From Crisis Management to Strategic Planning: A Four-Step Framework (Part II): Insights & Exercises

(Part Two of a Two-Part Series)

By Guest Blogger Annie Crangle, Partner, Friday

October 2020

Four months ago, as the Friday team prepared to spend the summer taking school leaders through a strategic-planning bootcamp, the following questions were top of mind:

  • Will a short-term crisis turn into an everyday reality? 
  • Can long term-strategic planning be valuable in a crisis? 
  • Could a pandemic actually present a unique opportunity to innovate? 
  • Will the level of overwhelmedness and uncertainty decrease for school leaders, students, and families?

After helping 15 school leaders develop strong reopening plans grounded in a long-term strategic vision, we have more clarity on these questions, as well as some guidance and resources for schools in need of support.

Unfortunately, the crisis has turned into our everyday reality as many school leaders returned to school by extending their distance-learning model. And school staff, parents, and kids are exhausted from the continuous scramble. On the flipside, strategic planning has proven its worth in times of crisis, revealing “lightbulb moments” and helping leaders get a clearer understanding of their ultimate goals.

The connection between short-term planning and long-term planning is now clear in my mind—and becoming more clear in our strategic plan. Now, when I think about reopening our school, I have a much better sense of both the forest and the trees.” —Stacy Emory, Executive Director, San Carlos Charter Learning Center

Before we share more about our process and provide you with tools to start your own planning, here are some takeaways from our summer cohort:

  • Long-term planning provides short-term motivation: Leaders were able to get out of survival mode by establishing a vision for what’s possible on the other side of the crisis. Leaders’ confidence was restored by connecting short-term decisions to long-term solutions, and leaders felt empowered to seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to not only respond, but adapt and re-invent. 
  • A design thinking approach to strategic planning provides structure and flexibility: With frameworks for continuous evaluation, leaders were encouraged to reflect on past circumstances and plan for the future. For example: What did we need before that we don’t need now? What do we need now that we never needed before? What do we have that we can re-purpose in new ways? 
  • School leaders need a space where they can be vulnerable about failures, open with questions, and generous with resources: During and after the cohort, school leaders reported lower levels of anxiety, a high degree of learning, and access to a wealth of new resources and knowledge.  
  • Engaging staff in strategic planning exercises enriches the process and outcomes: After modeling strategic-planning exercises with the leadership group, we discussed how they might adapt these exercises to engage their staff. Many reported repeating the exercises with staff, and those diverse viewpoints strengthened their planning even more. 
  • Strategic planning is a meaningful way to train new leaders: Schools participated in teams of 3-4, some of whom were newly appointed vice principals early in their leadership career. At the end of the cohort experience, these new leaders reported greater awareness of the skills and responsibilities of school leadership and they felt more equipped to step into the role.
  • It’s possible to build relationships and community virtually: Our entire process was facilitated in a virtual environment—through the use of breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, and play, we were able to collaborate and communicate effectively and build enduring relationships. Our summer cohort requested 3-, 6-, and 12-month check-ins to stay updated on each other’s progress.

As noted in our last post, our process was structured around a four-question framework. For inspiration, here are some sample insights that our cohort participants reported at each phase of the process. And for guidance, we’ve also included some of the tools we developed to help you guide your own strategic planning exercises:

1. What opportunities and challenges do we face? Develop a clear picture of our new reality and identify the most pressing challenges and risks to our model and the communities we serve. 

We asked school participants to complete a PEST Analysis: a summary of opportunities and threats due to Political, Economic, Social, and Technological forces.

We then asked schools to assess how their organization is equipped to respond to these changes by completing a SWOT Analysis: What are the strengths and weaknesses of our program (S&W)? How are we positioned to capitalize on opportunities (O)? How can we mitigate threats (T)? Lastly, we asked schools to put it all together: Based on our external analysis (PEST) and our internal assessment of our organization’s readiness to respond (SWOT), identify our top five strategic priorities.

Through the exercises, one school identified the challenge of redirecting parent volunteers while campus was closed. The school team established a strategic priority to revamp family and community engagement, ultimately developing a system for parents to teach enrichment classes via Zoom.

Another school reflected on their community’s differing views on social justice issues in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests. Leaders identified the need to create and implement (in whatever medium) an engaging and effective curriculum aligned with a learner-centered approach, through the lens of social justice and critical consciousness.

2. How will we adapt? Sharpen your focus on critical academic model and operational shifts, and opportunities for innovation. 

We guided school leaders through the essential shifts in developing a new academic plan, illustrating how to: be responsive to students’ changing academic and social-emotional needs; support clear communication and progress monitoring; maintain a commitment to the school’s instructional philosophy and approach; and adhere to new compliance requirements.

“Circumstances may be changing, your process may be changing, but your vision remains the same.” —Jennifer Reyes, EdTec, Guest Facilitator 

Through these exercises, one leader recognized the importance of keeping grade-level learning top of mind, adopting a “high expectations and high support” approach. Another school team reiterated that students craved feedback, so they decided to use formative assessments, hoping students would be motivated by seeing their own progress.

Second, based on their new academic plans, we walked school leaders through three steps to understand the operational and financial implications, asking them:

  • What new people, materials, resources are needed?
  • What existing people, materials, resources can be leveraged in new ways or redirected? 
  • What existing people, materials, resources, can be eliminated or reduced?

“The program drives the budget.” —Dena Koren, EdTec, Guest Facilitator  

School leaders saw opportunities to redirect robust professional developments budget to technology needs. Existing resources such as noise-canceling headphones used in Special Education classes were made available for students to check-out for home use. Another team decided to leverage classroom instructional aides to assist with implementing new health and safety protocols.

