For educators, families, and communities, April is bringing a welcome sign of hope to a year of unchartered challenges as political unrest, COVID-19, social and racial disparities, and violence have disrupted and dismantled our schools’ traditional approach to education. The appointment of Miguel A. Cardona as the 12th Secretary of Education and the passing of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 does make it feel like spring, in fact, has sprung. The possibility of equitable school environments for our nation’s children appears tangible, however, recovery must attend to more than filling holes with intent to return to a “new normal.”
Students desperately need support as they try to overcome current challenges to academic learning, physical health, and social-emotional connection. Meanwhile, school leaders must focus on coordinating policies and practices that put equitable structures in place for every child. While the necessary federal leadership and funding provide necessary first steps to tackling multiple points of support to the education infrastructure, we propose that schools reopen not with a “new normal,” but a “better normal” — one where we carry out only a few highly effective actions really well.