Curriculum for use during school closures supports continuity of education in Arizona

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In Brief

Arizona state education and health officials collaborated with school districts and local health departments to develop an 8-week language arts and math curriculum for students in grades K-12 to use during prolonged school closures.

Background

Closing schools during an influenza outbreak can be a controversial decision with many unintended consequences for parents, teachers, and children. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, several Arizona schools decided to close for a short period of time in response to increasing absenteeism and to prevent more children from becoming ill. These decisions were based on close evaluation of local flu cases and extensive communication between the state public health agency and local school districts.

Specific issues

During prolonged school closures:

  • Children may fall behind in their education or even fail to meet certain standards set by federal or state boards.
  • Continuity of school curricula relies on coordination and communication between several state and local divisions, including educational administration and health agency personnel.
The practice

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) developed an 8-week curriculum for students in grades K-12 to preserve educational continuity during prolonged school closure.


ADE began to work closely with ADHS in 2006 to map out how schools would respond to an influenza pandemic. Two years later, the agencies developed an Intergovernmental Service Agreement to create solutions for issues resulting from prolonged school closure. The agreement paved the way for the agencies to codevelop an 8-week curriculum for grades K-12 to use during school closures.

  • Lesson plans focus on math and language arts with some integration of social studies and science into the curriculum.
  • The need for children to meet standards in these area before advancing grade levels partly drove the decision to concentrate primarily on math and language skills
  • Lessons emphasized skills and concepts with which students generally have the most difficulty.
What made this practice possible?
  • The years that ADE and ADHS spent planning for a pandemic allowed for close and comprehensive communication regarding potential school closures and requirements for continuity of education.
  • Involving local school districts early on in the process ensured that all school closure activities conformed to state regulations and respected school administrators’ wishes for educational continuity.
Results

In fall 2010, ADHS extended its intergovernmental service agreement with ADE, paving the way for future projects focused on continuity of education and prepared school systems.

Notes

Math and language arts curricula developed by ADHS and ADE are a work in progress. Complete 8-week curricula have been developed for several grade levels, while others (e.g., 11th and 12th grade lesson plans) are forthcoming.

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