November 2023 Research Rundown
By Madie Spartz
For November’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:
- The relationship between exclusionary discipline and student mental health
- School funding lessons learned from federal COVID relief
- Results of emergency teacher licenses in Massachusetts
If you come across any research you think EdAllies should know about, please email me.
Pushed Out and Drawn In: Exclusionary Discipline, Mental Health, and Protective Factors Among Youth in Public Schools
Journal of School Health, October 2023
This study from the University of Minnesota explores the relationship between exclusionary discipline, such as suspension and expulsion, and mental health among public school students. The data comes from over 80,000 students in Minnesota public schools from grades 5-11, offering a local analysis of trends often found nationwide. Consistent with prior research, the authors found that male students, students of color, and students with disabilities experienced exclusionary discipline at higher rates than their peers. Furthermore, students in poverty, those identifying as non-binary, and students reporting adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are suspended or expelled at higher rates. This reflects a troubling trend that students with “preexisting disadvantages” are being pushed out of the classroom.
The authors found that exclusionary discipline can affect emotional health regardless of a student’s background. Another notable finding is that while male students are more likely to be suspended or expelled, female students are more likely to experience depression or anxiety regardless of their history with exclusionary discipline. These trends speak to the need for “tailored psychosocial supports” for students, especially those in at-risk groups.
Why This Matters in Minnesota
This dataset allows us to see the connections between mental and emotional health and exclusionary discipline in Minnesota. In addition to corroborating previously reported racial disparities, the study offers new information on health factors of impacted students. While we can draw conclusions from national data or that from other states, this study gives us a definitive look at patterns here in Minnesota.
It’s critical that policymakers, district leaders, and school staff understand the myriad ways exclusionary discipline impacts students. Clearly, its reach is beyond purely academic factors—and in many cases, it is a band-aid that fails to address the root of the challenges facing students. Non-exclusionary practices can support health outcomes in addition to minimizing academic disruptions, but educators need much more support and investment to make it a reality.
K-12 Federal Covid Relief: What Can We Learn from Doing School Funding Differently?
New America, October 2023
This report offers lessons learned from the unprecedented way federal aid was distributed to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds, known as ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds, were distributed with much more flexibility than is typical of federal education dollars (and in dramatically larger amounts, relatively speaking). Through analysis of spending and interviews with state and district officials nationwide, the report offers policy recommendations to continue innovation in school funding as ESSER dollars expire in September 2024.
The author identified four broad categories of takeaways for policymakers and district leaders to consider:
- Purpose: COVID relief dollars served many purposes, from implementing new public health measures to economic stimulus to improving academic outcomes. In the future, policymakers should consider the specificity of school funding amounts and ensure that purposes are not in conflict with each other.
- Size: Simply put, large allocations require longer amounts of time & greater coordination to spend effectively. Certain priorities, especially those that take aim at long standing problems, require thoughtful planning and implementation.
- Timing: Limited-time funding, like ESSER, should be paired with strong guidance on high-impact strategies. This is especially true considering that time-sensitive funding is often used to innovate because it’s considered “extra” dollars in an otherwise rigid budget.
- Flexibility: Leaders appreciate the flexibility to prioritize what is needed in their individual districts. Additionally, funding streams should not be restricted by preexisting regulations or requirements, as often was the case with ESSER dollars.
Why This Matters in Minnesota
Conversations about how to prepare for the “ESSER cliff” are dominating education spaces right now, and as the expiration date for these funds approaches, the public will be drawn into these conversations as well. This “cliff” refers to the massive amounts of funding districts have been relying on since the onset of COVID-19, and how their budgets will be impacted when those funds expire in September of next year. Every district received a different amount and allocated these funds differently, so while the effects won’t be uniform, they will be felt across Minnesota.
Some districts spent the bulk of their ESSER money on one-time expenditures, such as updated HVAC systems for school buildings or Chromebooks for remote learning, but other districts used the funds to hire or retain staff. Without other funds to bake these staff salaries into district budgets moving forward, difficult decisions need to be made. The national trend of declining enrollment—particularly in urban and low-income districts— compounds the challenge for districts to balance their budgets while continuing to meet the needs of students and staff.
Teacher Licensure and Workforce Quality: Insights from Emergency Licenses in Massachusetts
Boston University Wheelock Education Policy Center, November 2023
This report looks at Year 2 of a multiyear analysis of emergency teacher licenses issued in Massachusetts due to teacher shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. (You can read the report from Year 1 here.) Under the policy, individuals who had not yet completed full licensure requirements could enter the classroom as long as they had a Bachelor’s degree. Licensure requirements impacted by the pandemic, such as exams and student teaching, weren’t removed but delayed to later in the standard timeline of teacher prep. Such circumstances offered researchers the rare opportunity to see what happens when licensure requirements are altered drastically and at a large scale.
Researchers found that looser emergency licensure requirements attracted more teaching applicants than in any of the prior 10 years. These new emergency license holders were more likely to teach in a shortage area, were more racially diverse than other newly licensed teachers, and were concentrated in urban areas and charter schools. Moreover, they stayed in the teaching profession at similar rates to their traditionally licensed peers. Candidates of color who held an emergency license were more likely to reach full licensure than white candidates. 86% of emergency license holders intend to continue teaching in Massachusetts.
Why This Matters in Minnesota
The licensure conversation continues to dominate education spaces in Minnesota. In efforts to streamline and diversify the state teaching workforce, legislators implemented the tiered licensure system in 2017. While only in effect for a few years, modest gains in teacher diversity have been made. However, some of those changes were rolled back in the 2023 legislative session, and teacher licensure will surely be on the agenda again at the Capitol in 2024.
This research highlights the possibility of successful alternative pathways to licensure, which Minnesota needs greatly if it’s going to address its teacher shortages and the overwhelming lack of diversity of its workforce. (For more on that, stay on the lookout for a forthcoming report from EdAllies on eliminating barriers to teaching for Black candidates in Minnesota).