Recent research out of NWEA explores what teachers can do to support students. Our collaboration with researchers outside of our organization has also helped us develop recommendations for policymakers. They are presented in our new brief with EdResearch for Action, a project of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and Results for America. The brief highlights research-based academic interventions and digs into research to highlight the most promising interventions policymakers can support for accelerating student learning in math and reading. We focus on three interventions with the strongest research base—tutoring, summer school, and double-doses of math instruction—before discussing ways schools can create the conditions for academic acceleration practices to succeed.
A new report identifies four areas to focus on to measure and improve summer learning programs, key questions to answer as you seek out data, and research-based recommendations for each area of data collection.
The EdResearch Act on Evidence Toolkit supports education leaders in assessing the degree to which their existing programs are aligned with the relevant evidence-base and determine a pathway towards improving alignment and student success.
Advancing Equitable Outcomes from Pre-K through the Workforce by Aligning State & Local Data Systems
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing inequities that changed how individuals engage with pre-K programs, schools, colleges, employers, and the world at large. Early evidence suggests the pandemic took a toll on student learning, educational attainment, employment, and physical and mental well-being, especially in communities of color and communities experiencing poverty. In recognition of the fact that better data infrastructure will be needed to shift the systems that currently produce inequitable outcomes, a growing number of states are working to modernize statewide longitudinal data systems to understand the experiences and outcomes of individuals seamlessly across pre-K, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems.
Project led by the Annenberg Institute and Results for America will equip educators with research briefs on addressing teaching challenges, from coping with learning loss to protecting the most vulnerable students.
Federal stimulus dollars are dedicated to helping students recover from virtual schooling. Many districts are spending some of that money on virtual tutoring.
This best practices resource is designed to provide school and district leaders with guidance on the types of data that they should collect, as well as how to collect, analyze, and interpret the data to gain insights into the effectiveness of their summer programs.
Micere Keels | The University of Chicago
Questions of health and safety of students and school personnel have dominated summer debates about how to open schools this fall. The collective focus on safety is certainly appropriate, considering concerns voiced by parents and educators. In most all cases, states have asked school districts to prepare for multiple possible scenarios, ranging from fully in-person to fully virtual.
Accelerating student learning remains a moral imperative, and a continuing challenge for Ohio’s policymakers and educational leaders. There has been much discussion about how to boost achievement, but one of the most basic ways to move the needle might be hiding in plain sight: simply making sure that students attend school. Unfortunately, absenteeism soared during the pandemic and remains at alarmingly high levels. Statewide, chronic absenteeism rates increased from 17 to 27 percent between 2018–19 and 2022–23. That translates to 418,382 students who were chronically absent last year. Such students miss more than 10 percent of the school year for any reason, whether excused or unexcused. Based on a 180-day year, that is equivalent to eighteen or more days of school—nearly a month worth of learning. That’s a lot of valuable instructional time lost.
It seems like everyone is talking about tutoring. Some 40% of school districts and charter organizations are talking about investing billions in tutoring and academic skills coaching to address pandemic-related disruptions to learning. Even more policymakers and researchers are discussing ways to create a national tutoring corps, statewide tutoring groups or lists of state-approved tutoring providers to help districts establish strong programs.
Carolyn J. Heinrich | Vanderbilt University
Jennifer McCombs | Learning Policy Institute
Catherine Augustine | RAND
Laura Booker | Vanderbilt University
Jennifer Lin Russell | University of Pittsburgh
Meredith Honig | University of Washington
Lydia Rainey | University of Washington
Education decision-makers need research-informed insights that help them better understand a problem and how they might address it, and these types of insights are rarely stated explicitly or prominently in technical papers. The EdResearch model of writing prioritizes putting the “bottom line” up front. We emphasize points of consensus in a field, identify areas where the evidence is less solid, and provide scale and context for results. By following the guidance in this Writer’s Guide, authors will be able to use their judgment and experience to draw clearer conclusions in order to elevate key messages that are relevant and actionable for policymakers and practitioners.
Alexandra Pavlakis | Southern Methodist University
J. Kessa Roberts | Utah State University
Meredith Richards | Southern Methodist University
Kathryn Hill | Research Alliance for NYC Schools at New York University
Zitsi Mirakhur | University of Kentucky
Nancy Hill | Harvard University
LaToya Gayle | Boston School Finder
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.
Sade Bonilla | University of Pennsylvania
Celeste Carruthers | University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Dominique Baker | Southern Methodist University
Celeste Carruthers | University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Lindsay Page | University of Pittsburgh
One-on-one tutoring is the original “personalized learning,” dating back centuries. Along with the Socratic seminar, it may be among the oldest pedagogies still in existence. And as it turns out, it is probably the single most powerful strategy for responding to learning loss.
A research brief from the EdResearch for Recovery Project can provide a roadmap, highlighting eight design principles – including program duration, attendance, use of time and quality of instruction – that matter most in creating effective programs that deliver strong academic benefits for students.
Individualize Instruction, Remove Barriers, Track Student Progress: Some Tips for Making Distance-Learning Special Ed Work
“Can you give an example of an online lesson that’s effective for students with disabilities?” That’s the question Elizabeth Barker has fielded over and over as schools have prepared to reopen. But it’s the one question that Barker, a special education expert with NWEA, a nonprofit data and assessment provider, can’t answer.