3. What’s our plan for making it happen? Map a realistic and financially viable short-term action plan; brainstorm near-term opportunities and long-term vision.

We asked school teams to reflect on five design-thinking questions to ensure each organization not only responds, but adapts, and reinvents through this period of change. (Many leaders repeated this exercise with staff using a virtual whiteboard—something we recommend for every school.)

One school team recognized that moving to a distance model has given them the opportunity to re-envision some foundational instructional approaches.

During week 6 of the 8-week process, we helped leaders collect their planning efforts into a 2020-2023 Strategic Plan Framework, with a focus on what makes their school unique, three-year core goals, key strategies, and vision for success.

4. How will we communicate effectively? Develop your message and communicate key shifts to your students, families, staff, and partners.

Communication is foundational to effective change management. We helped school leaders to engage in a stakeholder-mapping exercise to generate communications strategies and tactics that emerged from the following questions:

  • What is our compelling vision for each stakeholder group? How is that message communicated and reinforced? 
  • Where are people now, and where do we want them to be? 
  • What are the range of perspectives in each stakeholder group? 
  • What initial and ongoing communication is needed to support desired changes?

“Put yourself in the mindset of the stakeholder, what’s the first question a teacher is going to ask when you announce a new change?” —Elise Randall Hill, Rocketship Public Schools, Guest Facilitator 

One school team decided to establish weekly one-on-one check-ins with teachers who were struggling with distance learning, as well as more frequent all-staff meetings for greater communication, camaraderie, and support.

It was a whirlwind eight weeks, but we agree with the school leader who commented at the end of our final session, “Can we start again from the top next week?”

We hope these resources and insights are helpful. And if you need more help to generate a new strategic plan in the midst of this constantly changing landscape, call us. Friday is launching more cohorts this fall, and we invite you to join us.

Tracking student engagement and enrollment during distance learning

Tracking Attendance and Engagement During Distance Learning

By the EdTec Data Team 

August 18, 2020

This past spring, many schools learned that tracking student attendance and engagement during distance learning can be a complicated and often messy process. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! There are many ways to track attendance and engagement in this new learning environment, and you’ll be in better shape if you clearly define which methods your school will use from the start. Accurate data is not only necessary for reporting purposes, it will also help your school to identify students who are not engaging and risk falling behind. We’ve put together a few tips to help schools get a plan in place to track student attendance and engagement this school year.

#1 Continue to take attendance on a daily basis 

Most schools need to collect daily attendance to provide evidence of whether a student is present or absent to fulfill state, district, and/or other reporting requirements. This data is also important so that school leaders and teachers have an accurate picture of which students are participating in distance learning and which are not. This data can be used to inform optimal resource allocation and determine the appropriate interventions and supports for those students who need it most.

#2 Develop a consistent process for taking attendance that can be applied across learning models 

Schools will likely switch between different instructional models during the 2020-2021 school year, so there should be processes and systems that allow for a seamless transition in attendance recording. To minimize confusion, consider setting up a daily Advisory or Homeroom class that can be used for taking attendance both when the school is offering fully remote instruction and when the school is ready to transition to a hybrid model.

#3 Have a system in place for tracking in-person attendance versus virtual attendance 

Even if your school intends to or has already reopened with fully remote learning, plan to have separate codes in place if, and when, the school returns to some form of in-person instruction. Given the vastly different nature of remote learning, the ability to distinguish between and report on the two types of attendance will help schools identify students who may require additional resources and support. Keeping your attendance system as clear as possible will help ease any confusion when in-person instruction resumes.

#4 Rely on multiple sources of information to document and verify student engagement 

While the guidance on what qualifies as sufficient documentation of student engagement varies across districts and is evolving, schools should keep track of and be able to demonstrate how students and teachers are being held accountable to one another.

Some sources might include:

  • Gradebook assignments and assignment scores
  • Log in records and log in duration from learning platforms or student portals
  • Daily logs (electronic or paper) that can be saved or stored in a student’s file
  • Online polls or chat history
  • Attendee logs from video or audio calls

If your school uses PowerSchool or Aeries as a student information system, you can reach out to our school data experts for ideas about how to prepare your system for the new school year.

Having a clear plan in place to monitor student attendance and engagement will help your school to collect accurate data for reporting as well as determine which students may need additional support to keep them engaged and learning. How is your school tracking student attendance and engagement? Let us know in the comment section below!

Related Posts


School Reopening Resources

Resources to Help Charter Schools Navigate the Reopening Process

August 3, 2020

As schools prepare for the 2020-21 school year, there are so many factors to consider. We know there is a lot of information out there, and it is difficult to keep track of all the updates. We’ve compiled a list of guidance and resources from government and health agencies as well as charter organizations to help school leaders quickly access the information they need to make critical decisions and prepare for the continued education of their students, be it through remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction.

The list includes national resources as well as links to state-specific guidance in states where EdTec currently has a presence.  We will update the list on an ongoing basis as more information becomes available.


National Resources

The Safe Reopening of Charter Schools by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

A collection of public resources on guidance for the safe reopening of charter schools.

State-Specific Resources


Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools by the California Department of Education

Released on June 8, this guidebook aims to support public school leaders as they work with local health officers to plan for the safe reopening of campuses and classrooms this fall.

COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs by the California Department of Public Health

Guidance on School Re-Openings by the California Charter Schools Association

A collection of curated research and guidelines for California schools.


Planning the 2020-2021 School Year: A Framework and Toolkit for School and District Leaders for Feedback by the Colorado Department of Education

Reopening Schools: Health Guidance by COVID-19 Phase by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Education, and Colorado Governor’s Office

COVID-19 League Support by Colorado League of Charter Schools

Resources include news; weekly support calls by topic such as special education, instruction, and technology; and webinars.


