Research Digest — August 2021

A monthly digest for state education agency staff, highlighting research and resources supporting state priorities.

COVID Relief Playbook: Smart Strategies for Investing Federal Funding

FutureEd released a report highlighting 18 evidence-based practices that have delivered improvements in instructional quality, school climate, student attendance, or student achievement—and sometimes all four. The authors explain the rationale for each strategy, summarize and rate the strength of the supporting research, and provide insights into implementation.

Integrating Social and Emotional Learning into your School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Framework

The National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) released a brief highlighting a state example of recommendations to practitioners for aligning social and emotional learning (SEL) and PBIS. The brief outlines how a framework for teaching and reinforcing students’ behavioral skills, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), can be used as the foundation for enhancing their social and emotional skills as well.

Finding Your Path: A Navigation Tool for Scaling Personalized, Competency-Based Learning

KnowledgeWorks released a tool designed to help learning communities understand the conditions for sustainable systems change and to develop and advance a strategic plan for district-wide transition to personalized, competency-based learning.

The tool explores:

  • System-level competencies aligned with learning targets that inform strategic action planning, professional development, and community engagement goals
  • Guiding questions for educators, administrators, and learners to help uncover progress and areas of growth for alignment toward equitable, systemic transformation
  • Examples of progress to look for across all areas of the system, from the classroom to the community level

How Has the Pandemic Affected Students' Social and Emotional Well-Being? A Review of the Evidence to Date

The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a report as part of a series that aims to provide a definitive account of the best available evidence on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected America’s students. CRPE compiled hundreds of studies and convened panels of experts to interpret the data. The main findings reveal widespread impacts on students’ mental health, while the effects of the pandemic on social and emotional development are less understood. More than anything, the panel felt that the pandemic revealed how inadequately we serve students’ mental health and social and emotional development in general.

The review also uncovered an urgent need for more effective social and emotional learning opportunities and innovative approaches to expand student supports. This calls for an integrated and responsive system of education and tailored supports that can flexibly meet each individual student’s highly variable needs on an immense, post-pandemic scale.

Integrating Social and Emotional Learning Within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports to Advance Equity: SEL MTSS Toolkit for State and District Leaders

The Council of Chief State School Officers, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, and the American Institutes for Research developed a toolkit to support policymakers and state and district leaders who are interested in engaging in the work of intentional SEL and multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) integration. The toolkit was developed with the support of the Learning Policy Institute and in collaboration with leaders of the nine community of practice states. Incorporating lessons learned from leading states, practical guidance, and adaptable templates, the toolkit addresses five key questions to support state and district leaders in advancing equitable, integrated SEL and MTSS.

Learning During COVID-19: Reading and Math Achievement in the 2020-2021 School Year

NWEA released a brief examining how gains across the 2020-21 school year and student achievement in spring 2021 compare to pre-pandemic trends. The results showed that, on average, students across most grades made reading and math gains in 2020-21. However, students’ outcomes during the pandemic-affected school year were lower across multiple dimensions. Reading and math gains in 2020-21 were diminished compared to pre-pandemic trends, especially in the latter half of the year; and students ended the year with lower achievement than in a typical year, with larger declines relative to historical trends in math than in reading. American Indian and Alaska Native, Black, and Latinx students, as well as students in high-poverty schools, were disproportionately impacted, particularly in the elementary grades.

Return to School Roadmap: A Guide for K–12 Schools and Communities for the 2021-22 School Year

The U.S. Department of Education released a guide to support educators, school leaders, parents, families, and communities and to lead students to return safely and with support to in-person learning this fall. The roadmap contains three “landmark” priorities for each school, district, and state as they work to reengage students this summer and bring them back into classrooms. These priorities can be advanced using funding from the American Rescue Plan, which provided historic investments to states and districts as they work to reopen schools safely and address the impacts of COVID-19. The goal of the roadmap is to make sure every student has the support and opportunities they need to heal, learn, and grow in a classroom environment where they belong and can thrive.

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