New Pioneer Study Looks to International Examples to Inform Massachusetts K-12 Schools Reopening

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

Best practices from Finland, Denmark, South Korea, and Japan should inform Massachusetts’ reopening plans

BOSTON – With the fall semester fast approaching, Massachusetts should provide more specific COVID-19-related guidance for school districts about ramping up remote learning infrastructure; rotating in-person cohort schedules; diversifying methods of communication between students, parents, and teachers; and investigating physical distancing capabilities.  Districts must determine whether to adopt in-person, remote, or hybrid schooling options, and they will not be ready for the fall unless the state provides clear direction, according to new analysis from Pioneer Institute.

“The state’s approach to reopening the schools too closely resembles President Trump’s often too hands-off COVID-19 response,” said Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios. “State guidelines can’t just be lists of options.  If school districts are to effectively serve Massachusetts’ families, they must also provide direction and express preferences.”

In “How Should Massachusetts Reopen Its K-12 Schools in the Fall? Lessons from Abroad and Other States,” co-authors Max von Schroeter, Nina Weiss, and Thomas O’Rourke analyze measures taken by Finland, Denmark, South Korea, and Japan, which were ahead of the U.S. in their original shutdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and also experienced some reopening and other adaptations in their schools.

The countries were selected due to their success in addressing COVID-19-related schooling issues, as well as offering diverse learning models.  Despite some variances in the governance of their education systems, these nations can provide examples and best practices for Massachusetts to consider in its own reopening strategy.

After the initial shutdown, Finland’s students returned to in-person learning before the end of the spring semester. The nation also has a track record of successful online learning infrastructure, which allowed students to remain connected to their lessons during the shutdown. Denmark and South Korea also experimented with allowing certain cohorts of the student population to return to in-person schooling in the spring, and Japan reopened schools for most students as well.

These case studies provide various examples of innovation in physical distancing and hygiene requirements for students and staff, including using more classrooms as “homerooms” to reduce the number of students reporting to an individual teacher, limited or no contact between students at lunch and break times, use of plexiglass barriers and larger separations between desks, as well as temperature monitoring and hand sanitizing rules.

These international examples highlight inadequacies in current Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines for returning to school in the fall.

The report also details successful U.S. online learning models, including the Florida Virtual School, and how Massachusetts should include such practices in its own guidance for school districts, whether they return to in-person learning or continue to operate remotely.

“The present challenge is how to implement this much-needed return to school, optimally balancing the importance of in-person schooling with the countervailing importance against the virus,” wrote David Clancy and John Flores in a foreword to the report. “The entire Massachusetts school community must be accountable to ensure that all our students are achieving at their highest level of excellence.”

About the Authors

Thomas O’Rourke is a Roger Perry intern with Pioneer Institute, and a student at Emory University.

Max von Schroeter is a Roger Perry intern with Pioneer Institute, and a student at University of Virginia

Nina Weiss is a Roger Perry intern with Pioneer Institute, and a student at Johns Hopkins University.

David S. Clancy, a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, is a partner in the law firm Clancy & Shine LLC, which focuses on civil disputes. Mr. Clancy was previously partner at an international law firm, from which he retired after a 20-year career, also practicing civil litigation. Among other professional activities, Mr. Clancy served three terms on the Board of Editors of the Boston Bar Journal, and has published multiple articles in that and other legal publications.

Dr. John G. Flores is CEO and executive director emeritus of the United States Distance Learning Association, and an authority in the field of education, technology, and telecommunications. Flores led a Global Association focused on the application of distance learning for varied constituencies using varied technologies. He has held leadership positions as a School Superintendent, University Executive Dean and Business CEO for Distance Learning companies. He received his M.A. from Boston University and his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut focusing on educational technology, instructional design and leadership.

About Pioneer

Mission: Pioneer Institute develops and communicates dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and a vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond.

Vision: Success for Pioneer is when the citizens of our state and nation prosper and our society thrives because we enjoy world-class options in education, healthcare, transportation and economic opportunity, and when our government is limited, accountable and transparent.

Values: Pioneer believes that America is at its best when our citizenry is well-educated, committed to liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise, and both willing and able to test their beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas.

Get Updates on Our Education Research

Related Content

The Commonwealth of Health -Massachusetts’s Great Medical Innovations - 15 Resources for High School Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing high school students to great medical innovations from Massachusetts.