School Reopening Communications Toolkit by the Georgia Charter Schools Association and the State Charter Schools Foundation of Georgia.

Resources include letters to families, reopening surveys, suggested social media posts, and CDC posters in multiple languages.

Georgia’s K-12 Restart and Recovery by the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Public Health

The report provides guidance to support districts and communities in developing plans for reopening schools.


School Reopening Guidelines and Resources by the Louisiana Department of Education

Reopening Guidance by the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools

A list of links to information on statewide and city-specific guidance on reopening schools.


Nevada’s Path Forward: A Framework for a Safe, Efficient, and Equitable Return to School Buildings by the Nevada Department of Education

Guidance for Path Forward Programs of Distance Education by the Nevada Department of Education

A memo with information on minimum requirements for distance education plans, attendance requirements, hybrid learning, professional development, and more. All schools must submit a plan for a Path Forward Program of Distance Education as a contingency plan in the case of future school closures.

New Mexico

Reentry District and School Guidance by the New Mexico Department of Public Education

New York

Reopening Schools: Recover, Rebuild and Renew the Spirit of Our Schools by the New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents

A website designed to help schools continue to educate students, whether in-person, remotely, or a combination of both.

School Reopening Resources by the New York State Department of Education and The Board of Regents

Resources for teachers and administrators as they plan for the 2020-21 school year.


School Reopening Toolkits and Guidance by the Tennessee Department of Education

A series of 20 toolkits provide guidance on topics such as school nutrition, transportation, special populations, technology, well-being and mental health, charter schools, and staffing.

School Reopening Toolkit: Charter Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education

A collection of checklists, best practices, and resources for charter schools as they prepare for a safe reopening.


We will update this list on an ongoing basis as more information becomes available. If you are aware of additional resources that you think would be helpful for us to share with other charters, please let us know in the comments section below!

Leading in a Crisis: Charter School Leaders Share Their Experiences

June 25, 2020

Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify the tools, resources, and support they need to lead effectively.  

This time, we reached out to our charter partners to learn more about their experiences over the past few months, including how they’ve tackled distance learning challenges and supported their school communities, as well as what they expect for next school year. We’re grateful to share insights from school leaders at two of our partner schools: Ms. Jade Rivera, Founder/Executive Director of Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dr. Hassan Dornayi, Principal of Para los Niños Charter Middle School in Los Angeles, California.  


What has been the biggest challenge of implementing a distance learning plan? How is your school tackling this challenge?

Ms. Jade Rivera: I think the biggest challenge of distance learning that we’ve faced is not being able to maintain the same systems, routines, and structures that are so integral to our school’s overall culture. Our teachers have worked hard to create and implement strong and predictable routines for Kindergarten-2nd grade students, which help our students experience that positive success every day, even if on an online platform.  

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: The uncertainty.  Things are constantly in flux and often you don’t know what things are going to look like even a month ahead, let alone the next school year. For us, this means that we need to be flexible for whatever might come our way.  We have a vision and plan moving forward, but also have in mind how we can change and update if and when we need to, while still ensuring our students and families have what they need to succeed. 


What has worked best for you when it comes to managing faculty and staff remotely? Do you have any tips for other school leaders who might be struggling to lead their team from a distance?   

Ms. Jade Rivera: In the normal school setting, we start every day with a quick 5-10 morning huddle. In light of the pandemic, we’ve shifted this to a beginning and end of week huddle. It’s certainly not perfect, but it gives us an opportunity to check in with one another, share wins and highlights from the week, as well as brainstorm how to tackle challenges together. We’ve also held a few informal Zoom happy hour chats, where we can just hang out as friends and share updates from our personal lives. I’ve certainly missed seeing my teammates every day. We’re so much more than just colleagues, they’re some of my closest friends. Connection, now more than ever, is so important.   


Are there any resources that have been especially helpful to your school during this time, that you would recommend to other school leaders? This could be an online learning resource but does not have to be – we’d also love to hear about other online tools, community resources, nonprofit organizations, etc.  

Ms. Jade Rivera: Our co-teaching model has lent itself well to collaboration and multi-pronged support for distance learning. Teachers were already used to working in tandem, so team teaching on Zoom with 2 adults per class was a fairly easy transition. Furthermore, it has been a huge help to have co-teachers for online lessons, with one teacher able to focus solely on instruction and the other teacher able to help with technology needs, of both students and teachers.   


Are there any unique actions your school is taking to support teachers, students, and/or families that you would like to share with other schools?

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: We are constantly pushing for ways to not just support our students, but also how to support their families.  A student can’t succeed if they don’t have safe, stable, and secure homes. Our integrated services work to ensure our students and families thrive – through education and wraparound support to address concrete needs, and build sustainable growth. These times have been challenging for students and families in a number of ways and we can’t expect students to be academically successful if we haven’t supported their other needs as well.  


What has worked well for your school when it comes to supporting students with learning disabilities?  

Ms. Jade Rivera: Our special education teacher maintains very close communication with our special education students and ancillary providers, which helped a great deal when transitioning to online provided services. Continuous communication and flexibility have been absolutely necessary to ensuring our scholars maintain their provided services and learning opportunities.   


How do you think the extended school closures will impact “business as usual” once schools reopen? What will learning look like then?

Ms. Jade Rivera: One thing is certain, school will look and feel different come the fall. Our hope is that we are able to continue to implement a strong academic program for all students, while being incredibly thoughtful about the safety and health measures we put in place for everyone in our building.  

