Research Digest — November 2020

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

50-state Comparison: K-12 Governance

The Education Commission of the States released a resource providing a national overview of the key policymaking roles in K-12 education policy, a summary of each role’s general powers and duties, and some information on how they relate to other policymaking roles. Education Commission of the States researched state-level education governance roles to provide these three comprehensive resources.

State education governance is the practice of coordinating institutions, processes, and norms to guide collective decisionmaking and action. Understanding how key governance roles are structured and relate to each other helps clarify complex systems for policymakers. Every state has the same or similar policymaking roles; however, each of the roles operate differently in the context of each state’s governance model.

Resources for Implementing Tiered Systems of Support in Virtual or Hybrid Learning Environments

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, REL Appalachia released a brief highlighting resources to help stakeholders at state and local education agencies implement multitiered system of support (MTSS), Response to Intervention (RTI), and/or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) frameworks using diverse delivery methods.

Abrupt school closures and a sudden transition to distance learning in spring 2020 disrupted student learning and engagement and exacerbated existing inequalities in students' access to resources. As many schools across the nation continue the 2020-21 school year with virtual or hybrid instruction, implementing tiered systems of support to meet students' academic and social-emotional needs may be challenging. Fortunately, MTSS, RTI, and PBIS frameworks can be adapted to meet the moment. These tiered systems can play an essential role in personalizing learning, promoting student engagement, and connecting students with necessary supports in a virtual environment.

Teacher Observation, Feedback, and Support in the Time of COVID-19: Guidance for Virtual Learning

The Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at the American Institutes for Research released a brief providing state education agencies with strategies to adapt educator evaluation and support system policies and practices for virtual learning. Featured examples, ideas, and resources come from virtual high schools in the United States and from postsecondary education. The authors explore standards and rubrics for virtual learning, logistics for conducting virtual observations, challenges with observing and providing feedback virtually, and resources for professional learning focused on virtual learning environments.

A First Grade Teacher's Guide to Supporting Family Involvement in Foundational Reading Skills

This REL Southeast guide provides information for first grade teachers on how to support families as they practice foundational reading skills at home. It serves as a companion to the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. Both guides present four research-based recommendations and how-to steps: the WWC guide focuses on teaching children at school, while this guide focuses on helping teachers support families in practicing foundational reading skills at home.

The information in this guide is designed to assist teachers in supporting out-of-school literacy activities that are aligned to classroom instruction, informed by student need, grounded in evidence-based practices, and facilitated by ongoing parent-teacher communication. The guide provides a framework for literacy support activities presented during schools' family literacy nights and parent-teacher conferences.

Strategic Budgeting: Using Evidence to Mitigate the “COVID Slide” and Move Toward Improvement

This National Comprehensive Center brief proposes a process and series of guiding questions designed to help state and local education agency leadership teams better leverage existing evidence to make strategic budgeting decisions. As states and districts navigate the wide-ranging repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will be forced to make difficult trade-off decisions that are the inevitable consequence of an increase in demand for services in the face of declining revenues. By integrating evidence such as student performance, workforce needs, and the price of services, state and local education agency teams will be able to identify both reduction and investment opportunities to address critical short-term issues while planning for long-term recovery.

Professional Learning State and District Planner

Learning Forward released this resource to support state, district, and school leaders with the implementation of high-quality curriculum and instructional materials through professional learning that is intensive, data-driven, job-embedded, and classroom-focused.

COVID-19 and Third-Grade Reading Policies: An Analysis of State Guidance on Third-Grade Reading Policies in Response to COVID-19

This policy brief from the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University explores the guidance that states issued during the COVID-19 pandemic related to third-grade reading policies and provides takeaways for how the current educational environment may impact their future. Findings include: very few states issued guidance that specifically referenced their third-grade reading policy, few states addressed retention policies in COVID-19 guidance, and literacy interventions were not widely addressed in states’ COVID-19 guidance.

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