SBOE #EdPolicy Research Roundup: January 2019

By: Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Ensuring research and policy concepts are accessible to all stakeholders in our communities is important. Think tanks and policy-based organizations release reports and their findings on a regular basis, but some times the information contained within these reports can be difficult to navigate and understand to a more novice reader or layperson.

Each month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) will feature and summarize a collection of reports highlighting trends and issues in education policy. SBOE will discuss the key findings, as well as explain the implication of the reports to the State Board’s work and priorities. This month we feature two reports: one from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) on the importance of teacher diversity and a second from the National School Climate Center (NSCC) on creating school communities.  

“A Vision and Guidance for a Diverse and Learner-Ready Teacher Workforce” – Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), January 10, 2019

Summary: Students benefit when their teachers come from varying backgrounds—racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic. Today, nearly 50 percent of American public school students identify as people of color, compared to only 20 percent of their teachers. CCSSO highlights research that demonstrates “students exposure to people who are different from themselves, and the ideas and challenges that such exposure brings, leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving.” The CCSSO report discusses the need for “deliberate attention to build current as well as future teachers’ capacity to enact pedagogies and practices that recognize and embrace students’ cultures as assets in the classroom.” CCSSO suggests that all teachers be “learner-ready”—meaning teachers have developed the deep knowledge of their content and how to teach it, understand differing needs amongst students, and demonstrate leadership and shared responsibility. The CCSSO report casts a vision for what education systems look like when there is a diverse and learner-ready workforce, and outlines a series of preservice and in-service policy recommendations for achieving their vision.

DC Context: As SBOE continues to work on teacher and principal retention in the District, this report highlights the importance of ensuring that all our teachers are prepared and ready to be in classrooms and be the most effective that they can be. CCSSO suggests that state education agencies track and report on differential teacher retention and turnover rates, so they can determine if any groups of teachers, particularly those of color, have disproportionately high turnover rates. This policy recommendation is in line with SBOE’s work on pushing the District to better collect, analyze, and understand school- and system-level data, so that the necessary resources and supports are provided to ensure retention and high levels of teacher effectiveness. SBOE will continue to prioritize data collection and research as it pertains to retention.

“Creating School Communities of Courage: Lessons from the Field” – National School Climate Center (NSCC), January 18, 2019

Summary: Using interviews and focus groups, NSCC explored the work being done in six school districts across the US to advance students’ feeling of safety, inclusion, and engagement. The districts represented in the NSCC report are located in CA, DC, KY, MO, NY, and PA and have varying demographic profiles, school types, and school grades. The report shares seven key lessons learned from these six districts:

(1) Collaborative leadership amongst stakeholders inside and outside of schools has a positive impact on school community engagement.

(2) Teacher commitment impacts student experience; motivated teachers are given freedom to experiment in their classrooms and collaborate with peers.

(3) Confronting the challenge of conflict strengthens trust between teachers and their students students.

(4) Project-based, service, and interactive learning are important models to provide in school communities as they help students build both technical and interpersonal skills.

(5) Social-emotional learning enhances classroom practice and climate.

(6) Student voice is important to prioritize in order to promote equity.

(7) Peer-to-peer support structures help with instilling student confidence and promoting student leadership.

The NSCC report also highlighted challenges and areas for continued improvement that were noticed across these six districts. Things like leadership turnover affecting school climate and school community engagement were two issue areas discussed. In conclusion, NSCC acknowledged the importance of students being drivers of change and teachers as ambassadors of school climate when it comes to creating strong school communities.

DC Context: School climate is an increasingly more important measure of school success and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states the option to look to school climate as an indicator of school quality. Several local education agencies are currently piloting school climate surveys in some public schools, with the goal of implementing them District wide by school year 2020-21. The State Board is committed to engaging with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) as the school climate surveys are developed and rolled out, as well as identifying the best ways for school climate to be incorporated in future versions of our state’s school report cards (found at dcschoolreportcard.org).

**If there are particular issue areas or policy areas that you would like SBOE to explore in future SBOE #EdPolicy Research Roundups, please let us know by commenting below.**

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