EdTrust-Midwest Response to School Closure Announcement Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Following Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of school closures today, the Education Trust-Midwest responded with suggestions for a comprehensive educational response to COVID-19 learning loss. Read the full statement at:

The Education Trust-Midwest recognizes the difficult decision that Governor Gretchen Whitmer made to close Michigan’s public schools in-person attendance for the current school year. Through this unprecedented time, the priority for all Americans and Michiganders must be the health of children and families, while also continuing teaching and learning for all students.

State and local plans for how schools will continue teaching and students will continue learning are evolving. In the meantime, it is critical that Michigan policymakers and school leaders do everything they can to ensure all students in the state have access to consistent, quality distance teaching and learning through the end of the school year. This is particularly true for Michigan’s most vulnerable students, including those with disabilities, English learners, students from low-income families, students of color and those living in sparse, rural communities.

State leaders also should ensure state and any forthcoming school districts’ plans for continual teaching and learning are accessible and transparent, and shared on all district websites through the school year. Making parents real partners in this historic educational effort will be critical in the weeks to come. Beyond the immediate challenges, preparations for the upcoming school year and recovery should begin now.

“Michigan’s leaders – including policymakers and school leaders – must swiftly develop and invest in a comprehensive educational strategy to address COVID-19’s disruption to teaching and learning,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of the nonpartisan Education Trust-Midwest, a research, policy and advocacy organization.  “The time to do so is now.  Just as it will take months or possibly years for the world’s families, health systems and economies to recover from COVID-19, the educational recovery for students also will take months and probably years.”

“Indeed, just as summer leaves a learning loss, COVID-19 will leave a significant learning loss that requires an educational recovery that is just as important as immediate health concerns. For thousands of Michigan students, future academic outcomes are at stake, as well as life outcomes such as lifetime job earnings,” Arellano said.

Already COVID-19 is magnifying the profound differences between what schools and districts can offer their students. During this crisis, many of the schools serving students with the largest gaps in opportunity and achievement have struggled to provide consistent, high-quality distance learning. Long-standing inequities in access to books, broadband and other at-home learning supports have been highlighted over the past few weeks.

To address these profound inequities, state policymakers will need a comprehensive Marshall Plan-like strategy that should prioritize providing the resources to meet the unique educational needs of every Michigan child. This can begin through investing adequately in a weighted student funding formula as leading education states such as Massachusetts have done in recent months. To not do so is to ensure too many districts will continue not to have the resources necessary to properly address the educational recovery of all of their students.

“We look forward to working with leaders across state government, school districts, business, nonprofit organizations and foundations to use proven, data-driven strategies and policies to ensure all Michigan students can continue to learn and grow to meet the workforce needs of today and tomorrow,” Arellano said.

Resources for Learning at Home

During the school closure, many schools, museums and organizations are supporting home learning by making resources for students, families and educators available for free. Inclusion on this list does not reflect an endorsement.

Tweet of the Week

@FreepOpinion: What we need: A Marshall Plan for public education's COVID-19 response.