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: I think everyone will need to take on the approach of doing whatever is needed to meet a student where they are and address their needs, whether it be fully online or a hybrid model.  I think for our teachers, because many of them are already going above and beyond to help our children, this will be an easier adaptation. Schools that don’t already have an integrated model like ours in place might need to have more preparation to determine where the students’ needs are and how they can help them persevere. 


Have you been able to connect with other school leaders during this time to share resources or adviceHow has this helped you to work through challenges?   

Ms. Jade Rivera: I’ve been really fortunate to be able to connect with both local New Mexico leaders, as well as leaders from charter schools across the country. These connections have been tremendously helpful as we worked to design our distance learning plan, and as we begin to think about a hopeful return to school in the fall. Beyond the practical sharing of resources and ideas, it has also been a great support to have a network of colleagues who fully understand the challenges of the work.  


Share something good that has come out of this for your school.  

Ms. Jade Rivera: Our families have been so supportive throughout this entire process. From ensuring students stay engaged in their learning, to helping us creatively celebrate our teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week, they have never wavered in their backing and care for our school community. We are lucky to have them.

Dr. Hassan Dornayi: This crisis and transition to remote connection, has shown what an amazing culture we have at the middle school.  We started teaching the Monday after we went on ‘shelter in place’ and our teachers haven’t looked back.  We have virtual classes, assemblies, and connections with our students that keep our positive attitudes and collaborative spirit alive. It has been incredible to be part of this effort.  

While every charter school is different and what works for one school might not work for another, many charter school leaders have found it helpful to hear from their peers to get a fresh perspective and be inspired to try news ways to serve students and families during this challenging time. We hope you found these insights to be helpful, and we would love to hear what has worked well for your school, too – please share your thoughts in the comment section below! 

From Crisis Management to Strategic Planning: A Four-Step Framework

(Part One of a Two-Part Series)

By Guest Blogger Annie Crangle, Partner, Friday

In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with school administrators, lawyers, financial advisors, and educational consultants about the new realities that K-12 schools are about to encounter. As you can imagine, these conversations have felt overwhelming. This pandemic has underscored our vulnerability, the inequities that persist in our society and education system, and outdated elements in the way some of our schools are designed.

Teachers are finding it hard to give kids the consistency and structure they need to thrive from a distance. One school leader is finding that Montessori’s hands-on principles aren’t easy to adapt to an online platform. And critical social-service nonprofits are cutting their workforces, putting additional stress on schools that can’t be addressed by digital learning curriculums.

It’s not surprising to see education leaders hustle, scramble, and innovate in response to the crisis. You’ve worked hard to provide equitable transitions for the children and families that you serve, and have, in many instances, overcome challenges surprisingly fast. But as the immediate crisis turns into our everyday reality, some of the long-term challenges seem even more daunting: How will we transition students back into a daily school routine that will look much different from before? How will teachers make up for lost learning? How will we plan for 2021 and beyond knowing budget cuts are inevitable and health protocols will fluctuate?

Having spent the past seven years guiding schools in strategic planning processes, I’ve seen first hand the value in this type of planning (pre- and post-pandemic). While a school’s charter outlines your commitment to the students you serve, a strategic plan allows you to brainstorm where you want to go next without worrying about compliance requirements. Make no mistake: A strategic plan is a serious document, but the process and outcome provide much-needed freedom to explore what’s working well, what isn’t working well, and what you aspire to achieve long term.

In the midst of all of this change, schools have a unique opportunity to innovate: Whether by choice or out of necessity, we’re likely to see a fundamental redesign of the school model, including tech advancements, more equitable digital access, smaller class sizes, adjusted school calendars, even dramatic restructuring of teacher and staff time.

 Based on strategic planning best practices, we encourage school leaders to:

  • Analyze what’s likely to change your students’ and families’ lives and the education sector at large;
  • Consider your school’s anticipated needs and evolving demands, the relevance of your current model, and overall capabilities;
  • Create a list of threats and opportunities; and
  • Identify your long-term vision for the next 5-10 years, then plan the steps you need to take each year to reach that destination.

From our experience leading strategic planning for public charter schools across the state of California, we’ve developed a framework to help schools emerge on the other side of change in a way that’s aligned to their identity and responsive to the needs of their community.

Let’s jump in.

Gather your leadership team and answer four broad questions to develop the essential building blocks of an effective plan:

1. What opportunities and challenges do we face? Develop a clear picture of our new reality and identify the most pressing challenges and risks to our model and the communities we serve.

For example, in addition to tracking economic, health, and policy trends and potential implications for your school, can you also say with certainty how the needs of your students, families, and staff have shifted? Perhaps some staff, students, and parents in your community are struggling to use the technology needed to sustain remote learning; or maybe some students need more social-emotional support.

2. How will we adapt? Sharpen your focus on the critical model and operational shifts and opportunities for innovation.

In other words, how must you change to respond? For example, given your learning targets, and the challenges of distance learning, identify new methods of teacher collaboration and professional development to equip teachers with new skills.

And how might you change to creatively meet the shifting needs? For example, for your most vulnerable students, how could you tap into young people in your community who are temporarily out of work or school to volunteer, as a way to increase individual and small group tutoring and/or mentorship for students? 

3. What’s our plan for making it happen? Map a realistic and financially viable short-term action plan; brainstorm near-term opportunities and long-term vision.

Map three potential scenarios based on different projections of health and financial status. Prioritize action steps in terms of urgency (i.e., How likely are we to need to do this?) and impact (i.e., How much will this impact our ability to serve students and families?). 

A high-priority item might be re-structuring staff given budget shortfalls, or developing a new calendar and facility plan to accommodate social-distancing requirements; a medium-priority item might be identifying donors for needed technology resources; a low-priority item might be reaching out to local colleges or universities for volunteers.

