Jun 2020

When schools reopen: Assess closely and differentiate intensely

By Michael B. Horn

Whenever students return physically to school, educators will face a daunting challenge, different from the one that confronted them as they transitioned rapidly to remote learning.

Although students have always had vast differences in content mastery, cognition, social and emotional skillsets, and background, schools have historically papered over those differences. And they’ve gotten away with it because teachers knew that most students had, within reason, sat in their seats and been exposed to the same content—so at least they had a working familiarity with what the class was doing. In large swathes of the country, that assumption will no longer hold. What students have learned and viewed, and which of their abilities have slid backward, will be all over the map. The most vulnerable learners are likely to suffer disproportionately. So there will be a much greater need for differentiation.

Against that backdrop, districts should, to the extent possible, change their instructional models to personalize learning for each student’s distinct needs. Students who are the furthest behind will need the most attention, resources, and support.


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