From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching This Week

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching This Week

As we all try to understand our rapidly evolving education environment during the COVID-19 crisis and the uncertainty that surrounds it, the Data Quality Campaign is working to elevate what’s happening – whether it’s concrete examples of what’s working in states and districts, ideas and proposals from the field, or things our organization and others are exploring. To accomplish this, we’re bringing you our thoughts on the most salient conversations happening in the last week on navigating education during the pandemic and future recovery efforts.

We’re writing this column together to combine our perspectives: Jenn brings years of experience in the classroom and in education leadership at the district and federal levels, while Paige’s expertise comes from more than a decade working on state and federal education data policy and issues. Check back weekly for our roundup of noteworthy thinking on education data and policy.

Data is critical to recovery efforts. A new Ohio law (HB 197) suspends accountability but requires that performance data collected to date be posted by September. Ohio’s state agency will use this newly reported data for informational purposes only, and recognizes that, “While this does not represent the full picture of a school or district’s academic performance this school year, it will provide helpful information that can be used for planning and program purposes.” Ohio is demonstrating real leadership on this issue; removing the weight of accountability from assessments will allow educators to solely focus their efforts on getting students back on track. States should lead with picking up the flashlight and shining a light on where they are, and recognize that withholding the hammer of accountability is the right thing to do this year – and maybe next year too.

In California, Governor Newsom’s office reiterated its support for the state’s nascent P–20W data system stating, “Access to data is essential when managing a crisis, and a stronger intersegmental system will make the state more resilient and adaptable.” Our health, economic, and education crises are tightly linked and effective solutions will depend upon state leaders finding the will to pull data out of siloes.

Looking ahead: Stay tuned for a DQC resource on how districts are using their parent portals as a critical means of supporting and communicating with parents while schools are closed.

South Florida districts are prioritizing transparency. WLRN’s Jessica Bakeman writes about efforts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to publicly share clear, transparent data.

The field is in desperate need of new measures. Attendance Works is taking on the hard work of looking at what attendance means in this era of distance learning – delving beyond login data to get to student participation and engagement. Keep an eye out later this month for their new framework for states and districts to adopt.

Student pathways will be impacted by academic and financial disruptions, making it more important than ever for states to ensure their district and school leaders have access to postsecondary, career and technical education, and workforce outcome data by high school. [For good examples, check out Kentucky, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.] We’re also hearing from states that procuring postsecondary data from third party sources is too expensive, especially given looming budget cuts – a signal that it’s time for Congress to revisit the College Transparency Act.

Looking ahead: With learning losses expected in the coming months, districts will need a variety of new assessments to gauge where students are academically as well as emotionally. As these assessments are developed and administered, measures of equity alongside growth data will be critical.

Lack of early learning data limits decisionmaking and leaves vulnerable children unserved. In The 74, Elliot Regenstein of Foresight Law + Policy and Chris Strausz-Clark of Third Sector Intelligence explain that states often have very limited data on which of our youngest students receive which services – another flag that getting better data in early childhood and across the P–20W spectrum will be critical to state education and economic recovery efforts. Smart decisions in early learning areas are also critical to ensuring their parents can get back to work.

Federal funding opportunities for data use. States must strengthen their P–20W and integrated data systems in order to understand and reflect new challenges, and to serve their students now and after the crisis; linked data is more important than ever given the nature and severity of the crisis states and districts are facing. The federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated nearly $31 billion to an Education Stabilization Fund comprised of four grant programs. One of these programs, The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, is an “emergency block grant” designed to quickly distribute $3 billion to the most impacted states and gives governors enormous flexibility in determining how the use the grant. The newly-created Rethink K-12 Education Models program is providing a much smaller amount of funding (read: an average of $15 million per grant) that will allow states to provide microgrants to help parents with connectivity, set up virtual learning programs, and try new ideas to improve distance learning. For more on how the federal government can support states and schools in recovery, read Jenn’s piece in The 74.

Getting research into the hands of practitioners. The William T. Grant Foundation’s new Rapid Response Research Grants will, in part, support partnerships of researchers and practitioners or advocates as they synthesize existing evidence and use it to make specific district programming decisions. Building long-term, collaborative partnerships will help the field apply existing research in smart ways and ensure that future research is helping to provide the answers educators and leaders need. In this vein, don’t forget to tell us what questions you have about education right now – and for the future. Share your thoughts with us on social media using #StartWithYourQs or by emailing us at communications@dataqualitycampaign.org.