District staff face difficult trade-offs as they balance their local needs against the eight design principles described in the research brief. Limitations around district capacity and personnel as well as families’ demands for summer flexibility can directly conflict with calls for greater academic rigor or longer program length. While research should always be used to guide decision-making, it needs to be evaluated in relation to local values. Brighouse et. al argue that the process of using evidence to make effective decisions requires value judgments in evaluating the evidence and in determining which evidence is most important. Further, implementing processes for collecting data is critical to understanding program effectiveness and informing subsequent decisions on program improvement. This case study details how one district – Woonsocket, Rhode Island – chose to navigate these trade-offs and the ways this has played out in program design. In examining Woonsocket’s programmatic choices, three foundational values emerge. They empowered site-based leadership, prioritized program personnel, and designed for student personalization. These values guided decision-making and helped the district build a strong program that aims to balance research recommendations, program goals, and local priorities.
After more than 250 school days, full-time in-person learning in Massachusetts public schools finally resumed in early September. For many, being back in the classroom was reason for celebration, and a highly anticipated return to some sense of normalcy since the COVID-19 pandemic shut school buildings down in March of 2020.
Velma McBride Murry | Vanderbilt University
Reuben Jacobson | American University
Betheny Gross | Center on Reinventing Public Education
One group of students is called the Golden Barrels, another Prickly Pears. For seventh graders in Jennifer Cale’s language arts class, this year’s theme is the cactus.
I imagine you are more aware than ever the anxiety surrounding the start of school for so many families. In addition, you have the added stress of trying reach families who may not be reaching back to you or who may be struggling with protocols or distance learning because of unknown barriers. For instance, how are you reaching out to families whose language or cultural situations may create additional barriers to doing school during a pandemic?
Dylan Conger | George Washington University
Steven W. Hemelt | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
María Luisa Vásquez | George Washington University
Teachers are used to playing many different roles, but this year they are facing the most complex challenges of their careers. They are being asked to be public health experts. Tech support specialists. Social workers to families reeling from the effects of layoffs and illness. Masters of distance learning and trauma-responsive educational practices. And they are being asked to take on these new responsibilities against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, looming budget cuts for many school districts, and a hyper-polarized political debate over the return to school.
Given states’ resources and authority, they have a powerful role to play in making sure school improvement is informed by research.
Following a chaotic spring semester and extended school closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many students will require additional academic support as instruction resumes this fall. A new policy brief, coauthored by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research‘s Elaine Allensworth and the Annenberg Institute‘s Nate Schwartz, offers some research-backed strategies for schools attempting to address student learning loss in the months ahead.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the federal government has provided nearly $190 billion in education funding to states and districts. The three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding represent the largest infusion of federal funds in history for reopening schools, updating buildings and supporting learning recovery. Now, over three years later, is the time to assess whether the dollars have made a difference, and what they should be spent on going forward.
Schwartz & Kerr: To Help Guide Decisions About COVID, Schools and Students, Researchers Are Compiling Decades of Data in Easy-to-Read Briefs. Here’s Some of What They’ve Found
In recent months, as schools nationwide scrambled to respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19, state and local education leaders have reached out to ask us: What does research say about how to prevent learning loss? About how to prepare teachers for distance learning? About how to address the mental health and other needs of students and educators during a crisis? About how to reduce the impact of budget cuts?
In “Straight Talk with Rick and Jal,” Harvard University’s Jal Mehta and I examine some of the reforms and enthusiasms that permeate education. In a field full of buzzwords and jargon, our goal is simple: Tell the truth, in plain English, about what’s being proposed and what it might mean for students, teachers, and parents. We may be wrong and will frequently disagree, but we’ll try to be candid and ensure that you don’t need a Ph.D. in eduspeak to understand us.
The past decades of often frantic “school reform” has yielded few turnaround models that have shown positive effects for students. Often, in addition to lackluster results, they’ve left a lot of detritus in their wake: overpaid consultants, demoralized teachers, and a fragmented community.
The latest federal stimulus package included funding for K-12 school districts across the country to use specifically for combatting learning losses resulting from the pandemic.
Academic summer learning programs can lead to improved student achievement, but effectiveness is not guaranteed. Certain program elements, such as duration, attendance, use of time, and quality of instruction, appear to be key factors in programs that show stronger academic benefits. But, as helpful as evidence-based design principles are, using research to inform programs that maximize academic growth and social-emotional outcomes is a complicated process. Even once researchers have identified likely drivers of effectiveness across programs, these design principles often cannot be easily replicated across districts with varying contexts and goals. This series of program profiles provides a glimpse into how different districts in Rhode Island and Tennessee created programs that align with design principles in some respects and diverge at other points. These are not meant to be overviews of perfect programs, but rather real-world examples of what developing a research-aligned program looks like in practice. The intent here is to highlight possible choices and tradeoffs to gain a clearer sense of how districts balanced research recommendations, program goals, and local priorities.
Madeline Mavrogordato | Michigan State University
Rebecca Callahan | The University of Vermont
David DeMatthews | The University of Texas at Austin
Elena Izquierdo | The University of Texas, El Paso
In the current pandemic reality, educators can improve learning, we believe, by finding better ways to use and structure students’ work time. That’s true whether learning is fully remote via computers, phones, or packets or whether it includes in-person instruction.
One of the many heartbreaks of the pandemic has been the way many tired and overworked parents have to watch their children fall behind academically. Emily Veloza has witnessed the so-called "COVID slide" firsthand. Her daughter Olivia was a middle-of-the-road student who used to be generally enthusiastic about school. Since the pandemic, her grades and her motivation have slipped.
James Kim | Harvard University
Zhongyu Wei | Harvard University
While debates have raged about how best to help kids catch up after the ‘COVID slide,’ one consistent theme has emerged: Tutoring is one of the most promising, evidenced-based strategies to help struggling students.
Claire Reagan was feeling overwhelmed as her oldest child’s first day of kindergarten approached and with a baby on the way. The 5-year-old boy has autism, and she worried he would struggle with juggling in-person and virtual learning, and that she wouldn’t have enough time to give him the help he needs. So she decided to wait a year before sending him to school.