The COVID-19 pandemic is a global issue that we did not expect or anticipate. One key lesson we are learning is that the pandemic is exacerbating existing inequities. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected. Fewer are tested. Too many lack access to intensive care. Many have lost their jobs. Others take huge risks by going to work because they do not have the resources to self-quarantine and stay home.
At the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), we have been executing our Rise Up for Equity strategy for the last two years working with leaders in 100 communities where opportunities and resources are structurally absent or constrained to deepen our collective impact. These communities face significant inequities, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and have had a disproportionate negative impact on low-income families, and communities of color, and individuals with disabilities. There is a great sense of urgency to address these issues now.
IEL has taken steps to quickly respond to and support our leaders. We have conducted rapid-cycle research into exacerbated inequities and the populations affected, the corresponding challenges they are facing, and ways communities are responding. Working with Louisiana and Maryland, we have linked COVID-19 data with community-level education, health, economy and community indicators to assist local decision makers in how to prioritize where to deploy resources.
We are identifying and collecting rapid-response, field-generated solutions and are sharing with our vast community school, family and community engagement, youth transition, disability, and educational policy networks through conversations and communications. For the past two months we’ve convened hundreds of leaders in our networks, through weekly town halls and polled them about the inequities they are facing and the solutions they are creating. We share their field-generated solutions widely. Basic needs including access to food and technology barriers to facilitate virtual learning are two key issues. Access to health services including mental health services along with unemployment and housing assistance ranked high, as well. Our town halls have created the space for our leaders to share information, including challenges and innovations, lessons learned, and connect with others experiencing similar challenges. We are lifting up these challenges to policymakers and creating template advocacy letters to help our leaders educate their elected officials. And we continue to provide coaching and facilitation to cohorts of school leaders and districts around the country around COVID-19 and plans for transition to the summer and potentially back to school buildings in the fall.
Looking ahead, we plan to expand our support to our leaders to use COVID-19 and community-level microdata to target resources where they are most needed and where they will have the greatest impact. And we continue to host and provide the space for our leaders to connect and share best practices, including hosting an upcoming youth-led panel on the impact of COVID-19 on youth with disabilities. We will continue to be as responsive and nimble as possible to support our leaders and to fight for greater equity alongside them.
Follow us on social media or visit our website to learn more about our work to Rise Up for Equity in this pandemic era.