Think about what it will take to implement fundamental changes and introduce new programming (staff time, scheduling, possible stipends, etc.), while also planning for various possible financial and health scenarios. Before launching any new initiatives, also consider scheduling a focus group with your target audience to make sure the program is designed effectively.

4. How will we communicate effectively? Develop your message and communicate key shifts to your students, families, staff, and partners.

How will you keep your community informed of critical updates? How will you let them know about new opportunities and resources? (Newsletter, social media, website updates, etc.) You should also think about how you will measure the results so you can revisit periodically and make adjustments as needed.

While we recognize it is impossible to plan for every change, we believe if schools are supported to plan, they will emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis.

In our next post, we’ll help you answer each strategic question in-depth and share key insights from our experience guiding a cohort of schools through an 8-week planning process.

If you need more immediate support and you’re interested in doing this work with other school leaders facing similar challenges, consider joining Friday’s strategic planning cohort, launching the last week of May. Over an 8-week period, our team and network of expert advisors in the areas of operations, finance, legal, and school performance will guide school teams through a step-by-step process to systematically address the complexity of challenges your school is facing and to organize your team’s response.

Online Resources

Leading in a Crisis: Supporting Your School Community with Online Tools and Resources

April 22, 2020

Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify the tools, resources, and support they need to lead effectively.

Many school leaders across the country are asking themselves, “How do we continue quality learning at home while school is closed?” They are tasked with the unusual challenge of supporting teachers to keep their students engaged through online learning and asking parents to play a central role in the learning process for the next few weeks or even months.

We’re monitoring how schools across the country are managing this challenge and have gathered a list of tools and resources to help school leaders understand some of the options available to help ease the transition and enhance the learning experience. Among them, school leaders will find online communication tools, content and curriculum platforms, a list of companies offering temporarily free or enhanced connectivity services, and online support groups.

Keep in mind that what follows is only a partial listing of tools and resources, and that some may or may not be effective for your requirements. As we can all appreciate, a solution that works for one school or classroom might not work for another.


Online Communication Tools

Maintaining consistent communication with students and parents is critical during this period of remote learning. Here are a few platforms we have come across that may help teachers to schedule check-ins and stay connected with students and families. 


Teachers, students, and parents can use Edmodo to communicate and continue education even when in-person learning isn’t possible. Teachers can send messages, share class materials, and access Edmodo’s free Distance Learning tool kit.

Schoology: A PowerSchool Unified Classroom Product

PowerSchool is helping districts and schools across the country get up and running with distance learning by expanding access to Schoology. The Self-Service, Enterprise, and Basic subscriptions are free to use immediately until July 2020.

Pear Deck

Pear Deck makes it easy for teachers to connect with learners of every age and ability. Teachers can install Pear Deck as a way to stay connected with students during school closures.


Calendly is a meeting scheduling tool. Now through June, Calendly will support free integrations with video meeting tools such as Zoom to make connecting during the COVID-19 quarantine easier.


Remind helps schools to manage communication by sending messages to students and parents. Remind provides tips on using the free teacher account to support online instruction.


In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has lifted the 40-minute meeting limit for K-12 schools so that the platform is accessible for educators transitioning to online learning. Zoom has developed a comprehensive guide for educators, along with tips and tricks for teachers, administrators, and students.


Webex is offering free video-meeting software to K-12 schools to keep classrooms connected through real-time instruction.


Content & Curriculum Resources

As teachers are forced to rapidly adapt to remote learning, they may be searching for high-quality curricular resources and content to include in learning plans. The educational tools listed here are just a few examples of what’s available to help both teachers and parents to keep learning going at home.


The audiobook company is hosting a free set of stories handpicked by the company’s editors, for as long as schools are closed. This resource may be of special interest to teachers supporting English learners.


BrainPOP is now offering free access to schools and families impacted by school closures and is accessible through any screen device.


To empower distance learning, Kahoot! is now offering schools free access to Kahoot! Premium so that teachers can engage students anywhere.

Great Minds

Great Minds provides knowledge-building resources, such as written materials and instructional videos for Grades K-12. They post new video lessons and update their content daily. Teachers can choose their grade level and search for materials and video lessons for students.


Edpuzzle is a platform that allows teachers to take any video and create their own interactive video lessons for students. Edpuzzle is helping teachers to stay connected with students during this challenging time by offering free access to Edpuzzle Pro.


Parents can browse hundreds of TED-Ed Animations and TED Talks designed to spark their child’s curiosity. There are thousands of video-based lessons organized by age-level and subject.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers free online educational resources including exercises, quizzes, and tests so students can practice and master skills, as well as instructional videos to help students learn. As part of their response to the COVID-19 crisis, Khan Academy is hosting daily social media streams for teachers, parents, and students navigating school closures, and put together guides with practical information such as daily schedules and FAQ’s.  Teachers can sign-up for a free teacher account and set up their classroom for remote learning.


YouTube partnered with Khan Academy and other learning creators to bring parents and families fun and educational resources and activities.

Crash Course

Crash Course is a YouTube channel with courses in topics such as physics, economics, U.S. government and politics, astrology, and more.

Wide Open School

Wide Open School is a free collection of online learning experiences for kids put together by more than 25 partner organizations including Google, National Geographic, Scholastic, Khan Academy, and PBS, and curated by the editors at Common Sense Media.


Online Learning Guides

Many teachers are teaching from home and adopting methods of online learning for the first time. Here are a few examples of free resources available to help K-12 teachers learn how to use the tools available to them and become more comfortable with online learning. 

Google Education: Exploring Distance Learning Resources for Schools Affected by COVID-19

This guide provides suggestions for engaging students through distance learning during school closures, as well as training videos for teachers and school IT administrators.

Teach from Home

This resource is an information hub of tools and resources to help teachers teach from home during this time.

