March 18, 2020

March 2020 Research Rundown

By Krista Kaput

Welcome to EdAllies’ March Research Rundown; our curated list of recent, relevant research we think is worth adding to the education equity conversation. This month, we’re adding some timely resources to our usual recap to help families and educators respond to COVID-19. Read on to find:

  • Education-specific COVID-19 resources,
  • Research on the science of reading instruction in teacher prep, and 
  • New findings on segregation within schools. 
1. Education-Specific COVID-19 Resources

We’ve compiled a list of resources, tools, and guidance for families and educators as they work through planning during school closures. While there are still many questions and uncertainty as to what’s next, we hope these resources serve as a starting point: 

Big Picture Learning Student-Centered Responses Library: A living document to help educators navigate both big-picture and practical student questions about COVID-19’s education impact. 

Chiefs for Change: Resources for education system leaders. 

Great Minds: Free digital math and English language arts materials, including instructional materials, support resources, and free daily recorded lessons. 

Instruction Partners: Provides resources, tools, and guidance to support school and system leaders in planning for school closures and supporting continued learning for students. 

Khan Academy: Free, age-appropriate PreK-12 content for parents, students, and educators. 

Minnesota Department of Education: Minnesota-specific COVID-19 updates from the Minnesota Department of Education, including FAQ on school closures and guidance on distance learning. 

NewSchools: Curated list of free resources for teachers, schools, and parents. The list is updated frequently. 

PAVE: A frequently updated list of education companies that are offering free subscriptions due to school closings. 

PIE Network: A collection of resources for states, districts, families, educators, students, and advocates. 

ST Math: MIND Research Institute is offering no-cost access to ST Math for parents, schools, and districts for students in grades K-8. 

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: Resources for learning from home during school closures. 

TNTP: Strategies and resources that school districts can use as they plan for high-quality, online learning opportunities. 

US Department of Education: Resources for educators and local leaders on K-12 flexibilities, student privacy, and educating students with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Zearn: Free digital math materials and guidance to support distance/virtual learning for families and educators. 

2. Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction

National Council on Teacher Quality, January 2020 

In an evaluation of 1,047 traditional elementary teacher preparation programs and 58 alternative teacher preparation programs, the National Center on Teacher Quality found that only 26 percent of prep programs adequately cover all five of the essential components of reading—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Importantly, their analysis found that phonemic awareness, the first skill students should master if they are going to become successful readers, remains the least likely to be taught in a program’s coursework. NCTQ also noted that teacher preparation programs need to improve in providing practical skills and tools to teacher candidates so they can implement the methods once they enter the classroom. Finally, NCTQ reviewed required textbooks and found that 40 percent are “inadequate” for teaching the science of reading, with many of them promoting unproven strategies. 


According to NCTQ’s analysis, six of Minnesota’s 21 teacher preparation programs adequately cover all of the essential components of reading, with another eight covering four of them. This is significant because research has long linked third-grade reading proficiency with graduation and drop-out rates, with a long-term study finding that 88 percent of students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade. In Minnesota, there are persistent achievement gaps between 3rd-grade white students and students of color. While PELSB continues rulemaking on the teacher prep unit and program regulations, teacher preparation programs should also work to ensure their programs cover all five of the essential components of reading, as well as provide teacher candidates with the skills to successfully implement them, and take inventory of the textbooks they use to make sure they support scientifically-based reading instruction and are based on consensus research.

Read the Full Analysis

3. School Segregation at The Classroom Level in A Southern ‘New Destination’ State

National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, February 2020 

New research from Duke and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill looked at enrollment data across 20 years and found that as racial segregation between schools decreased, the racial isolation between white students and students of color inside those schools increased. Within-school segregation intensified as students moved to higher grades, and by the time students reached high school, the isolation within schools accounted for more than 40% of the total segregation between black and white students, and nearly half of the total segregation between Latino and white students. Importantly, these effects were even stronger when looking at which classes students took. Specifically, the study found that white 10th grade students who attended racially diverse schools were disproportionately more likely to take Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and other advanced courses while 10th-grade students of color were grouped in less advanced math courses. 


Data from the Office of Civil Rights reveals that, in Minnesota, white high school students are disproportionately enrolled in Calculus and other advanced math courses. Similarly, white 8th-grade students are also disproportionately enrolled in Algebra 1. This data supports findings from a recent Minnesota Department of Education report which revealed that white students are overrepresented in Advanced Placement enrollment and test taking. This is problematic because there is ample research that shows that students who participate in rigorous coursework have higher academic achievement and are more likely to attend and graduate college. Districts should examine their rigorous coursework data and create action plans for increasing access and success. 

Read the Analysis

MN Education Policy in the Time of COVID-19

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