Research Digest — January 2021

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

Portfolio of School Choice

States have long been working to provide families with educational options, but the COVID-19 crisis has elevated the need for families to have different schooling options at their disposal. The National Comprehensive Center released a series of policy briefs designed to help states understand six of the most common approaches to school choice.The briefs cover district-level open enrollment, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, virtual schooling, dual enrollment (high school and college), and rural education. Each brief explores the financial implications of that educational choice, trends in participation and outcomes, and best practices to support policymakers in designing school choice policies.

What Works When Teaching Remotely? A Rapid Evidence Review

To provide relevant information to educators and administrators in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) screened available education research to identify the most promising evidence about what works for learning remotely. Of the 932 studies screened, 266 were retained for full-text screening and 36 studies were identified for review. Nine studies with similar design characteristics were meta-analyzed and the results indicated that, on average, students in the distance learning programs improved in the English language arts outcome domain but not in the mathematics domain, compared with students in business-as-usual conditions.

Linking Social-Emotional Learning to Long-Term Success

Education Next released the results of a survey about social-emotional development and school climate administered to students in the Chicago Public Schools. Through value-added analysis, they identified individual high schools’ impacts on 9th-grade students’ social-emotional development and test scores. The authors then traced the effects of attending a school that excels along each of these dimensions on short-term outcomes, such as absenteeism and school-based arrests, as well as on longer-term outcomes, like high-school graduation and college enrollment.

Principal Preparation Guidebook

The George W. Bush Institute has a new guidebook focusing on principal preparation, referring to the identification and development of people who may become principals. The guidebook draws on emerging research and lessons from the field that suggest new principals are better prepared when their districts provide them with job-embedded opportunities to develop leadership skills throughout their career trajectory, beginning as teacher leaders.

Youth Engagement Discussion Guide

America's Promise Alliance released a guide for school, district, out-of-school time, and other community leaders or youth-supporting adults who wish to partner with young people in their communities to better understand their experiences with issues that matter to them. Students across the country are feeling the effects of a rapidly changing world—from the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on their lives and learning environments, to widespread uprisings in response to ongoing systemic racism. This discussion guide offers topical discussion questions focused on the issues that young people have identified as priorities at this moment in time.

What Does ‘Attendance’ Mean for Remote Learners in a Pandemic? How 106 Districts Are Dealing With Absenteeism, Student Engagement & Grades

The 74 published an analysis of reopening plans in 106 large, high-profile districts finding that they have taken student engagement and attendance far more seriously this fall than they did after schools first closed last spring. But many school systems have struggled to create consistent rules, especially for remote learners. The districts they are tracking show that much can be done to improve how attendance is recorded and what actions can be taken to maintain high expectations without penalizing students for challenging circumstances.

Understanding Pandemic Learning Loss and Learning recovery: The Role of Student Growth & Statewide Testing

The Center for Assessment’s new brief shows how states, with spring 2021 assessment data together with student growth results derived from it, are positioned to address critical questions regarding academic learning loss. Answers to these questions, together with academic data derived from other sources, will help states, districts, and schools form approaches to ameliorating the impact of the pandemic on their students. As of January 2021, the United States is almost completely in the dark as to the pandemic’s impact on student learning. Early interim assessment results have given us a glimpse of the magnitude of the impact but have been extremely limited otherwise. We need statewide assessment and growth data to intelligently move forward.

Harnessing Micro-credentials for Teacher Growth A National Review of Early Best Practices

New America released an analysis of the national landscape of educator micro-credentials (MCs) to determine how to best harness their potential to more successfully attract, develop, and retain great teachers. The authors found MCs to be a promising alternative to more traditional (and largely ineffective), compliance-focused teacher professional development, as well as an effective vehicle for defining and determining eligibility for some teacher roles. They summarize early best practices for ensuring quality MC offerings as well as lessons learned about the necessary conditions for teachers to succeed with MCs. New America’s companion State Policy Guide offers recommendations for policymakers looking to integrate MCs into their educator professional development, license renewal, and advancement systems.

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