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The New Instructional Core

Most people in education have at least a general understanding of the Instructional Core. As defined by Richard Elmore, it includes the student, the teacher, and content. What we have students do in the classroom (the instructional task) lies in the middle of those three and is impacted by each.

Elmore posits that if we want to improve learning at a broader level than just a single student or classroom, then schools must change one of those three areas. That should then be the focus of our school improvement efforts.

However, the shift to distance-based learning has highlighted a critical missing element to this model: parents. It is almost impossible for schools to be successful in our current reality if we do not better involve and partner with parents. While most schools would agree with this idea, we see few schools that have successfully added parents into the "core" work of schools.

As teachers and school leaders, we need to think carefully about what resources and understandings parents need to support learning at home. How can we best support parents so that they can support their child at home? How can we provide that support without overwhelming them?

These are critical questions for schools right now, but they are not just important during a pandemic. There is a large body of research highlighting the importance of parent involvement for student achievement. Providing education to our students is exceptionally difficult right now. Teachers and leaders are overwhelmed and so are families. We need to think about how we can partner with parents in a way that helps everyone, rather than adding "one more thing." However, if we are able to do that, not only will the huge challenge we all face right now get a little easier, but we can leverage it as an opportunity to improve school-family partnership into the future.

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