Aspen Institute Issues New Recommendations for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Education During Pandemic Era

June 17, 2020

State and District Leaders Urged to Prioritize Active Engagement and Equity for All Students

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, June 17, 2020 –– The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program today released a series of recommendations for culturally and linguistically responsive education in the pandemic era with the goal of helping students to become independent learners. The recommendations focus on the role of states and districts, with a particular emphasis on fostering a sense of belonging among historically marginalized students, including students of color, English learners, and students from low-income families. 

The resource, titled Supporting Students to be Independent Learners: State and District Actions for the Pandemic Era, is available here. The findings are endorsed nearly 40 co-signers, representing a diverse cross-section of education leaders, who actively participated in this process. 

“The pandemic and racial unrest should prompt all policymakers toward leadership and action,” said Danielle Gonzales, Managing Director for the Aspen Education Program. “State and districts have the opportunity – I would argue a moral responsibility – to reimagine school when buildings reopen. Connectedness and independent learning should be at the forefront of those efforts.”

The actions for states include:

1. Enable community partnerships to bring valuable cultural capital into schools.

2. Ensure all students have access to rigor.

3. Equip the education workforce to engage students with rigor through culturally and linguistically responsive education (CLRE).

4. Amend state laws and regulations to define “safety” and “school safety” in ways that encompass students’ experience of psychological/intellectual safety and belonging.

5. Improve and prioritize school climate measurement and support to better attend to cultural and linguistic diversity.

These steps follow the publication of ten recommended state actions for Fostering Connectedness in the Pandemic Era that were also developed with education leaders and released in May 2020. As state and district leaders have been responding to urgent priorities associated with COVID-19, such as school closure, provision of food and internet, and now re-opening, Aspen Education has brought together diverse groups of education leaders to consider and plan for education policy priorities in the next year.

In addition to the impact of COVID-19, this resource comes following weeks of national protest over systemic and historic racial inequity and injustice. In this context, leaders are urge to consider the conditions to which students and staff return in the 2020-21 school year and prioritize fundamental human needs: relationships, rebuilding trust, and attending to healing – at the individual, community, and national levels. This includes an intensive focus on school climate and anti-racist education. Aspen Education released a statement addressing this crucial topic on June 5, Advancing Racial Justice Through American Education.


The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program (Aspen Education) improves public education by inspiring, informing, and influencing education leaders across policy and practice, with an emphasis on achieving equity for students of color and children from low-income backgrounds. Aspen Education supports leaders at all levels, from networks of urban superintendents and their teams, to state chiefs and their cabinets, to elected officials and their staffers. By providing off-the-record venues for authentic learning and honest dialogue, and producing a range of resources and tools, Aspen Education assists education leaders in designing, implementing, and continuously improving policy and practice.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Aspen Institute is adapting to address the challenges of the pandemic. Learn more about some of the solutions we’re proposing, the actions we’re taking, and the changemakers we’re supporting.

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