Access, Communications, Transparency

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of June 1

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of June 1

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.

If 20 percent of teachers won’t return to the classroom, where does that leave schools? A recent USA TODAY/Ipsos poll found that “one in five teachers say they are unlikely to go back to school if their classrooms reopen in the fall.” Data that helps leaders understand the staff that they still have in classrooms and how their expertise can best be utilized will give schools, districts and states a start as they work towards recovery. Districts and states who have done the hard work of linking up information about teachers with student information (including performance) will have a leg up here.

The next big question: Assessments. Statewide annual assessments, diagnostic assessments, something else? Plenty of ideas are being circulated about how to address assessments in the next school year to understand how students progressed (or didn’t) academically during this time of remote learning. Last week, Education Reform Now made the case for diagnostic assessments, while FutureEd’s Tom Toch argued the importance of diagnostic assessments and the slow phasing back in of traditional accountability. Whatever decision states make, they will need to support districts with timely data, tools, and analytics if educators are to make use of the resulting information in a meaningful way.

Understanding student progress, mobility and outcomes during recovery – in K–12 and higher education. The Maryland State Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) Center hosts a regular research series to bring together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to learn and discuss current research findings. On June 4, MLDS will share findings from a longitudinal study in Maryland on student and school predictors of college and career persistence; a timely topic for leaders across the nation right now. As leaders scramble for COVID-19 recovery solutions, states should make sure they have the systems, governance, linkages, privacy, and research agenda in place to understand the full picture of student success and outcomes.

In our last post, we discussed how Maryland is sharing transparent information with the public through its COVID tracker. Recently, the state released a survey of its 24 school districts. Unfortunately, the survey results are not disaggregated and identified by district leaving state and local leaders in the dark about the severity of their challenges. Transparency is key during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery; failing to clearly share information stands in the way of finding the right solutions to ensure that schools can ensure student success.

Credential transparency – with information on outcomes – allows students to choose their own paths. New reports from NORC and JFF underscore the need for available information on potential postsecondary pathways and their outcomes. The reports highlight that there is still high demand for skilled workers, but the supply of candidates is lagging. In order to fill this gap, individuals need information about their options (e.g., which programs and credentials in my area will train me for available jobs?) and how other students like them have fared on those pathways – including real data on employment and wages. As states look to recover from a COVID-19 education and economic crisis, they must consider policies to establish credential transparency and enhanced P–20W data systems.

What are the most unexpected challenges to come? Robin Lake, director of the Center for Reinventing Public Education, took to Twitter to ask for ideas about COVID-related challenges that no one is talking about yet. We’re not at all surprised that many of the issues arising link back to data – and are glad to see the conversation highlighting how leaders can use data to identify problems and find solutions. Follow the conversation here.