From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of December 14

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of December 14

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.

New enrollment data. We’ve been following the conversation about student enrollment across P–20W during the COVID-19 crisis since it began, and last week brought a new development with the release of National Student Clearinghouse’s (NSC) High School Benchmarks report. NSC’s analysis includes up-to-date data on high school graduates’ postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion, including a special look at how the pandemic has affected outcomes. Their findings align with other reports we’ve seen, noting a dramatic drop (21.7 percent) in the number of high school graduates going directly to college this fall as compared to 2019. Still they note one silver lining, that overall high school graduation rates were unaffected by COVID-19 and remained stable from 2019.

So what’s going to happen to all of these high school graduates who are delaying or declining going to college? The report doesn’t speculate on that question, but we know that all students—especially these students whose education has been thrown off track by COVID-19—need useful, accurate information about their options. Why would they continue to college during a health and economic crisis if they weren’t sure the effort and expense would pay off? State and local leaders should prioritize getting students and families information that can point them down the right pathways to reach their goals as they transition from high school to postsecondary to the workforce.

Bless this test. Catching up on the assessment conversation, we were happy to see a piece by Garris Landon Stroud, a Kentucky State Teacher Fellow and blogger, titled “Without Data, We Can’t Fight for Our Students’ Futures.” We couldn’t agree more. Stroud notes that with the postponement of NAEP, we’re losing a key chance to get comparable state-by-state information about how the nation’s students are learning—data that’s critical in a year rife with disruption and learning loss. While we know the data may reveal a bleak picture, “it at least gives schools a starting point for addressing learning loss… with targeted interventions for struggling students.” Yes! While we’re still not sure what will happen with other important tests like spring statewide assessments, it’s crucial in this uncertain time that parents and leaders have information to provide a window into how all our students are doing, and comparable test data is an essential component of that.

Data for military-connected students. Finally, we were happy to see reports of incoming First Lady Jill Biden talking about the new administration’s commitment to helping students in military families. (Paige is an Army brat but wants it known that her siblings were far brattier.) The 74 cites information from DQC’s recent Show Me the Data report about the number of states (32) reporting achievement and other data for students with an active-duty parent. Military-connected students are often faced with particular challenges—like having to retake courses and assessments every time they move—so it’s important that school leaders have data about military-connected students (even data to know whether they have military-connected students in their classrooms in the first place) to ensure those students receive the supports they need to succeed. This fits nicely within our call to the new administration to ensure that educators have the individual student data they need—and tools and support to use it—to tailor instruction to all students’ needs.