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 Washington Post’s Jay Mathews on An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Jay Mathews, an education columnist for The Washington Post and author of the recent book, An Optimist's Guide to American Public Education. Jay describes the three key trends in K-12 schooling that he views as cause for hope.

Grading Education in a Pandemic: Survey Finds Teachers Pass, Administrations Fail & Students Incomplete

This week on Hubwonk, Joe Selvaggi discusses a recently released survey from Pioneer Institute and Emerson Polling, "Massachusetts Residents’ Perceptions of K-12 Education During the Covid-19 Pandemic," with Emerson's lead analyst, Isabel Holloway, and Pioneer Institute’s Charlie Chieppo.

Poll Finds Mixed Views About Schools’ Pandemic Performance

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts residents have mixed opinions about how K-12 education has functioned, but they tend to view the performance of individual teachers more favorably than that of institutions like school districts and teachers’ unions, according to a poll of 1,500 residents commissioned by Pioneer Institute.

Study: Systemic Failure in IDEA Implementation for Private School Students with Disabilities in Additional States

On the heels of a $3.8 million settlement for private school students with disabilities in Massachusetts for the state’s failure to comply with provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that require provision of equitable, publicly funded special education services to students in private schools, a Pioneer Institute study finds that two states and three school districts around the country for which data are available also appear to be out of compliance.

Dartmouth’s Prof. Susannah Heschel Discusses Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel & the Civil Rights Movement

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Susannah Heschel, the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, and the daughter of noted 20th-century Jewish theologian and Civil Rights-era leader, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They discuss what teachers and students today should know about Rabbi Heschel’s life and legacy.

Hoover Institution’s Dr. Eric Hanushek on COVID-19, K-12 Learning Loss, & Economic Impact

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. They discuss his research, cited by The Wall Street Journal, on learning loss due to the pandemic, especially among poor, minority, and rural students, and its impact on skills and earnings.

UK Classics Scholar Kathryn Tempest on Cicero, Brutus, & the Death of Caesar

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Kathryn Tempest, a Reader in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Roehampton in London, UK, and author of Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome and Brutus: The Noble Conspirator. They discuss the historical, civic, and moral lessons political leaders, educators, and schoolchildren today can learn by studying the Roman Republic and the lives of key figures from that era such as Cicero and Brutus.

Best-Selling, Netflix Author Loung Ung On Surviving Pol Pot’s Killing Fields

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Loung Ung, a human-rights activist; the author of the bestselling books First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky; and a co-screenwriter of the 2017 Netflix Original Movie, First They Killed My Father. Ms. Ung shares her experiences living through genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population. 

American Federation for Children’s Tommy Schultz on School Choice & Edu Federalism

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Tommy Schultz, CEO-elect of the American Federation for Children (AFC). They discuss how COVID-19 school closures have increased the interest in alternatives to public schools, and what AFC's polling shows on shifts in attitudes toward school choice options in both urban and rural communities.

Key Madison Park Program Lags Other State Voc-Techs, but Shows Signs of Improvement

The co-operative education program at Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, which places students in paid positions with local employers, lags far behind other Massachusetts vocational-technical schools in terms of both placements and number of employer contacts.  But with the school as a whole beginning to improve after years of turmoil, the co-op is also showing promising signs, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, International Best-Selling Author & Human Rights Activist

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, founder of the AHA Foundation, and author of the books Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women's Rights, Infidel: My Life, and Nomad: From Islam to America - A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations. 

WSJ Drama Editor Terry Teachout on Jazz Greats Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and guest co-host Kerry McDonald continue our celebration of Black achievements with Terry Teachout, drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, and author of such books as Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.

UGA Prof. Valerie Boyd on Zora Neale Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance, & Black History Month

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard celebrate Black History Month with Professor Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Georgia, and the definitive biographer of Zora Neale Hurston. Boyd discusses why Hurston is such an important novelist and cultural figure, and the influence of Hurston’s 1937 classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, on American literature.

Boston Catholic Schools Supt. Tom Carroll on National Catholic Schools Week

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard celebrate National Catholic Schools Week with Tom Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. He shares his view of the value that Catholic schools add; the reasons for their success at improving student outcomes and creating a sense of community; and their commitment to serving children from underprivileged backgrounds, regardless of religious affiliation. 

Never Forgetting – Holocaust Remembrance Day – 25 Resources for K-12 Students

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Memorializing International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th and learning about the tragedy of the Holocaust during WWII.

AZ Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick on National School Choice Week

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard kick off National School Choice Week with Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, co-author with Kate Hardiman of a new book, Unshackled: Freeing America’s K–12 Education System. Justice Bolick shares his experiences serving on a state supreme court, and how it has shaped his understanding of America’s legal system.