Google for Education: Teacher Center

Google has designed free, online training for the digital classroom.

COVID-19 Educational Resources App

This app is a master resource list that is updated continuously, by educators for educators. Teachers may search for specific resources and share and submit resources of their own.


Affordable Connectivity Services for Schools and Homes

This is a partial list of internet providers who are committed to closing the connectivity gap by offering (temporarily) free or enhanced services or waiving fees for families in need.


T-Mobile is increasing the data allowance at no additional cost for schools and students who use their EmpowerED digital learning programs, through May 13th, 2020.


Cox is helping families in need connect to the internet by offering the first two months of their Connect2Compete program for free.


Comcast is offering new families two months of Internet Essentials at no cost. Also, Xfinity Wifi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free.


Charter is offering free access to spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for K-12 households for 60 days.

Internet for All Now

The California Emerging Technology Fund has made it easy for schools and parents to search for affordable internet offers to ensure families stay connected to the internet during this challenging time. Parents can also call 1-844-INFO to find out if they pre-quality.


Support Groups & Wellness

Below you will find some supplemental resources such as Facebook groups and a wellness tool that may be helpful in promoting support and wellness among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. 

School Administrators Coronavirus Planning Facebook Group

This Facebook group encourages school administrators to collaborate and share ideas amid the current crisis.

Educator Temporary School Closure for Online Learning Facebook Group

This Facebook group supports educators who are planning online learning due to school closures.

Parent Support for Online Learning Facebook Group

This Facebook group provides support for parents who are new to online learning.


In response to the many school closures, Downdog has made all apps free until July 1st so that teachers and students (and their parents) can access wellness practices during this stressful time.

Again, it is important to keep in mind that every situation is different and what works for one school or classroom might not be a good fit for another. We’re hoping the list of tools and resources we’ve shared here will help school leaders to explore some of the options available to them as they work to provide support to teachers, students, and families during this time. Remember, many online tools and resources also provide instructional videos to help your school community learn to use them effectively.

If there are other tools and resources that have been helpful to your school community that you would like to share, please reach out to let us know and we will add them to this list.


Leading in a Crisis: Spotlighting Our School Partners Rising to the Challenge

April 13, 2020

Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify the tools, resources, and support they need to lead effectively. This time, we’re providing some inspiration and sharing examples of how our school partners are going above and beyond to serve their communities.  

Across the country, schools are transitioning to some form of remote or online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. While this is a time of uncertainty for many educatorsit is also an opportunity to find innovative ways to respond to challenges and approach learning. Although schools are physically closed, school leaders are finding ways to keep their school communities connected and engaged. They are making sure students have the appropriate tools to continue learning at home, providing online learning resources, and encouraging students and teachers alike to find time to relax and have fun.  

To provide inspiration and circulate ideas among the charter school community, we are spotlighting a few examples of how our school partners are rising to the challenge, broken into four categories: 

  • Online Learning Curriculum & Instructions 
  • Student Engagement 
  • Community Support  
  • Equitable Access 

This is only a partial list of the many ways our school partners are serving their communities. If you have an example from your school that you would like to share, please click here to let us know 

Online Learning Curriculum & Instructions   

We’ve included a few examples of how our school partners are implementing online learning and sharing educational resources with both students and parents. 

Para Los Niños  

As a way to help parents keep a structured learning schedule for their children, Para Los Niños is sharing practical resources such as example study agendas for each grade level on their website  and Twitter channel. They include a mix of online educational resources, such as Khan Academy, to supplement in-class content or material.   

Language Academy of Sacramento  

The teachers at the Language Academy of Sacramento are creating weekly virtual learning packets that include daily schedules to keep kids on track. 

Creo College Prep 

Creo College Prep is making the transition to distance learning by uploading daily video lessons on their YouTube channel.  

Rocketship Public Schools

Rocketship Public Schools Digital Learning Launchpad

Rocketship created a Digital Learning Launchpad to help families and educators adapt to learning from home by sharing what is working for their organization. Rocketship is sharing continuously updated resources, tools, and advice to support and advance student learning and character development from home. 

Connect Community Charter School 

The school leaders at Connect Community Charter School are providing their students and families easy access to helpful resources. They developed mini-websites for each grade level utilizing Google Sites to share distance learning resources and grade-level appropriate educational resources for parents to explore.  

Elite Public Schools 

To help continue the learning process during school closure, Elite Public Schools is providing family and student resources on their website. The resources include a daily schedule to suit the needs of both parents and students, along with free educational tools to keep learning fun. The website also features a student highlight video that shares what students are learning from home.  

High Tech Los Angeles 

High Tech Los Angeles is making the transition to distance learning by providing daily schedules and live sessions for each grade level. They also have a distance learning FAQ to answer any questions or concerns that parents or students may have.   

Intrepid College Prep 

Intrepid College Prep hosted remote learning webinars for parents in three languages and posted them on their website.  

Lighthouse Community Public Schools 

Lighthouse Community Public Schools is supporting the success of students by sharing learning resources for each grade level on Google Docs. The learning resources include work packets created by teachers  along with online resources to support distance learning. They are also providing free educational online content for parents who are looking for additional support and enrichment ideas to continue learning at home.   

Student Engagement   

Our school partners are finding creative ways to engage with students during the crisis, to both deliver critical information and provide a much-need break or healthy laugh! 

Para Los Niños

Para Los Niños is utilizing social media to keep things fun! On opening day for baseball, they shared an image of their staff on Zoom, all wearing Dodgers jerseys. Although they couldn’t celebrate opening day on campus, they didn’t let it hold them back from showing their team spirit!

