October 14, 2020

October 2020 Research Rundown

By Krista Kaput

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

  • Updated learning loss projections due to COVID-19 school closures, 
  • National analysis of exclusionary discipline practices, and 
  • Charter schools and student achievement. 
1. Estimates of Learning Loss in the 2019-20 School Year 

Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, October 2020

Building on previous projections from NWEA, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford (CREDO) made updated projections on learning loss as a result of school closures related to COVID-19. Based on data from 19 states, the researchers estimated that this past spring students lost anywhere from 57 to 183 days in reading and 136 to 232 days in math, with disadvantaged students disproportionately impacted. Given the projections, the researchers recommend: 

  • Allowing new approaches—like videos, high dosage tutoring, connecting students with out-of-school supportsto high-quality instruction; 
  • Administering rigorous student-level diagnostic assessments and frequent checks to help plot a recovery course; and 
  • More state and federal guidance and support to drive equitable responses. 


All Minnesota students faced some learning disruption over the past year. Given the impact that this has on student learning, in the short and long term, it’s imperative that all schools use diagnostic and/or screener assessments to measure where students are. Using that data, schools must communicate areas for catch-up and growth to students and families, as well as use research-based interventions to meet students where they are, accelerate learning, and plan for long-term recovery.  
Read the full report

2. Lost Opportunities: How Disparate School Discipline Continues to Drive Differences in the Opportunity to Learn 

The Center for Civil Rights Remedies and the Learning Policy Institute, October 2020

Analyzing 2015-16 discipline data from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights researchers found that students of color—particularly Black students—and students with special needs continue to be disproportionately suspended, and as a result are missing more in-class instruction. This is particularly true at the secondary level. Black secondary students lost 103 days of instruction per 100 students compared to 21 days for white students. Students with special needs at the secondary level lost 68 days of instruction, which is about twice as many as secondary students without disabilities. The researchers also found that middle and high school students lose five times the number instructional days due to out-of-school suspensions compared to elementary school students. The study ends with recommendations to address these disparities: 

  • Eliminate unnecessary removals; 
  • Switch to more effective policies and practices that serve an educational purpose; and 
  • Review and respond to discipline disparities to promote more equitable outcomes. 


Minnesota’s history of disproportionately suspending and expelling students of color and students with special needs–often for similar actions as peers who receive nonexclusionary discipline interventions–has been extensively documented. Black students receive 38% of all disciplinary actions, despite only being 11.3% of the student population, and students with special needs receive 42.3% of all disciplinary actions, despite only being 14.6% of the student population. With concerns about discipline practices in COVID-19, districts should make sure their discipline practices are not disproportionately impacting students of color and students with special needs. 
Read the study

3. Charter Schools Show Steeper Upward Trend in Student Achievement than District Schools 

Harvard University, August 2020

Researchers from Harvard University compared how student cohorts at district and charter schools performed between 2005-2017, based on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data in math and reading. The data shows measurable gains for Black and low-income charter school students, amounting to nearly half a year’s worth of additional learning. They found more modest benefits for white students and higher-income students, but a neutral impact for Asian and Latino students. 


About 7% of Minnesota students attend a charter school. Many are designed specifically to meet the needs of historically underserved students, and as a result, charters serve larger proportions of low-income students (54%), English learners (21%), and students of color (62%) than the statewide averages. Despite the fact that parents are seeking out high-quality school options–and that charters are providing opportunity for students who have been historically underserved–misconceptions continue to drive opposition and proposals that would undermine the students they serve. In St. Paul, for example, the City Council recently proposed limiting access to revenue bonds. And at the state level, leaders have considered proposals which would make it harder for charter schools to effectively serve special education students. Policymakers should focus on supporting high-quality charter schools and improving outcomes across the sector. 
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