Last spring, we urged states to take five actions to use data to address the needs of students and families during the pandemic. Our recommendations highlight the value of transparency about how schools are adjusting to online learning during the pandemic. With so many unknowns, it is crucial that education leaders share important information, and that parents can feel they can trust it. The crisis is still ongoing, and so too are efforts to support students during this challenging time. Did any states take the needed action steps to use data to support students and families in this uncertain time? Here I discuss five promising state actions.
- Updating their report cards this year. North Dakota is using its report card to keep families up-to-date on how many students are learning in person and online, links to new learning policies, and COVID-19 case data. The Rhode Island report card includes survey data to show how the pandemic impacts student and staff well-being. Both of these examples show how report cards answer parent and community questions about how the pandemic is impacting students. For more on the value of report cards during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery, see our report card resource.
- Calculating growth in 2021. It is essential that educators and communities know how the pandemic’s disruption in education impacted student learning—which is best uncovered by measuring student growth. In May 2020, Florida announced plans to use students’ 2019 and 2021 assessment scores to measure skip-year growth, an approach that is routinely used to measure growth when students are not assessed in the prior year. But states must lay the groundwork now to measure skip-year growth in spring. Administering 2021 assessments is the only way leaders have to get a comparable data point that will say something about learning for all students within a state. See more on skip-year growth.
- Turning on parent data portals to give families the information they need. At the state level, Georgia enables districts to provide current and prior-year data to parents so they can have the full picture of their child’s learning with a single log-in. At the local level, Houston’s YES Prep Public Schools has created a Family Portal that meets families where they are by saving them time, speaking their language, and providing real value. See more on how parent portals keep families and educators on the same page.
- Protecting students’ privacy. School closures and the switch to online learning have caused educators and students to work with a variety of new tools. While there is some confusion about how to protect student privacy in this context, there is work states can do. Connecticut published a webpage with important information about privacy during COVID-19 that includes resources like the Connecticut Education Software Hub, a database of software made by companies that have taken the state’s privacy pledge. See more for how states can maintain privacy and build trust during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Setting themselves up to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. To support educators in the changing landscape, states will need to leverage research to address a number of priorities related to COVID-19 and recovery. States need resources to build out adaptable research partnerships—and efforts in this area remain to be seen. As an example at the local level, the Houston Education Research Consortium is working with eleven local districts to use survey data to identify pressing needs and target areas for support. Additionally, they are providing real-time information about the digital divide and mental health. See more for information on how states can enable timely and actionable research.