Ethos Classical  

Ethos Classical Spirit Week

In an effort to bring joy to distance learning, Ethos Classical announced its first annual virtual spirit week on Instagram, encouraging students to post pictures and stories of artwork, silly outfits, and family photos.  

Rocketship Public Schools

Although these are uncertain times, Rocketship is finding opportunity in the crisis. On their blogthe charter network is sharing how teachers, families, and students are making the most out of distance learning. They are also using social media to highlight how teachers and students are managing to have fun along the way.

Strive Collegiate 

In the spirit of friendly competition, Strive Collegiate Academy hosted a dance contest in their Instagram story in which students could vote for the best of two TikTok videos featuring their teachers! They are also using Instagram to promote their virtual spirit week

Amethod Public Schools 

Student health and safety is a top priority for many schools. Teachers from Amethod Public Schools created a YouTube video that walks students through five essential steps to help them stay safe during the quarantine.  

Élan Academy

Virtual dance parties, pajama day, and college pride day are just a few ways that Élan Academy is making the most of spirit week.  Although students aren’t on campus, they are keeping spirit week alive by encouraging students to participate in fun at-home activities.   

Grizzlies Prep 

This is a hard time for many students, but teachers at Grizzlies Prep are sharing motivational videos on social media to keep students encouraged! In the videos, they are also providing ideas for ways that students can have fun with their families while at home.   

Community Support 

We’ve included a few examples of how our school partners are supporting their community with access to teachers and counselors via phone or video chat, as well as other resources families need during this difficult time and transition to at-home learning. 

Creo College Prep 

Creo College Prep Distance Learning

Even though the school campus is physically closed, Creo College Prep is making sure that both parents and students have access to teachers.  The school posts schedules and office hours on their website so that parents know what their children should be focused on and when they can video chat with teachers for support. The school is also hosting a daily community chat where the whole school comes together to connect and share gratitude.  

Memphis Merit Academy  

The school leaders at Memphis Merit are committed to making sure families have access to a teacher or administrator during the school closure. Parents and students can call a virtual teacher hotline for assistance with coursework.   

Alpha Public Schools

Alpha Public Schools fundraiser

To support their school community during this crisis, Alpha Public Schools is providing access to remote learning resources and family support resources. To make sure students have access to the internet, they are offering mobile hotspots to help students connect to the internet so that they can complete coursework. The organization is also offering counseling check-ins for students who are in need of additional support. To help parents who may be experiencing financial hardship, they have established an emergency fund to raise money to provide financial assistance and other resources. 

Oxford Prep Academy  

To keep parents informed about the crisis, OPA developed a COVID-19 Resources and Information page where they are sharing information on many topics including local meal service locations for all K-12 students, available childcare locations, and a COVID-19 hotline staffed by local nurses.   

Nevada Rise

School leaders at Nevada Rise created the Families of Nevada Rise Facebook group and shared instructions for how to join to encourage families to connect and support each other during this time. They also created a YouTube channel with fun videos. 

Buffalo Creek Academy 

Buffalo Creek Academy

Buffalo Creek Academy plans to open this fall, but they’re already very active in their community. The leadership team recently set up a table at two grocery stores and handed out school supply bags to families to support students learning from home. They’re also holding professional development sessions online in preparation for the upcoming school year.  

Equitable Access  

During this challenging time, it’s important that schools provide equitable access to the technology and training needed for students to continue learning at home. Here’s a few examples of how our school partners are committing to instructional equity as they transition to online learning. 

Amethod Public Schools / Oakland Charter High School 

Oakland Charter High School recognizes the importance of ensuring all students have access to the appropriate technology to continue learning at home. They are distributing Chromebooks to students in need and providing internet services to families who lack access.  

Solare Collegiate  

Solare Collegiate is loaning Chromebooks to students who do not have access to a computer at home, and their website includes information about free access to community hotspots. Solare is also helping to make sure all parents and students are prepared to participate in student learning by providing detailed instructions about how to sign into email and Google Classroom.  

Alpha Public Schools 

Alpha Public Schools put together a one-pager with information about free or low-cost home internet options for families, including instructions for how to sign-up.


During these uncertain times, it is inspiring to see how schools are going above and beyond to provide their students with quality online learning and make things fun along the way! We hope the examples provided here will provide ideas and inspiration for school leaders across the country to try something new or different. If you have an example you would like to share with other school leaders, please click here to let us know.    

Leading in a Crisis: Four Tips for Effective Online Learning

March 24, 2020

Here at EdTec, supporting charter schools to succeed is at the heart of everything we do, day in and day out. As we navigate this difficult time together, this blog series will address various topics to help school leaders identify the tools, resources, and support they need to lead effectively.

A vast majority of schools across the country have closed in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19. For at least a few weeks but possibly an extended period, school leaders are challenged to rethink what day-to-day learning looks like and are scrambling to come up with alternative solutions.

Schools vary in their knowledge of technological tools and abilities to provide their educational services to students online. As a school leader, regardless of whether your school is ready for online learning, preparing to take on this challenge is overwhelming. These are indeed difficult times, but by working together and sharing resources we can keep our kids engaged and learning. We’ve put together four tips for school leaders to help manage the transition to online learning and support teachers to deliver effective instruction.

Tip #1: Be Realistic and Provide Support

The harsh reality is that classes have been disrupted and we aren’t sure when normal school operations will resume. As the leader of your school, it helps to be realistic with expectations. Introducing online learning in a time where it is no longer “business as usual” will have many challenges. Realize that everyone is stressed and scared of the uncertainty ahead. The anxiety produced by the crisis impacts everyone involved.

