaders that the experience fundamentally changed their instruction forever, and they are better teachers as a result. 
  • In Florida USD (New York), ongoing communication between the school board, the superintendent, and the state board of education is essential as the district transitions to remote learning. The district also engages the community in dialogue regarding what changes may need to be implemented when on-site school resumes. 
  • In Middleton Township (New Jersey) Public Schools, schools provide flexibility in students daily schedules. Schools offer clubs, fine arts, sports practices, and other extracurricular activities virtually to address social isolation and keep students engaged with passions that nourish them.