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 65th Anniversary of the Murder of Emmett Till: 6 Key Resources for K-12 Education

Continuing Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this post focuses on the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, which is August 28, 2020.

Daughters of Liberty: Celebrating the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage & History – 10 Key Resources for K-12 Education

/
In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating the Centennial of Women's Suffrage & Women’s History.

Christensen Institute’s Julia Freeland Fisher on K-12 Disruptive Innovation, Professional Networks, & Social Mobility

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Julia Freeland Fisher, director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute.

Mapping K-12 School Reopening in Massachusetts

/
As the 2020-21 school year begins for the approximately 950,000 schoolchildren in Massachusetts, our state and country are working to adapt to the unprecedented moment presented by COVID-19. To aid in these efforts, Pioneer Institute is posting a database and map of districts’ reopening plans.

President of D.C.’s AppleTree Institute, Jack McCarthy on Charter Schools and Fall Reopening

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jack McCarthy, president and CEO of AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation and board chair of AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School. Jack shares what animated him to establish this highly innovative early childhood charter public school network that serves the most vulnerable children in Washington, D.C.

“Call Me Ishmael” Melville Scholar Prof. Hershel Parker on Moby-Dick & Classic Literature

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and guest co-host Kerry McDonald, senior education fellow with the Foundation for Economic Education, are joined by Hershel Parker, the H. Fletcher Brown professor emeritus at the University of Delaware and the definitive biographer of the 19th-century American novelist, Herman Melville.

Let’s Be There For Students

As we head into the new academic year, unsure if remote learning will continue, we must equip our teachers to ensure that all students are offered the consistent, structured, rigorous, and supportive instructional programs that they need to succeed. This video highlights two schools that have successfully transitioned to remote learning.

COVID & Classrooms: Lessons for Students, Staff, & Society on Reopening Schools

/
Join host Joe Selvaggi and co-host Rebekah Paxton of Pioneer Institute as they talk with Harvard Medical School Professor Benjamin Sommers on the most current scientific observations regarding the health and safety of reopening schools.

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

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.

WSJ Children’s Book Critic & Author, Meghan Cox Gurdon on Reading Aloud to Children in the Age of Distraction

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Meghan Cox Gurdon, the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer and author of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction.

The Virtual Lessons Catholic Schools Can Teach

/
This op-ed originally appeared in The Boston Pilot. By Tom…

Boston Uni.’s Dr. Charles Glenn on School Choice, Civil Rights, & Espinoza

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Dr. Charles Glenn, Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Boston University. Dr. Glenn shares his early experiences in the Civil Rights movement, and how it inspired his work to expand school choice, as well as his thoughts on the Espinoza Supreme Court case's impact on racial justice and religious liberty.

One UMass System, Different Reopening Plans

/
One UMass System, Different Reopening Plans On March 11, UMass…

Public Statement: Pioneer Institute Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Espinoza School Choice Case

Pioneer Institute applauds today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a bigoted state constitutional amendment in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Like Massachusetts, Montana is among nearly 40 states with so-called anti-aid amendments, which have roots in 19th century anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant discrimination.

U-Arkansas Prof. Patrick Wolf on School Choice, Espinoza, & Students’ Civic Prep

/
U-Arkansas Prof. Patrick Wolf joins The Learning Curve to discuss school choice, the Supreme Court's Espinoza case, & students’ civic preparation.

Pulitzer Winner Diane McWhorter on Civil Rights History & Race in America

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard mark the Juneteenth commemoration of the end of slavery with an episode devoted to Civil Rights history. They are joined by Diane McWhorter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.