Challenge Normal: Innovating, Learning and Adapting for Student Success During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed how school communities – students, families, and educators alike – approached education and forced educators everywhere to reimagine how to support student success. Throughout our state, we’ve seen examples of how, when faced with unprecedented circumstances, school communities responded by piloting new and innovative ways to maintain engagement and keep students on-track to achieve their high school and postsecondary goals.

In Plugged In: Examining COVID-19 Enrollment Trends and Learning Outcomes, the Connecticut RISE Network (RISE) explored new challenges presented by remote and hybrid learning and revealed that nearly half the students enrolled in remote learning in RISE high schools were off-track to promote to the next grade level. In response, we offered recommendations to encourage school communities to work together to pursue creative ideas to help all students realize and achieve their full potential.

We watched as educators throughout the RISE Network pivoted from the first half of the year to meet the students where they were. Most importantly, they responded to how they were learning. As we wrap up the 2020-21 school year, we are excited to share bright spots from across the RISE Network. Educators from our 9-school network pursued recommendations from the original report, resulting in countless success stories in the face of unpredictable circumstances. Each innovative practice we’ve spotlighted, from college access collaboration between Stamford and Norwalk to Manchester High School’s Grade 9 Educator “Strategy Swaps,” also serves as a promising practice to learn from and replicate as we transition back to school next fall.

For the first Plugged In report, we leveraged the RISE Network community to understand early enrollment and performance data and survey families about their experience, informing recommendations to help schools statewide make midyear adjustments. In this report, we revisit those recommendations to spotlight school creativity and ingenuity and lift up successful practices to help school communities chart a path forward.