Access, Communications, Transparency

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of June 29

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of June 29

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.

Getting students back on track this school year. New research from the RAND Corporation found that 84 percent of principals said they would not require students to repeat a grade due to the pandemic. No matter what grade students enter into this school year, teachers and school leaders will need to focus on moving students forward. Personalized learning strategies and social-emotional learning efforts will help teachers identify what students need. But assessment data is key for leaders to understand where to start and how much progress students made during the upcoming year. The jury is out on which assessments are appropriate at what time, but we know that 77 percent of parents agree 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.

Texas has put in place a measure that will help school leaders understand how much remote learning content students were exposed to during the shutdown. The Texas Education Agency is requiring local education agencies (LEA) to submit a “crisis code indicator” for students that identifies their level of engagement during COVID-19 school closures. The codes are specific to the level and type of student engagement, and for what periods of time during remote learning. In addition to being monitored and analyzed by the Houston Education Research Consortium, this information will also be included in multiple Texas data platforms. This level of data on student engagement will allow Texas and its LEAs to understand and address student learning during the pandemic. Not only will this information be an important part of how the state, districts and schools create strategies to make up for lost classroom time, but should also inform how the state moves forward with potential remote learning in the fall.

And it’s no secret that DQC supports states and districts measuring student academic growth and ensuring that parents and communities have access to student growth data. But a new working paper confirms that student growth data helps the public understand school quality. The researchers noted, “In short, when participants learn about student growth, their personal evaluations of their local schools become more in line with a measure that many researchers consider a better measure of schools’ contributions to student learning.” As states and districts plan for recovery, they need this information to know what’s working and where. As growth data is the best equity indicator states have, it’s critical that state leaders consider using skip-year growth measures to calculate growth in 2021.

Listening to parents on COVID-19 recovery and school reopening. States, districts and schools are pushing forward with plans for reopening and/or remote learning in the fall – but are they taking into account what parents and families want? Parents have opinions about school reopening that are far more nuanced than “please take my kids so I can work from home in peace.” Take DQC’s 2020 parent poll, for instance. Eighty-nine percent parents responded that they are interested in information about how school closures and other coronavirus-related interruptions affected students’ long-term outcomes (e.g., high school graduation, college enrollment, or future wages).

Many organizations – including the National Parents Union, Innovate Public Schools, PAVE (Parents Amplifying Voices in Education), and Stand for Children Indiana – have all shared information, including plans, statements of belief and even bills of rights, on what parents expect to see from reopened schools. On top of having been de facto teachers for the past few months, parents know their students best. These attitudes and recommendations are all data points that state and district leaders should be considering as they plan for the coming school year.

Closing gaps in representation. In weeks past, we’ve discussed how the pandemic and economic downturn have negatively affected low-income communities and communities of color and how many are expecting to see those changes reflected in postsecondary education. Fewer students may enroll in postsecondary education and many who were enrolled previously may not continue their studies due to economic concerns. New research from the Urban Institute reinforces this even further – underscoring that the nation’s most selective institutions still fail to adequately represent students of color. Urban Institute’s new tool allows users to explore how racially representative colleges are at the national, state, and institutional level with the option to filter by race, academic year, and college sector.


*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).