COVID-19 and Shifting Priorities – Lessons in Flexibility and Responsiveness

COVID-19 Remote Asynchronous Plan, Texas Education Agency (TEA)
In Spring 2020, COVID-19 resulted in closures of LEAs across Texas. TEA launched the Texas Remote Asynchronous Plan to provide attendance-based funding for and guidance to LEAs so that could develop a comprehensive plan to deliver, monitor, and continuously improve remote instruction for their students. With support from Region 14 CC, TEA developed a process and technical infrastructure for plan submission and review, recruiting, hiring, training, and ongoing support for 30+ external reviewers. Region 14 CC also provided ongoing technical and strategic support and assistance to TEA leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the education sector. With little notice and little time to prepare, schools had to adjust goals and priorities among several other transitions. State Education Agencies (SEAs), educators, students, and families faced a wide range of challenges with distance learning, from student and teacher wellbeing to technical difficulties, student access, and inequities in learning.

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As the Regional Center supporting SEAs in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas the Region 14 Comprehensive Center (Region 14 CC) also had to adapt quickly to changing needs and expectations in each state during the pandemic. In its first annual evaluation report, Region 14 CC assessed success and opportunities for improvement in education stakeholder outcomes, including COVID-19-related changes.

While SEAs appreciated Region 14 CC’s openness to changes in priorities, they shared that it was also important to continue to assess the SEAs’ ability to execute project activities and adjust where necessary. SEAs were faced with limited time and resources and had to balance multiple tasks during a particularly challenging year, and will continue to need flexibility and support in achieving goals and completing projects.

According to the evaluation report, SEAs reported that the Region 14 CC staff were “extremely flexible and responsive to their needs” during the pandemic, including being “open to changing meetings, accelerating timelines, and shifting seamlessly to virtual meetings and events, which helped them continue their work.” Region 14 CC sustained support for many SEA priorities and fostered new projects to help with COVID-19 transition needs such as maintaining most of the planned project work, moving all meetings and events online, starting new projects to review Local Education Agency (LEA) asynchronous reopening plans in Texas, and engaging with stakeholders in Louisiana to reflect on their Strong Start reopening guidance.

With so much uncertainty on the road ahead, Region 14 CC commits to demonstrating its core values of a collaborative and community focused culture by remaining flexible and responsive, and a true partner to SEAs as they navigate changing priorities.

The Region 14 Comprehensive Center supports the needs of state education agencies (SEAs) in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas which serve over 6.6 million students in more than 11,500 schools combined. The Comprehensive Center designs and implements projects that build their capacity to apply evidence-based policies and programs that improve the quality of instruction, increase access to effective teachers and school leaders, and close education achievement gaps in the region.