From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of October 19

From the Kitchen Tables of Jenn and Paige: What We’re Watching, Week of October 19

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.

A new report from the Education Trust-West (ETW) is bringing the attention to California’s college students who are without access to school online. ETW found that “across hundreds of California colleges, about 102,000 students from lower income households and 145,000 students of color lack access to the internet… When it comes to access to a laptop or tablet, the report finds more than 109,000 low-income students and nearly 134,000 students of color may be left out.” Without access to internet or a device during a global health emergency, these students are unable to continue their postsecondary education. While attention is often focused on K–12 students who can’t connect to school online, higher education leaders must also work to collect data that allows them to understand who has access and who doesn’t, and how to get those who don’t have access connected.

The value of higher education. New research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce uses College Scorecard data to breakdown returns on investment and explains how that often depends on the school you attend and the program you pursue. The report found that, “first-year earnings for the same degree in the same major can vary by $80,000 at different colleges and universities.” Students and families should have access to all of the information they need to peel back the curtain of uncertainty and make decisions based on data. Outcomes data like program graduation rates for different groups of students, job attainment rates based on credentials, and average starting salaries in different fields can give students a concrete understanding of the future they are pursuing.

On assessments. Last week, Georgia Public Policy Foundation President Kyle Wingfield penned an editorial in the Brunswick Times that illustrates the importance of administering statewide annual assessments in 2021. Wingfield asks Georgia’s Superintendent Woods to separate the idea of consequences from assessments, and to stop hiding behind the expectation of poor performance as an excuse not to administer the tests. Wingfield is right. Without assessments, leaders, educators and families lack the information they need to make decisions for their students; communities don’t have the data necessary to understand where students need support; and those closest to students are left in the dark.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) and racial equity. A new brief from the Committee for Children “offers a non-exhaustive investigation of how SEL policy can contribute to research-based, in-school racial equity strategies.” There are some great evidence-based recommendations to dig into, but each of these strategies should be accompanied by an evidence-based set of indicators that are shared publicly. For example, our 2019 Show Me the Data analysis found that 40 states did not share data on teacher demographics on their most public-facing resource, state report cards. Communities need this data to inform conversations about diversifying the teacher workforce. Looking ahead: Stay tuned for DQC’s 2020 Show Me the Data review, coming later this week!