As policymakers and educators prepare to restart schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we transform our ideas of school to match the demands of this historic moment. It is clear that returning to business as usual in education is not possible and that we must think of “school” in deeply different ways. Irrespective of the approach taken to instruction or the medium through which it takes place—online, in person, or a hybrid—policymakers and educators need to ensure that all children, regardless of income, can participate in supportive and meaningful learning experiences. To accomplish this, our education system needs to transform our ideas of school to match the demands of this moment, focusing on authentic learning and equity and harnessing the knowledge of human development, learning, and effective teaching accumulated over the last century and needed for the next.
This report provides an overarching framework to inform the restart of schools for the 2020–21 school year while also providing a long-term vision that can guide leaders toward new and enduring ways to address educational quality and inequity. Building upon other student-centered, equity-oriented guidance that has been developed, this framework synthesizes key ideas, evidence, state and local examples, and policy recommendations and organizes them within a broader framework focused on authentic learning and equity and grounded in research spanning early childhood through secondary schooling. It is our hope that this work will help enable state, district, and school leaders along with educators to seize this moment to strengthen learning opportunities and close opportunity and achievement gaps.