The Learning Accelerator Blog/What Has Emerged: Introducing the Hop, Skip, Leapfrog Project

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What Has Emerged: Introducing the Hop, Skip, Leapfrog Project

by Beth Rabbitt on May 5 2021

“Inside the word ‘emergency’ is ‘emerge’; from an emergency new things come forth.” – Rebecca Solnit

    As the K-12 education community closes out one of the most exceptional school years in recent history, we’re asking a lot of questions about student learning. What new skills, planned or otherwise, have our students built? What learning have they yet to finish? How can we use our knowledge about both as we reenter schooling together in the fall?

    As we plan for the future, it’s worth asking the same questions of our schools and systems. The last fifteen months have offered unparalleled challenge and opportunity for educators as they’ve navigated the crisis, marshalling new resources and engaging their communities in new ways. Through this work, what new skills and capacities did we, collectively, pursue and master? More importantly, how will we leverage them as we recover and advance to serve students better in the future?

    Surfacing Lessons Through a Series of Inspiring Conversations

    In February of this year, The Learning Accelerator team set out to explore these questions. We interviewed leaders in a diverse set of 20 school systems across the country to learn more about the paths they pursued during the pandemic to meet the needs of every student. We asked them to share examples of practice improvement and innovation, as well as to reflect on the shifts to systems, supports, structures, and processes that made these practices possible.

    These conversations were full of inspiration and joy, and hardship and heartbreak. On the top of more typical challenges, teams managed multiple crises, ranging from inequities created by the global pandemic, to the ongoing injustices of racism, to more local, literal disasters of severe weather events and community mass violence. The personal, professional, and collective challenges of the last year cannot be overstated.

    And yet, the learning at individual and system levels was breathtaking. Teachers worked together to improve instruction and engagement, piloting approaches ranging from implementing new social emotional learning curricula, leveraging new schedules to deepen inquiry and offer more targeted supports, and shifting away from traditional grading approaches to ones that prioritized mastery. Leadership teams worked with agility, re-deploying resources to build support that was more proximate to students and educators, launching system-wide programs that offered new opportunities to engage with community partners, and taking advantage of new tools to break down barriers to equity. Through a variety of hops, skips, and leaps, schools and systems made progress for kids. This work was real and it was sustained.

    A First Look: Hop, Skip, Leapfrog Toolkit

    Over the next month and a half, the TLA team will be sharing findings from this work, offering a variety of viewpoints into the question of what schools learned to do differently over the last year. Today, we’re releasing the Hop, Skip, Leapfrog toolkit, an interactive guide to the new practices and conditions we surfaced in conversations. The guide provides a deep look into concrete strategies teams deployed. It is intended to spur conversations about the new capacities and tools we can bring to bear on challenges and plot pathways forward.

    In a few weeks, the team will publish a report that will share more about the themes that tie these examples together as well as define key opportunities for the field as we move forward. We’ll also be publishing a series of action briefs for leaders and will be launching a podcast series that feature stories from individual school systems.

    We are deeply thankful to the many teams and subject matter experts who agreed to be part of this process, sharing their honest reflections and newly developed resources so that the rest of the field, including our team, could learn from their work. We hope you will help us share this work widely and let us know what you think.

    About the Author

    Beth Rabbitt is CEO of The Learning Accelerator and a nationally recognized expert in education innovation and blended and personalized learning.