Equitably Transitioning to Virtual Learning is Difficult but Necessary

Learn how EL Education and their district partners were able to ensure that each of their students remain connected to their learning, even amidst a global pandemic.

By The BELE Network

Courtesy of EL Education

Ensuring that tens of thousands of students have access to meaningful, continuous learning (when kids have varying access to technology) is no easy task, even without a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. But that’s what Detroit Public Schools Community District and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District pulled off in just a week, in partnership with EL Education. In simpler times, EL Education is a national organization that empowers teachers to unleash the potential of their students through their Language Arts curriculum, professional development and school model. But in the face of COVID-19, the EL Education team and its district partners quickly shifted gears, creating ten weeks’ worth of digital videos and paper packets topically aligned to the curriculum. Educators at Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District also partnered with EL to help format and revise the lessons and modules. These materials are freely available to students on YouTube and open source for educators across the country who are encouraged to use and adapt the material for their own classrooms.

The digital divide is already a formidable obstacle, but how can open source curriculum be developed for the vast and wide-ranging needs of students across and within grade levels? Sometimes the most equitable approaches are standardized — EL Education designed the curriculum so that every student received access to the same content and ensured that the prompts were simple enough so even the busiest caretakers could help students with their work. In addition, the overarching framework that guided the development of all the lessons means that a high school student in 11th grade could easily help their younger sibling in 3rd grade with their learning.

Courtesy of EL Education

Though it’s not a perfect solution, living in imperfect times means that districts’ and EL Education’s ability to adapt quickly and equitably has ensured that thousands of students in Detroit and Charlotte are able to keep up with their learning and are encouraged to read, write, talk and think every day. And their broad applicability means that overburdened educators from all over can add these tools to their instructional toolkit.

The daily lessons are available on the EL Education website here. To learn more about the Detroit Public Schools Community District curriculum and download lesson packets or view videos, click here. For more information about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg curriculum and access to their learning materials, click here.

EL Education is a national nonprofit partnering with educators to transform public schools so that students “get smart to do good” and a partner of the BELE Network. For more resources to make your learning environments more equitable, visit the BELE library. To see what equitable education focused organizations are working in your neighborhood, check out the BELE Network Map.

We are committed to creating learning environments that equitably support every student — especially students of color and low-income students. belenetwork.org