December 10, 2020

December 2020 Research Rundown

By Krista Kaput

Welcome to EdAllies’ December Research Rundown, our curated list of recent, relevant research we think is worth adding to the education equity conversation. This month, we are sharing:

  • Data on learning during COVID-19, 
  • Findings on declining college enrollment, and
  • Teacher perspectives on how schooling is going under COVID-19 
1. Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth 

Collaborative for Student Growth, November 2020

Researchers used assessment data from nearly 4.4 million students in grades 3-8 to analyze the impact COVID-19 had on reading and math achievement. The most concerning findings were in math, where achievement was 5 to 10 percentile points lower this year than in 2019. Reading outcomes were relatively flat—but despite scores staying constant in the aggregate, scores declined for Black and Latino students in the upper elementary grades. While researchers cautioned against making definitive conclusions about student performance across racial groups due to the lower number of students who took the 2020 assessments, it flags an important area to watch as states and districts develop interventions. Notably, one in four students who took the assessments in fall 2019 didn’t take the fall 2020 assessments, with a sizable proportion being students of color and low-income students. 

WHY THIS MATTERS IN MINNESOTA

In spring of 2019, Minnesota canceled our annual statewide test (the MCAs), and we recently learned that the national NAEP test, which is used to provide comparisons across states, will also be postponed due to COVID-19. This leaves a large gap in data for educators, families, and policymakers, making it hard to know where students are, which research-based interventions and acceleration tactics to use, how resources should be equitably allocated, and how to plan for recovery. And our fall learning plan analysis found that only two districts mentioned offering a local diagnostic assessment to measure where students are and what their greatest learning needs will be. Only four mentioned addressing learning loss at all, with only general outlines for action. 

This national data tells us there are trends we must explore to effectively recover and accelerate learning. Is math the greatest learning need? How should we tailor an effective response on literacy? And how will we know what is working? Minnesota policymakers must commit to gathering actionable data on whether students are on track with state standards to develop an effective plan for recovery. 
Read the full report

2. Fall Undergraduate Enrollment Data 

National Student Clearinghouse, November 2020

Undergraduate enrollment is down at four-year universities and community colleges across the country. When disaggregated by race, the largest drops are for Black (-8%) and Native American (-10%) students. When broken down further, the largest declines are for community college freshmen, where enrollment is down most significantly for Native American (-29.3%), Latino (-27.5%), and Black (28.4%) students. Digging deeper, the decline is most steep for males than it is for females in each of these groups.

WHY THIS MATTERS IN MINNESOTA

If not addressed through targeted support and interventions, this trend could have a significant impact in Minnesota—Black, Latino, and Native American students enroll in Minnesota community colleges at the highest rate of any student demographic group. When we consider the economic, health, and overall benefits of receiving a postsecondary certificate or degree in conjunction with the fact that two-thirds of the fastest-growing occupations require some type of postsecondary education, it’s critical that schools support their high school juniors and seniors with getting ready for postsecondary education, including through supplemental academic supports and more equitable access to rigorous coursework. 
Read the full analysis

3. Will This School Year Be Another Casualty of the Pandemic?  

RAND Corporation, November 2020

RAND surveyed a nationally representative sample of teachers on how school is going under COVID-19, including whether teachers were teaching new content and able to contact students, if students were completing assignments, and whether students were prepared to do grade-level work. Two-thirds of teachers reported that the majority of their students were less prepared to participate in grade-level work than in years prior, and even more among teachers serving primarily low-income students. Teachers also reported that they are having difficulty contacting all of their students. On average, teachers indicated that they had been able to contact only 80% of their students. In terms of curriculum, 55% of teachers indicated that they were covering new content, while 45% said that they had done mainly review. The researchers concluded that policymakers should direct targeted funding and resources to schools that serve large populations of low-income students and students of color that have been in remote learning. 

WHY THIS MATTERS IN MINNESOTA

With the vast majority of Minnesota districts utilizing distance or hybrid models, it’s important for educators and policymakers to consider how they will work to re-engage students and work to prioritize those who have been disconnected from learning when it comes to decisions around resource allocation and support. 

It’s also important for districts to be providing a high-quality and rigorous education, regardless of the schooling model. This includes providing feedback to students as well as teaching new content—areas where Minnesota districts need to make improvements. Our fall learning plan analysis found that only one-third of plans laid out a grading policy, and even fewer indicated whether students will receive feedback on assignments. 
Read the full report