SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: January 2021 – Assessment Data and Tutoring

By Rachel Duff, Policy Fellow

In the new year, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) will renew its “Research Roundup” in an effort to increase focus on select education research and policy concepts, specifically to make the implications of this research accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. 

This January 2021#EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), which presents initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement in fall 2020 and one from the Learning Policy Institute, which examines potential tutoring structures to mitigate COVID-19 learning loss.

As we have done previously, the State Board will discuss the key findings of each report and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities.

“Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth” Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), November 2020

Summary: This report presented data collected from the MAP Growth Assessments administered in the 2019-2020 school year as compared to fall 2020. The assessment was administered both in-person and remotely in fall 2020 and NWEA found remote testing results to be consistent with in-person testing for students in grades 3-8 but may qualitatively differ for the youngest students.

Some of their key findings include: 

  • In the fall 2020 assessment, students in grades 3-8 performed similarly in reading to same-grade students in fall 2019, but about 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math
  • Although median percentiles in reading were comparable to students in the same grades prior to COVID-19 disruptions, initial evidence pointed to minor declines in reading specifically for Hispanic and Black students in the upper elementary grades. 
  • Missing assessment data from student attrition in fall 2020 limited the analysis of data and resulting in a likely underestimation of COVID-19 impacts on student achievement.
  • The pattern of absent or missing student data was found to be in the following student groups: ethnic/racial minority students, students with lower achievement in fall 2019, and students in schools with higher concentrations of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

The NWEA found that pairing the assessment results with the pattern of absent students highlighted the importance of connecting to students and families to provide support both in remote and in-person settings. They also found that the assessment results indicated a clear and critical need for local data in order to understand where students have fallen behind and to guide future support. The NWEA recommends that data collected by school districts and states be transparently reported to inform our collective understanding of students’ unmet needs.

State Board Context: In the District of Columbia, The Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) is submitting requests to the US Department of Education (USED) for flexibility in implementing components of the statewide accountability system known as the Schools Transparency and Reporting (STAR) Framework and other accountability elements required in the state’s approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.

The specific requests OSSE will be submitting are as follows: 

  • Through the ESSA Addendum, ask for flexibility to identified areas of the accountability system to which USED has identified as being directly impacted by unavailable data from the 2019-20 school year and the continued impacts resulting from the COVID-19 national emergency.
    • OSSE will not calculate the School Transparency and Reporting (STAR) Framework for the 2020-21 school year.
    • OSSE will not identify new schools for Comprehensive or targeted support using data from the 2020-21 school year.
    • OSSE will shift all three long term goals forward by one year.
      1. Academic Achievement: “OSSE’s long-term goal is for the vast majority, or 85 percent, of all students and students in each subgroup to demonstrate college and career readiness on its statewide standardized achievement assessments as signified by scoring at level 4 and higher on PARCC and level 3 and higher on MSAA.”
      2. Graduation Rate: “OSSE’s long-term goal is that over the next approximately 20 years, 90 percent of all students in its adjusted cohort will graduate within four years, fully closing gaps between groups of students by that point in time, with a key milestone of seeing all student groups improve and cutting gaps in half over the next ten years.”
      3. English Language Proficiency: “OSSE administers the Access for ELLs 2.0 as an annual measure of English language proficiency for students identified as English learners. Students are deemed proficient when they achieve a composite score of 5.0 (bridging) on the summative assessment.”
  • Through a waiver, to address those components not included in the addendum but are also impacted by unavailable data and impacts as a result of the current COVID-19 emergency, OSSE will request flexibility to aive the administration of DC Science for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Waive the identification of Targeted Support 1 (TS1) schools in school year 2020-21 and 2021-22 due to the absence of STAR Framework scores and limitations with growth calculations, which would utilize data from the 2020-21 school year.

The D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) submitted public comment on January 22, 2021 and requested the following from OSSE:

  • The State Board asks OSSE to clarify whether funding allocated for Comprehensive Support (CS1) schools will  cover five (5) years instead of three (3), or whether more funding will be allocated for the additional two (2) years these schools spend during their CS1 status. 
  • The State Board urges OSSE to not include the academic year 2018–19 STAR rating as prominently on current iterations of the DC School Report Card as this data may be misleading to families.
  • The State Board encourages OSSE to provide additional support for schools as they prepare to welcome back and assess students during the reopening process.
“Learning in the Time of COVID-19: The Importance of Getting Tutoring Right”, Learning Policy Institute, January 2021

Summary: This report examines the profound learning losses students have faced, particularly students of color, students from low-income families, and other underserved students. The Learning Policy Institute presents tutoring as a potential strategy to mitigate these learning losses but emphasizes that a poorly constructed tutoring program would be an inefficient use of time, money, and resources that would not significantly impact student learning.

The report presents four different tutoring programs that have been successful in implementing structures of tutoring that directly increase student achievement and it includes elements that contribute to their success. 

  • Reading Recovery: Has documented success with first graders, including students with reading disabilities and English language learners. Students work one-on-one with a certified teacher trained in reading instruction. Student participation resulted in a reading growth rate that is 31% greater than the average growth rate nationally for beginning first graders. This program costs $2,500 per teacher and $100 per student. 
  • Number Rockets: Teacher candidates in teacher preparation programs receive 10 hours of training and use a scripted curriculum designed for first graders struggling in math. They work with two or three students at a time and participate in three 40-minutes sessions a week over 17 weeks. Student scores improved on a standardized math test by 0.34 standard deviations. The training cost is $1,500 plus travel expenses, $64 for implementation manuals, and $30 for supplemental materials. 
  • ROOTS: District-employed paraprofessionals provide math tutoring intervention for kindergarteners. They receive 10 hours of training and two or more feedback sessions from coaches. Tutors provide daily 20-minute math lessons for 50 days in groups of 3-5 students. Students improved scores on standardized tests by 0.35-0.45 standard deviations. The training for this program costs $250 per teacher. 
  • Match Corps: AmeriCorps members provide 9th and 10th grade students with 60 minutes of 2-on-1 tutoring each day for a full school year. They receive 100 hours of training, daily supervision, and feedback for continuous improvement. Students’ math achievement scores improved (0.19-0.31 SD) and their course failures were reduced by half. This program costs around $2,500 per student.

State Board Context: During the January 2021 Public Meeting, the D.C. State Board of Education heard from panelists about learning loss, tutoring, and other options. The individuals who came to testify included Marisa Tersy an Education Improvement Specialist with EmpowerK12, Kyndra V. Middleton an Associate Professor and Educational Psychology Program Coordinator with Howard University, Matthew A. Kraft an Associate Professor of Education & Economics with Brown University, Shwetlena Sabarwal a Senior Economist in Education Global Practice with The World Bank, and Robert Slavin the Director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University and Co-Founder of Success for All Foundation. They testified that the learning loss has been significant for students, specifically for minority students, and that an effective tutoring structure could potentially provide both teachers and students with a resource to mitigate learning loss. Written testimony provided for the Public Meeting can be found here.

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