From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of July 13

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of July 13

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.

Jenn here. Paige is taking some well-deserved time off this week.

The conversation about school reopening has ramped up in recent days and has officially become national, as it’s clear there are conflicting views at the federal level about reopening schools. I’ve been closely following the news, specifically state and district plans for the fall. Data is a key piece of recovery – and leaders need data to inform their plans about when to reopen school buildings versus deploying virtual or hybrid instruction.

Fortunately, Johns Hopkins University just unveiled their new tracker that analyzes reopening plans from across the country. What’s unique—and important—about this tracker is that it highlights how state reopening plans are addressing the needs of student groups. Different groups of students are experiencing the pandemic differently, with families of color and low-income families being the hardest hit. As schools, districts and states approach recovery, they must consider how they can best support all of their students, and that starts with understanding exactly what groups of students need.

With reopening around the corner for many states, we can’t ignore how much data exists from other countries that have already reopened their schools. DQC’s most recent board chair, John Bailey, shared a roundup of this research. States and districts would be well-served to use their own data and takeaways from what other countries have done to determine what recovery strategies and approaches would work best for them.

Bringing research to the people. Nate Schwartz of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform and Sara Kerr of Results for America are turning questions they’ve received from the field into productive, easy-to-read content. A new project called EdResearch for Recovery brings together experts from universities across the country to provide actionable, evidence-based insights to help guide decisionmaking. The public has questions about so many facets of education in recovery—and projects like this are a step toward finding solutions. The more data and evidence leaders can draw from, the better equipped they will be to make decisions that benefit students and keep everyone safe.

What about assessments? Assessment data is some of the most important information that school leaders, teachers and parents have about their students. Those closest to students need this information to ensure that students are getting the necessary supports and that leaders are allocating resources appropriately to best serve students. In fact, 77 percent of parents agreed that states should resume administration of end-of-year summative assessments (e.g., state standardized tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams) in math and reading in 2021 to better understand how well schools and students are meeting academic standards.* And the debate about how to best administer assessments—which kind/format and when they should be given to students—has been robust, to say the least. As states, districts and schools work to build their plan for assessments, FutureEd and the Center for Reinventing Public Education are out with new recommendations.

  • FutureEd’s Blueprint for Testing “outlines how and when states, school districts, and schools should use assessments in this unprecedented period: to gauge student learning, help accelerate students to grade-level performance, and provide systems-level insights into educational recovery.”
  • CRPE’s Learning as We Go shares “the findings from a panel of assessment experts on diagnostic assessments and their role in helping educators and parents support student learning.”

Reimagining workforce policy. Our nation’s workforce is going to change; it already has. The National Governors Association released a report that looks at what it’s going to take to reimagine workforce policy in a world of disruptions. They conclude that data—and robust, linked data systems—are a big part of what states will need to invest in. We couldn’t agree more. In fact, Credential Engine’s Scott Cheney and I address this in a recent commentary in The 74. Individuals always need information on potential pathways and outcomes as they plan for their futures, but these needs become even more acute as individuals work to reskill in a shifting economy.

*Source: Online survey conducted within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Data Quality Campaign: April 28–May 1, 2020, among 1,725 parents of children ages 5–17 (1,565 whose children attend school).