The voice of California’s charter school movement

Winning Strategies for Meaningful Student Engagement In Distance Learning

By Ana Tintocalis

It is clear that distance learning will continue to be part of the daily lives of public school students in California in the near future. But an increasing number of studies indicate many students tune out during online instruction – or don’t participate at all.

What strategies currently exist that motivate students to log on every day and actively participate in learning? CCSA has some answers. 

In CCSA's new report, How California’s Charter Schools Engaged Students In Remote Learning, we outline six strategies to improve student engagement and foster a feeling of connectedness in distance learning. There are:
  1. Adopt meaningful ways to measure and track student engagement
  2. Maintain consistent contact with students using tools like daily “pulse point” surveys
  3. Track work completion as an indicator of engagement
  4. Target student achievement and progress using internal assessments
  5. Realign non-instructional staff roles to support student engagement efforts
  6. Develop ways for students, families, teachers, and staff to connect virtually outside of online instruction

Is there a standout charter public school putting all this into action?

Yes, the great news is many charters are working hard to facilitate meaningful engagement. However, CCSA’s new study recognizes Ednovate Charter Public Schools as a bright spot for its ability to not only engage students, but also make them feel valued.

Ednovate is a network of college prep charter high schools serving low-income students of color in Los Angeles and Orange counties. A key component of Ednovate’s instructional model is “building community – creating a sense of belonging so no student ever feels alone.”

Oliver Sicat, CEO and co-founder of Ednovate, says it is imperative that his team pinpoint and implement practices that foster relationship building and a sense of community in this new digital world of distance learning. 

Take a listen to Oliver in this video clip as he talks about creating a sense of belonging, maintaining consistent contact with students, and tracking work competition:


Ednovate is producing results based on their efforts.

According to spring 2020 data, the charter network was able to maintain 96 percent average daily attendance throughout the spring. They even found that their virtual pre-ACT testing administration had higher attendance in 2020 than in previous years during in-person testing. Lastly, 98 percent of Ednovate high school seniors were accepted to a four-year college or university last academic year.

You can learn more about Ednovate’s student engagement efforts in
How California’s Charter Schools Engaged Students in Remote Learning. The report also includes statewide student engagement data from spring 2020 when all charter public schools in California were forced to launch distance learning programs due to the statewide shelter-in-place order.

The findings show that by early April 2020 – two weeks after the order took effect – most surveyed charter schools, 63 percent, were in contact with all their students, and almost all, 90 percent, of surveyed charter schools were in contact with at least 90 percent of their students.

CCSA Director of Research Jennifer Kress, who authored the report, says that means charter schools acted swiftly during one of the most challenging times in public education to ensure teachers and students were logging on and learning together.

How California’s Charter Schools Engaged Students in Remote Learning is the third installment in CCSA’s Portrait of the Movement 2020 reports.

Collectively, the suite of studies offers valuable insight as it relates to the performance of charter schools during the global pandemic – from preventing learning loss to narrowing the digital divide.

To access all of the studies in CCSA’s Portrait of the Movement 2020, click here.

This blog story was written by Ana Tintocalis, CCSA Director of Media Relations and Research. She is also a contributor to the CharterNation blog. If you would like to contact her, please email