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Missing in the Margins 2021: Revisiting the COVID-19 Attendance Crisis

October 21, 2021

In October 2020, "Missing in the Margins: Estimating the Scale of the COVID-19 Attendance Crisis" estimated that as many as 3 million K-12 students were at high risk of experiencing minimal or no educational access from spring through fall 2020 as a result of the pandemic. That number became a shorthand for understanding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on America's students, particularly those furthest from opportunity.Fast-forward one year later, and available data on 2020-21 enrollment, attendance, and engagement suggest massive missed learning opportunities, especially among the most marginalized students.Students have experienced extraordinary disruptions in their educational trajectories. The individual stories vary, but across the country, it's clear that students with the greatest unmet educational needs before the pandemic experienced the most serious barriers to learning throughout 2020 and 2021. Even though public schools have reopened nationwide, students who went "missing in the margins" still urgently need support, attention, and dedicated resources.

Making Education Everyone’s Business: Three Studies of Successful Education Advocacy

May 27, 2020

Despite the long history of overlap between the education and business sectors, however, relatively little research has examined how business organizations successfully advocate on behalf of education policy priorities. This paper seeks to do just that. It profiles three business advocacy organizations (see Table 1) that have recently supported successful education legislation, with the goal of surfacing lessons that are broadly applicable to other business advocacy organizations interested in pursuing education advocacy work on behalf of students' long-term economic success.

Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges: A Decade of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms

May 9, 2014

Until recently, teacher quality was largely seen as a constant among education's sea of variables. Policy efforts to increase teacher quality emphasized the field as a whole instead of the individual: for instance, increased regulation, additional credentials, or a profession modeled after medicine and law. Even as research emerged showing how the quality of each classroom teacher was crucial to student achievement, much of the debate in American public education focused on everything except teacher quality. School systems treated one teacher much like any other, as long as they had the right credentials. Policy, too, treated teachers as if they were interchangeable parts, or "widgets." The perception of teachers as widgets began to change in the late 1990s and early aughts as new organizations launched and policymakers and philanthropists began to concentrate on teacher effectiveness. Under the Obama administration, the pace of change quickened. Two ideas, bolstered by research, animated the policy community: 1) Teachers are the single most important in-school factor for student learning. 2) Traditional methods of measuring teacher quality have little to no bearing on actual student learning. Using new data and research, school districts, states, and the federal government sought to change how teachers are trained, hired, staffed in schools, evaluated, and compensated. The result was an unprecedented amount of policy change that has, at once, driven noteworthy progress, revealed new problems to policymakers, and created problems of its own. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of states that require annual evaluations for all teachers increased from 15 to 28. The number of states that require teacher evaluations to include objective measures of student achievement nearly tripled, from 15 to 41; and the number of states that require student growth to be the preponderant criteria increased fivefold, from 4 to 20 This paper takes a look at where the country has been with regards to teacher effectiveness over the last decade, and outlines policy suggestions for the future.

The State Education Agency: At the Helm, Not the Oar

April 22, 2014

Never before has more been asked of State Education Agencies (SEAs), commonly known as state departments of education. In recent years, policymakers at the state and federal level have viewed the SEA as the default entity for implementing new and sweeping K -- 12 initiatives -- everything from Race to the Top grants and ESEA waivers to teacher evaluation reform and digital learning. But SEAs were designed -- and evolved over decades -- to address a relatively narrow set of tasks: distributing state and federal dollars, monitoring the use of these funds, and overseeing the implementation of federal and state education programs. They were not created -- nor have they developed the core competencies -- to drive crucial reforms. Accordingly, we argue that despite the best efforts of talented, energetic leaders, SEAs will never be able to deliver the reform results we need. But there is an alternative. We should view the SEA through the lens of Reinventing Government (1993), the path-breaking book by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler. In short, Osborne and Gaebler call for state agencies to "steer" more and "row" less. Here, we call for federal and state leaders to apply their thesis to SEAs, scaling back the tasks SEAs perform and empowering nongovernmental organizations to take up the slack. We offer the "4Cs" model (control, contract, cleave, and create) for rethinking state-level K -- 12 reform work. In practice, this means pursuing activities on two parallel tracks. On one, we should make the SEA a far leaner organization, able to execute a narrow set of activities. On the other, we should foster the growth of a new state-level reform ecosystem composed of a range of entities -- primarily independent public entities or nonprofits -- able to carry out key reforms.

Friends without Benefits: How States Systematically Shortchange Teachers' Retirement and Threaten Their Retirement Security

March 31, 2014

Americans are often reminded that it's never too soon to start saving for retirement. Many of the nation's public school teachers are doing just that -- buying into their state pension system with plans to retire comfortably. However, this new study estimates that nearly 50 percent of all public school teachers will not qualify for even a minimal pension benefit, and less than 20 percent will stay in the profession long enough to earn a normal retirement benefit.This Joyce-funded report demonstrates the consequences of poorly structured state and city policies that can exacerbate retirement insecurity for our nation's teachers. For example, an individual teacher could forfeit up to 6.5 percent of her annual salary for one year, or, due to compound interest, 22.6 percent of her annual salary after three years according to Bellwether's analysis. To put these penalties in dollar terms, a hypothetical teacher earning $40,000 a year could face a savings penalty of $2,601 for teaching only one year and $9,035 if she left after three years. This money stays with the pension funds and is used to supplement the pensions of the remaining teachers.Tackling the pension system is critical for reducing teacher turnover and retaining the profession's most talented educators. Several policy solutions are offered.

Encouraging Social Innovation Through Capital: Using Technology to Address Barriers

December 5, 2011

Outlines how technology can help foster a robust capital market for public education innovation by improving content, linking technology with face-to-face networks, and streamlining transactions. Suggests steps for government, foundations, and developers.

Pull and Push: Strengthening Demand for Innovation in Education

September 14, 2011

Examines policy, information, and cultural barriers that minimize the "demand pull" for educational innovation. Calls for encouraging early adopters, bolstering smart adoption, providing better information, and rewarding productivity improvements.

Supporting and Scaling Change: Lessons From the First Round of the Investing in Innovation (i3) Program

July 26, 2011

Assesses the degree to which the i3 program helped advance innovation in public education. Outlines takeaways, challenges, and recommendations for the Education Department and grantmakers, including optimizing support for different stages of innovation.

Steering Capital: Optimizing Financial Support for Innovation in Public Education

April 30, 2011

Examines efforts to align capital to education innovation and calls for clarity and agreement on problems, goals, and metrics; an effective R&D system; an evidence-based culture of continuous improvement; and transparent, comparable, and useful data.