Try to take a humanistic approach to your leadership and focus on the mental health of your staff and students. Like some of you, your team members may be juggling multiple roles, such as having to provide childcare or adult care. Promote the well-being of your teachers by making sure they have the tools and training they need to be effective, and check-in with them periodically to make sure they are doing okay.

Teachers will also benefit from access to practical resources that help them to plan, maintain structure, and meaningfully engage with students. As one example, Success Academy Charter Schools, the largest public charter school network in New York, hosted a webinar to discuss its plans for taking classes online, and included information about helpful resources shared with teachers, including suggested schedules and examples of questions to ask students when checking-in with them throughout the day. In today’s uncertain environment, actionable recommendations go a long way in helping to maintain some form of normalcy. Ask your teachers where they could use the most help, and work together with other administrators to put together resources that will help guide your teachers in this new environment and enable them to focus on teaching.

Tip #2: Collaboration and Training Are Critical

Implementing online learning requires collaborative planning from school leaders, administrators, and teachers. Create a leadership team that will inform the vision and assume responsibility for your school’s online learning plan. This team should start by asking relevant questions, such as, what tools and resources will be required to best support students’ needs? What tools are we already using that will serve us well, and where do we need to bring in new tools? You may find a few ideas on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ list of COVID-19 resources, which includes links to learning platforms and additional resources.  Your team will also need to ask, what kind of training and support do our teachers need to ensure smooth delivery?  What can we encourage parents to do at home to support student learning? What is our plan for students who do not have access to a computer or internet at home?

The leadership team should take care to include teachers in the decision-making process when determining how existing tools will be used in the new learning environment, as well as in the selection of new tools or resources, as teachers will need to use them daily and understand their own comfort level with various technologies. Teachers also have valuable knowledge regarding what works best for their students and families, and their input is critical to getting buy-in for your school’s online learning plan.

It’s not enough to provide tools; you’ll also need to make sure everyone is comfortable using them. It is important that school leaders have a plan in place to train teachers to effectively use existing and new tools, as well as to provide extra support to those teachers who do not feel comfortable with technology. These training efforts can be led by your technology team, or in the absence of one, by administrators, teachers, or other staff who are technologically savvy. Training can be further supported with online resources such as video tutorials. As one example, Google recently launched Teach from Home, a temporary hub of information, tools, and tutorials to help teachers during the COVID-19 crisis. These resources should also be made available to parents as they will play a critical role in students’ learning during this time.

Tip #3: Commit to Instructional Equity

The reality is that there are drastic disparities in access to computers and internet outside the classroom.  As schools transition to online learning, they should continually evaluate if their learning plans exclude certain students, and then adjust and/or prepare supports accordingly.

The first step to take when putting together an online learning plan is to audit your school community’s technology needs and capabilities. What kind of access is there, and what level of familiarity do your families have with educational technology? Understanding your community will help to guide the actions you need to take before learning can commence for everyone. If your school has computers and internet hotspots to distribute to students, a distribution plan will need to be organized. If the school lacks these resources, there will need to be a plan to distribute hard copies of materials. The California Department of Education published guidance on distance learning that includes considerations to ensure equity and access for all students, including assessing a continuum of options depending on access to computers and internet.

Our commitment to equity should also include accommodations to serve students with disabilities as well as English learners. School leaders should work closely with the appropriate departments and coordinators at their schools to ensure these student groups are provided with tailored lessons and adequate supports. You may also want to read through the guidance recently shared by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools as well as the U.S. Department of Education on COVID-9 and students with disabilities. During this challenging time, we need to do everything we can to make sure all students have equitable access to continued learning opportunities and that no one is left behind.

Tip #4: Be Thoughtful with Communications

This time of extreme change requires forward-looking leadership and thoughtful communication.  You can start by providing meaningful engagement with your team through supportive, personalized communications. Actively check-in with teachers as they transition to online teaching to ask how they are doing and how you can best support them.

Your school’s teachers will need to focus on effective communication with students to improve learning. Communicating online with students will be very different than traditional classes and in-person meetings. The more effectively teachers can communicate, the stronger the learning process will be in this time of crisis. The 7 C’s of Effective Online Communication shared by Southern New Hampshire University as a resource for universities amid the current crisis, includes advice for online instruction that may serve as a helpful guide for teachers to convey their lessons to students in a way that is:

Concise: Convey all necessary facts

Courteous: Be open and honest, friendly and warm

Complete: Balance brevity and message requirements

Concrete: Provide precise and specific direction

Considerate: Maintain the emotional well-being of students

Creative: Increase the potential for retention and support collaboration

Clear: Provide accessible language

Lastly, school leaders should establish regular communication with families so that parents and caregivers stay up-to-date and informed. We are all overwhelmed with information right now, and you can help to manage your community’s stress by establishing a consistent communications schedule so that parents know when to expect to hear from you. Since the transition phase has just begun, you’ll likely have daily news to share; try to gather important updates throughout the day, compile them in an organized, easy-to-read manner, and send a newsletter after school. After a few weeks have passed and processes are well established, you might be able to space these out a few days. Teachers will likely need to communicate with parents every day; you can encourage them to do so at a consistent time and to limit communications to one per day so that parents do not feel bombarded and overwhelmed as they struggle to balance work and home demands.

It’s also important to make sure that when your school shares updates about local, state, and federal government actions, you commit to citing official sources such as departments of education or charter support organizations. You want to make sure to only share reliable information with your families and avoid the spread of misinformation.


Education is not a place; it is the interactions that students have with their teachers and each other. Taking a thoughtful, positive approach to the current crisis can lead to creative opportunities for online learning. School leaders can encourage this by working with teachers to make sure they have the tools and support they need and by maintaining consistent communications with parents and others in their school communities. Although this is a time of extreme disruption, it will be exciting to see what we discover about different approaches to learning.