Raise Your Hands for the Leaders in Education Recovery

Time for another confession: I was THAT kid in elementary school. You know the one who always raised their hand, even when they didn’t really have the answer? That was me – until around 5th grade, when that naive confidence faded and I started saving my moments for when I knew I was right.

But here’s the thing today: in the scramble to catch up from these past two pandemic-disrupted school years, we don’t have the luxury of waiting to be sure interventions are perfectly right. That’s why I’m so inspired by states and districts that are raising their hands with ideas and solutions during such challenging times.

Yesterday, the Collaborative for Student Success and its research partners added 18 new promising practices to EduRecoveryHub.org, a platform sharing innovations in education recovery by our nation’s leading hand-raisers (something I’ve written about previously here and here). As the resident curriculum and professional learning policy expert for the Collaborative, I have the privilege of serving as a reviewer for the practices featured in the Hub. As I read through the latest highlights, I was struck by a growing trend of states and districts using evidence both to identify students most in need of services and to evaluate the effectiveness of their initiatives. Here are just two related to tutoring, which has emerged as the leading strategy to support academic recovery:

  • In Guilford County, NC, the school district is using a range of data points – including attendance, course grades and failures, and test results – to recommend students for high-dosage tutoring. This $10M recovery fund investment provides weekly individualized tutoring for participants. Given the district’s focus on high quality materials, this additional instructional time has the potential to truly accelerate learning for the kids who need it most (for a compelling look at Guilford County’s efforts to support students, check out this recent NBC segment). 
  • Over in Texas, Ector County School District is connecting evidence to a tutoring initiative in a different way. This unique approach invests $3M in ESSER funding in a “pay for success” model where tutoring providers are incentivized to earn more the more their students grow on the district’s MAP interim assessment. Focusing attention on instruments already aligned to district academics is a smart approach that has already served over 6,000 Ector County students K-12.

And on the topic of interim assessments, EdReports has recently announced a new effort with the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment to launch reviews of off-the-shelf versions of these evaluative instruments. The goal is to provide a clearer picture of whether and how these assessments are evidence-based, cover the relevant academic standards, and offer transparent, actionable data to teachers and families. Adding this level of information to EdReports’ already robust sets of materials reviews will help local educators and district leaders to make even smarter choices about the tools that can best serve their teachers and students. Two widely used interim assessment providers have already volunteered for review starting early next year (i-Ready and SmarterBalanced).

Evidence is essential for quality curriculum and professional learning – it helps to drive smart decisions about the materials our teachers and students use every day. I applaud these efforts that demonstrate how districts and providers can use evidence-based approaches to confront the educational challenges before us. I hope more will keep raising their hands.

Jocelyn Pickford is an education policy and communications specialist focusing on understanding and promoting practitioner-informed public policy across the private, public and non-profit sectors as a Senior Affiliate with HCM Strategists. She began her career in education as a high school English teacher in a regular and special education inclusion classroom and is now a public school parent and recent member of her local district school board. Previously, Jocelyn led the design, launch and implementation of the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education to integrate teachers into the national education policy dialogue. Jocelyn’s passion for her work was seeded during her own public school education and took root during her classroom teaching experience in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she led action research and presented instructional materials to a variety of audiences. Jocelyn earned her bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (CT), working as a professional writer and editor prior to becoming a teacher, and obtained her master’s in secondary education from the George Washington University. Jocelyn lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children.