May 30, 2024

May 2024 Research Rundown

By Madie Spartz

For May’s Research Rundown—our curated list of recent, relevant research we think is worth adding to the education equity conversation—we’re sharing articles about:

  • Racial disparities in the teaching profession
  • The implementation of a large federal literacy grant
  • Nationwide trends in teacher preparation enrollment
Disparate Pathways: Understanding Racial Disparities in Teaching

Annenberg Institute at Brown University, April 2024

In an effort to understand the factors influencing the overall lack of racial diversity in the teacher workforce, this study analyzed the college and career pathways of over 270,000 Maryland high school graduates. The authors identified several critical points in the “teacher pipeline” that influence racial diversity, including support for high school graduation and college enrollment, because students of color are underrepresented in those metrics, and access to high-quality alternative teacher preparation, where large proportions of teachers of color are trained. 

Interestingly, the authors also performed policy simulations to understand what would need to happen to make the teacher population racially representative of the population as a whole. They found that race-neutral policies (those aimed at all students) have minimal impact, where race-conscious policies (those specifically aimed at students of color) had the best results in increasing teacher diversity. They concluded that multiple race-conscious policies, distributed throughout the teacher pipeline, are necessary to make teachers more racially representative of the communities they serve.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Minnesota has stark gaps in our teacher diversity relative to our public schools: just 6% of teachers in Minnesota are people of color, whereas nearly 40% of students are. This study references a growing body of research reflecting the benefits of having a teacher of color (particularly for students of color, though studies show all students stand to benefit.) The legislature has made targeted efforts in recent years to diversify Minnesota’s teacher workforce, such as scholarships for aspiring teachers of color, but this study highlights the need for multiple points of investment in remedying this problem. 


Did the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant Program Reach Its Goals?

U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, May 2024

This implementation report analyzes the effectiveness of the federal Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) grant program, a $1 billion investment in improving literacy at the state level. This report studies the 11 states awarded funds in the 2017 grant cycle, including Minnesota. The purposes of the SRCL grant are to target disadvantaged schools, use evidence-based literacy practices, and support teachers in providing high quality literacy instruction. This report analyzes how well grantees achieved these goals. 

The report finds that the goals were largely unmet, for two key reasons: First, relatively few school districts used SRCL funds to purchase evidence-based curricula, and second, most teachers did not report using literacy practices grounded in research. Only 12% of curricula purchased with SRCL funds had a “strong” or “moderate” evidence review rating, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Half of the curricula purchased did not have any published research on its effectiveness. This could be due to the lack of uniformity in determining which schools received funds: each state developed its own grant competition process, and while there were requirements from the Department of Education to purchase evidence-based programs, not all states gave that requirement the same weight in the application process. Consequently, the authors didn’t find a difference between reading test scores in SRCL schools and comparable schools that didn’t receive the funding. Furthermore, because states set their own definitions of “disadvantaged,” not all states targeted funding at their most disadvantaged schools as defined by the authors of the study.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Minnesota considered schools eligible for an SRCL school if at least 40% of their students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Minnesota was an outlier in that it discouraged grantees from purchasing curriculum with their funds, and instead required schools to use funds on literacy coaches. Unfortunately, of the schools that did purchase curriculum, none chose programs with strong or even moderate evidence. With clearer grant stipulations and better oversight and support of state grant administrators, perhaps Minnesota could have used these funds with more fidelity and achieved better results for students. The disappointing results of this large-scale literacy investment highlights the importance of clarity around guardrails and intent, as well as support for implementation, in policymaking. It’s not enough for lawmakers to invest dollars into literacy; programs must be well-designed and metrics for success need to be well-defined. 


Trends in Enrollment in US Teacher Preparation Programs: 2009-2022

Penn State Center for Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, February 2024

This research brief provides an overview of changes in teacher preparation enrollment between the Great Recession and 2022. The trends reveal that, on the whole, far fewer people aim to become teachers now than in 2009. Though most states have either leveled off or slightly increased their teacher prep enrollment since 2016, it’s still not enough to create a steady supply of high-quality teachers. Just five states have teacher prep enrollment numbers greater than they did in 2008. 

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Unfortunately, Minnesota is an aberration in recent numbers, and not in a good way. While most states have at least leveled off their enrollment, Minnesota is one of just two states that have seen consistent declines in teacher prep enrollment since 2019. Lawmakers are trying to address this issue with incentives like paid student teaching, which will be piloted at eight universities beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. While it’s a good start, it’s likely not enough on its own to shore up the teaching supply. As highlighted in the previous article in this month’s Research Rundown, it takes proactive policymaking at all points in the teacher pathway to make meaningful differences. 


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