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New Report Offers Lessons on K-12 Distance Learning from Top-Performing Countries

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A June 2020 paper from the National Center for Education and the Economy offers interesting insights about how countries with top-performing K-12 education systems have responded to the wholesale move to distance education. In addition to summarizing what countries have done, the paper includes many examples of specific initiatives with links for additional information. Among the findings:

  • Several countries affected by the SARS epidemic had emergency distance plans in place that they were able to activate when the pandemic struck. These plans included training for teachers on distance education and creation of repositories of materials for online learning linked to the jurisdictions’ curricula.
  • Even countries not impacted by prior pandemics have made investments in creating support networks for educators that provided teachers with access to expert advice and support for teaching online.
  • Because many top-performing countries had already invested in creating online repositories of teaching and learning materials, they were able to quickly develop guidance and supports for teachers when schools had to move online.
  • Several countries leveraged expert teachers to create lesson materials for their online repositories and to provide support to less experienced teachers.
  • As other countries have begun to re-open, they have prioritized in-person access for students with special needs and for students who have particularly struggled with online learning, relying primarily on the professional judgment of teachers to identify those students.

The paper concludes by noting that high-performing countries are already implementing reviews, research, and discussions to learn from their experience to date, to plan for addressing learning gaps that have arisen during the pandemic, to prepare for any future crises, and to incorporate the best of their distance learning experience into the ongoing operations. The paper doesn’t mention higher education, but clearly schools, colleges, and department of education can play an important role in capturing the important lessons from these challenging times and ensuring that schools are better prepared for future crises.

Jacqueline E. King, Ph.D.

AACTE Consultant