September 21, 2021

September 2021 Research Rundown

By Krista Kaput

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

  • Progress toward K-3 literacy during the pandemic, 
  • The impact of the edTPA on teacher supply and quality, and 
  • The efficacy of discipline reform plans in Minnesota.
1. Students start to recover from COVID instructional loss

Amplify, July 2021

We know that learning disruption during the pandemic impacted early literacy. In this study, researchers explored how reading readiness for K-3 students changed over the course of the pandemic—and specifically, how many students fell into the “intensive intervention” category, putting them at high risk for not learning to read. 

On the positive side: fewer students were at high risk in the spring of 2021 than just a few months earlier in winter—likely the result of a return to in-person learning for many. The improvement from winter to spring was significant for kindergarten and first grade, dropping from 47% to 38% and 43% to 32% at high risk, respectively. Second and third graders saw some improvement, though it was less marked. Despite these gains, reading proficiency levels for all K-3 students are still behind pre-pandemic levels. This is important because third-grade reading proficiency is a critical indicator of future academic success. 

Importantly, gaps between K-3 white students and students of color have grown wider and the COVID-19 losses disproportionately impacted Black and Latino students. For instance, before the pandemic, 32% of Black and 30% of Latino first graders were at risk of not learning to read, compared to 20% of white first graders. These percentages have increased to 44% for Black students and 38% for Latino students, but only to 21% for white students, 

The authors end with a call to action for districts and schools to identify the students who are the most at risk for not learning to read and provide them with support and resources to accelerate their learning. 


Last month, the Minnesota Department of Education released results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs)—the only state assessments aligned to Minnesota’s academic standards. This was the first statewide data available since before the pandemic, and it affirmed what we anticipated was coming: existing gaps got worse during COVID-19

Since the last data two years ago, reading proficiency dropped from 59% to 52%. And among Black students and Latino students, proficiency rates dropped by 12% and 19%, respectively. Indigenous students saw the biggest decline as their reading scores dropped by a whopping 24% from 2019. We saw similar declines for other special populations, with reading proficiency dropping by 37% for English Learners, 19% for low-income students, and 15% for students with disabilities. 

Because a strong literacy foundation is essential to success in future grades, strong interventions should be a top priority, using data to effectively target the students who need it most, along with research-based best practices proven to help students get back on track.
Read the full study

2. Teacher Licensing, Teacher Supply, and Student Achievement: Nationwide Implementation of edTPA

Annenberg Institute at Brown University, July 2021

The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is a standards-based assessment used to identify whether teacher candidates meet a set of core competencies and has gained popularity around the country in recent years. Using national data for 8 states that require the edTPA, researchers found that requiring the edTPA reduced the number of graduates from teacher preparation programs by 14%. They found that the negative effect was more stark for teacher candidates of color, suggesting potential equity concerns and entry barriers created by edTPA. The researchers also used national assessment data to test whether the edTPA improved student achievement, and counterintuitively, found that edTPA requirements correlated with lower, not higher, student test scores. 

The authors note that their findings supplement other research related to occupational licensing. It is important to understand the costs and benefits of barriers to the profession because of the potential to:  

  • Reduce labor supply, which creates shortages; 
  • Exacerbate diversity concerns; and 
  • Advance requirements that do not benefit the consumer or, in this instance, students. 


While it’s not required in statute, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) regulations require initial licensure candidates to complete a board-adopted teacher performance assessment, which is currently the edTPA. Given the results of the study and Minnesota’s persistent issues with recruiting and retaining teachers of color, PELSB should reconsider requiring teacher candidates to complete the edTPA. 
Explore the data

3. The Effect of Discipline Reform Plans on Exclusionary Discipline Outcomes in Minnesota

National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance at IES, September 2021

In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights notified 43 districts and charter schools that they were in violation of the Human Rights Act due to their high rates of suspending and expelling students of color—particularly Black and Indigenous students—and students with disabilities. To avoid legal action, 41 of the districts and charter schools agreed to create discipline reform plans that aimed to address these disparities. Researchers examined data over time to determine whether the creation of these reform plans led to better disciplinary outcomes. In the year after the plans were implemented (2018-19), they found a decrease in the percentage of students who experienced any disciplinary action—a measure which actually increased in comparison districts. 

That said, the finding comes with significant limitations, with only one year of post-implementation data, a lack of consistent, high-quality exclusionary discipline data, and the inability to compare data across truly comparable districts. The researchers indicated that, for future research to be successful, data collection processes needed to be updated and improved. Specifically, they called for a uniform system of reporting disciplinary actions across districts and for a stronger process for tracking implementation in districts cited for disparities. The researchers also noted that districts should be adopting a moderate number of evidence-based reforms that have been shown to work, rather than taking too many reforms that won’t lead to systemic change. 


Minnesota has a long and well-documented history of disproportionately suspending and expelling students of color and students with disabilities. If the state is going to make the necessary changes so that these disparities can be rectified, then it’s critical that they adopt the recommendations laid out in the report so that we can have the necessary data to identify what practices are working. 

This is particularly important because research has found a link between achievement gaps and exclusionary discipline. Local advocates have been calling for action on the issue of school discipline for yearsworking to ensure all students of color and students with disabilities are not necessarily pushed out of the classroom. During the 2021 legislative session, legislators agreed to a one-time $1.75 million allocation for grants to districts and charter schools to train their staff on nonexclusionary discipline practices. This funding is important because there is growing evidence showing that restorative practices—inclusive and non-punitive ways to respond to conflict and build community—are one approach to reducing exclusionary practices. Legislators were also close to passing a bill that would have banned suspensions for K-3 students. This research indicates that the work to reform discipline should remain a top priority for both schools and policymakers. 
Explore the findings

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