This spring’s interrupted learning will impact students in the long term; educators and policymakers are rightfully concerned about how to make up for time lost during school closures. What supports will teachers need to address student learning loss? Will high school graduates who were planning to enroll in college be able to do so and what additional support might they need to be successful?
With so many questions, DQC once again turned to its bench of experts to explore how data can help leaders answer these quetsions and best prepare to get students back on track for success. This blog post highlights insights from a conversation with DQC Board Member Cassandra Herring, president and CEO of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity.
Question #1: With so many questions about how the COVID-19 crisis will affect students’ long term outcomes, what indicators or types of data should we be looking to?
Herring: First, we need to look at participation in virtual learning during spring of 2020. We know that instruction was being actively delivered to a portion of students but many students couldn’t participate for a variety of reasons. Data about who was able to continue learning during this time is significant and important, and we need to look at that for next year, regardless of where students are in the pipeline.
For high school seniors specifically, we need to know what their learning loss was and what higher education institutions can do to support those students. Are those students walking into their first year with the same preparedness as they did in years past? What about transfer credits (e.g. AP course credit)? How does higher education figure out the baseline for their incoming first years? We need to be thinking about how to ensure those students are ready to progress on day one.
Question #2: How can data help educator preparation programs (EPPs) adapt to ensure their graduates (e.g. new teachers) are prepared to address the impact of COVID-19 on student learning? How can data sharing between K–12 systems and EPPs help support this work?
Herring: One thing we have seen is that the EPPs with strong existing partnerships with K–12 districts that are aligned on the ultimate goal of improving K–12 student achievement have been better able to pivot together in this crisis. They moved into a collective, joint problem-solving mode and together, they’re pushing through the crisis to get to innovation.
Data provides the foundational knowledge for this kind of collaboration. EPPs and K–12 partners need to come together to think about what data they have and what data they need to identify where they are right now and what they’ll need moving forward. For example, in Illinois, they’re looking at retirement data and funneling teacher candidates into those classrooms. They’re using data to look at what’s going in on individual schools and then deploying candidates strategically. Problem solving fueled by data is leading the way to innovation.
Question #3: We know that part of having a high-quality teacher pipeline is having a diverse teacher pipeline. Why should EPPs and state leaders focus on diversifying their teacher pipeline as part of their recovery response to COVID-19? How can data support this work?
Herring: We know very explicitly that communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, so given that and the trauma that’s coming from the news, the insider knowledge that teachers of color have (e.g. experience of inequality, being “other-ed”) is incredibly important to children doing sensemaking right now. It’s not that white teachers can’t do this work but there is a level of personal experience that teachers of color bring that supports children in that social/emotional/identity development space that we know impacts their ability to learn. In the fall, we are going to have children return to classrooms, be it in person or virtual, who have just been through an incredible amount of trauma. The ability for teachers to create classrooms where children can be their full selves is critical. It’s more important than ever that there are a wide variety of perspectives, identities, and experiences available in one space.
Data can support this work by helping district and school leaders understand where teachers are coming from, how teachers are being recruited and where they’re losing teachers of color during the hiring process. Not getting a diverse applicant pool is a different problem than certain groups of candidates not making it through the hiring process. Data can help leaders understand where the opportunities are, drill down into teacher shortages by school and subject, and get really specific. Leaders should also think creatively about the data they already have. Often, people advocate for the data they don’t have or wish they had but we already have a ton of data. Let’s mine the data we have and think about how to bring other partners and stakeholders in to interpret that data and identify solutions.
Question #4: What else is top of mind for you right in terms of how data can inform recovery efforts?
Herring: We need to think about how to support new teachers in the fall. We pushed pause on student achievement data and a lot of provisional licenses were given out in order to get students through the spring; we need to be leaning into what that means for the fall. Assuming people get hired, they’ve gotten jobs on provisional licenses so they haven’t had a high-quality student teaching experience, what does that mean? Should local leaders be doubling down on induction support? We need to think creatively about instructional models so that new teachers have the supports they need to be successful. We need to make sure we have the right data to give us a full picture of what’s happening so we can move forward with solutions.
State leaders should also be expecting a lot more adult learners. In Austin, Texas, we’re seeing an uptick in community college enrollment. People are looking to reskill, but those people also tend to leave quickly once the job market opens back up. So, how can we think about intensive programs to reskill that don’t become failed attempts at a degree but are actually productive?