Pam Grossman joins leaders challenging schools to do better than just a “return to the old normal” in new report

May 26, 2021
Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman, who recently co-authored a new report from the Learning Policy Institute, pictured in February 2020.

Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman, who recently co-authored a new report from the Learning Policy Institute, pictured in February 2020.

As vaccination access becomes widespread in the US and cases drop, many students are returning to in person school, some for the first time in over a year. Students will not only be tackling gaps in learning but will be coping with trauma, Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman and peers write in a new report entitled Summer Learning and Beyond: Opportunities for Equitable Learning Postpandemic.  “This report synthesizes cutting-edge research on the science of learning to provide guidelines for how we can address whole child learning and avoid returning to the ‘old normal,’” report co-author Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University shared in a press release from the Learning Policy Institute.

Instead of replicating the systems from before the pandemic, “we should accelerate systems change toward equitable, rigorous, and transformative education,” the authors write. In particular, they express concern that without intentionality, students will be further traumatized. In the report, they provide six design principles that are essential for creating both rigorous and equitable learning environments.

The first principle, center relationships, encourages a focus on building and repairing relationships with students and families, who may have concerns about returning to school beyond safety from the virus. In planning, the authors recommend that school leaders talk to families and children about their experiences with issues of race and inequality, their desire to return to school, and how they want to be involved. To maintain relationships, they suggest that summer programs might deploy strategies that foster relationships between students and adults, like small groups. Suggestions for school-year strategies include looping students with the same teacher for more than 1 year, creating advisory classes, and forming interdisciplinary teams of teachers who work with the same group of students.

The other 5 design principles are: create a culture of affirmation and belonging; build from students’ interests and take a whole child approach to their development; engage students’ and families’ knowledge in disciplinary learning; provide creative, inquiry-based forms of learning; and address educator needs and learning. For more on the principles, including resources and references, visit the Learning Policy Institute’s website.