NCTQ’s Kate Walsh on the Crisis in K-12 Teacher Prep, Quality, & Evaluation

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. They discuss the qualifications of those who enter the teaching profession, explore teacher preparation, and key differences between teacher preparation, accreditation, and job prospects in the U.S. and other countries. They also speculate about what a Biden presidency might mean for K-12 education policymaking, and discuss how to diversify the teaching pipeline.

The Republic of Gadgets - America’s Great Inventors - 25 Resources for K-12 Education

Understanding the enduring public and private benefit that great inventors and their contraptions have made to our civilization is to better appreciate the connections between human necessity, creativity, and ingenuity. Yet, in American K-12 education very little focus is placed on studying who America’s great inventors were and the central role they’ve played in shaping our republic of gadgets. We’re offering a variety of links on the topic for parents, teachers, and schoolchildren to enjoy and better realize authentic innovators.

Cheryl Brown Henderson, Daughter of Lead Plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Ed., on Race & Schooling

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Cheryl Brown Henderson, president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research. She shares her experience as the daughter of the lead plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and thoughts on how the historic decision contributed to advancing civil rights in our country.

The Houses of Great American Writers - 25 Resources for K-12 Education

According to the Brookings Institution research, teaching great fiction is declining across America’s K-12 education system, so we’re offering resources to help parents, teachers, and schoolchildren to better appreciate great American writers and the places where they wrote.

Harvard PEPG’s Prof. Paul Peterson on Charter Schools, Digital Learning, & Ed Next Polling

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Paul Peterson, the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.

A Commonwealth of Art - 20 Resources for K-12 Art Education

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing K-12 schoolchildren to great works of art about, from, or in Massachusetts. Great Massachusetts paintings, folk, and fine arts are often not fully explored in the Bay State’s K-12 education system, so we’re offering a variety of resources to help parents, teachers, and schoolchildren.

Award-Winning Writer Brenda Wineapple on the 170th Anniv. of The Scarlet Letter & Pres. Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Brenda Wineapple, author of the award-winning Hawthorne: A Life and The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation. They discuss her definitive biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the 170th anniversary of the publication of his classic novel, The Scarlet Letter.

International Best-Seller Dr. Jung Chang On Wild Swans, Mao’s Tyranny, & Modern China

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Dr. Jung Chang, author of the best-selling books Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China; Mao: The Unknown Story; and Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China.

“Architecture is Frozen Music” Great Massachusetts Buildings – 25 Resources for K-12 Education

Understanding enduring public and private architecture is a key way to learn about art, ideas, and how they harmonize with our democracy. Yet, Massachusetts buildings are often never discussed in K-12 education. We’re offering a variety of links about outstanding houses and architecture across the Bay State for parents, teachers, and schoolchildren to enjoy, visit, and better appreciate, including:

Kelly Smith, Prenda CEO, on Microschooling & the Future of K-12 Learning

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Kelly Smith, founder and CEO of Prenda, a company that helps create flexible learning environments known as microschools. Often described as the “reinvention of the one-room school house,” microschools combine homeschooling, online education, smaller class sizes, mixed age-level groupings, flipped classrooms, and personalized learning.

“City Upon a Hill” Massachusetts Monuments & Memorials: 25 Resources for K-12 Education

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing K-12 schoolchildren to Massachusetts monuments & memorials.

Study: Signs of Progress at Madison Park, but Still a Long Way to Go

Four years after it began to implement a turnaround plan, Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School is showing clear signs of progress, but its performance continues to lag behind that of other vocational-technical schools in Massachusetts, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

U-Ark Prof. Jay Greene & EdChoice’s Jason Bedrick on Yeshivas vs. New York & Religious Liberty

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jay Greene, the Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and Jason Bedrick, the Director of Policy for EdChoice. They discuss their timely new book, Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York, about the recent battle between Orthodox Jewish private schools and New York's state government over the content of instruction.

Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools, on Leading Urban District Reform & the COVID-19 Moment

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and guest co-host Kerry McDonald are joined by Michelle Rhee, founder and former CEO of StudentsFirst and prior to that, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). 

“Every Child is an Artist…” - 15 Resources for K-12 Art Education

/
In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing K-12 schoolchildren to great works of art.