The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep inequities in our education system. Students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, and other marginalized children and youth disproportionately felt the impact when schools closed. But in the midst of the difficulties and uncertainties, students, educators, and families have adapted—taking on new, bigger roles in their homes and communities, mastering new technology, and expanding how and where they teach and learn.
We cannot go back to “normal” as vaccination rates rise and schools return to in-person learning. It’s time to reimagine and rebuild our education system to center relationships, support the whole child, invest in school staff, make learning relevant and rigorous, and constantly work towards equity and racial justice. We know this is possible because there are schools across California that are already striving for and living this vision. In “Beacons of Hope,” we highlight California school communities that are:
- Prioritizing and protecting student mental health
- Helping new students find community and connection through peer mentorship
- Creating small learning communities to support students and improve equity and outcomes
- Strengthening school teams through deep relationships
- Transforming school culture by hiring parents to engage families
- Meeting school needs through shared decision-making among students, staff, and families
These bright spots can provide inspiration and guidance for students, families, educators, and advocates across California so that we can spread practices like these across the state and transform the system so that every young person gets to thrive in a school and community built for them.
The cover art is by Brandie Bowen, a Bay Area artist, community organizer, educator, and writer. This illustration was developed for a campaign by the California Partnership for the Future of Learning to spark the public’s ability to reimagine the power and potential of schools to be hubs of opportunity, healing, and learning for all.