Project lead: Beth Howard-Brown
As of summer 2020, Illinois needed a coordinated, statewide forum for district leaders to discuss immediate challenges as a new school year kicked off amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Although both the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provided a variety of professional learning opportunities to districts and schools following the pandemic’s onset, district leaders needed opportunities to have peer-to-peer conversations centered on instructional supports during this unprecedented time.
To fill this need, the Region 9 Comprehensive Center (R9CC) is partnering with IARSS and ISBE to establish peer-to-peer focus groups across the six IARSS service areas in 2020–21. These focus groups provide a forum for district and school leaders to discuss current challenges, forecast future challenges, share early successes, and examine strategies and resources to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is giving Illinois education leaders access to a well-planned, strategic system of professional learning that incorporates data to schools’ pandemic responses. In addition, the focus groups enable timely sharing of knowledge, best practices, and evidence-based resources through facilitated discussions among educators. In addition, R9CC is developing a final report that documents the conversations and resources shared by the district superintendents through the focus groups.