SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: May 2020—COVID-19 Effects on Teacher Evaluations and Learning Loss

By Sandra Mansour and Sarah Arrington

This month, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The May 2020 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which examines teacher evaluations and support during COVID-19 and one from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), which examines the impact of school closures during the current health emergency on student achievement.

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

“Teacher evaluations and support during COVID-19 closures,” National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), May 2020

Summary: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) examined 44 school districts’ teacher evaluation methods. So far, only 18 districts have agreements that mention how they will approach teacher evaluations in the context of distance learning and school closures. Of those 18, only 13 districts have come to a decision about how they will proceed. The three common responses NCTQ has found include: 1) suspend the evaluation process for the rest of the 2019-20 school year; 2) keep only formative evaluations for this school year; or 3) issue summative evaluations when possible.

Seven districts have decided to move forward with summative evaluations for teachers that had enough evidence before school closures, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. If a school did not have enough evidence of a teacher’s ability before the closures started, the school will either cancel or delay their evaluation of that teacher. Three districts—Albuquerque, Boston, and Dallas—will proceed with formative evaluations, meaning they will use the data they’ve already collected to give teachers support and feedback, but will not issue an evaluation rating. The other three districts have stopped the teacher evaluation process altogether for this school year.

While districts may not be giving teachers formal ratings, NCTQ believes that it is crucially important that districts continue to give their teachers feedback and support. Distance learning during COVID-19 school closures have presented both teachers and students with a brand-new learning environment, and NCTQ believes that teachers need guidance to continue quality instruction. Ideally, this support would also continue once teachers and students return to physical classrooms.

State Board Context: The D.C. State Board of Education has heard testimony from District residents and reviewed research which both suggest that the rate of teacher attrition in the District, 25 percent, is higher than the national average which is only 16 percent. The State Board is dedicated to further understanding the cause of this high teacher turnover rate and what can be done to improve it. The State Board’s most recent work on teacher retention is a survey which was sent to over 2,000 recently exited teachers. The survey explored why teachers voluntarily resigned or quit their position at a school, sector, or profession entirely. The independently contracted survey researcher also held focus groups and follow-up interviews to ascertain what could have been done to help the teachers stay at their school. The survey report found that:

  • IMPACT, the teacher evaluation system, was the primary departure driver in DCPS
  • Burdens of work culture and workload were primary departure reasons in public charter schools
  • Lack of support for teacher safety and mental health led to departure
  • Tensions with school leaders created hostile work environments

The State Board recognizes that the current global pandemic will likely exacerbate the pre-existing issues that District teachers face, like the effect of teacher evaluations such as IMPACT on teacher attrition. Local education agencies (LEAs) should evaluate how they will approach teacher evaluations during this time of distance learning. It is imperative that teachers continue to receive support and guidance throughout online learning and during the adjustment back to in-person learning. In its May Public Meeting, the State Board discussed a resolution that would ask the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to consider implementing a statewide professional development program for both teachers with less than five years of experience and school-level leadership. The State Board will revisit it in its June Public Meeting and will continue to hear testimony from teachers so that it can support them in providing all students in the District with the best education possible.

“The COVID-19 slide: What summer learning loss can tell us about the potential impact of school closures on student academic achievement,” NWEA, April 2020

Summary: As the school year comes to a close in most places, researchers are trying to make educated guesses about how the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate opportunity gaps in education among students and widen the achievement gap. This NWEA research brief looked at seasonal patterns of learning loss in order to make projections about COVID-19 learning losses. Past seasonal learning research findings include three key trends: achievement typically declines over the summer months, declines are usually steeper for math than for reading, and the extent of loss increases in higher grades.

NWEA used historical data on summer learning loss and a national sample of over five million students, grades 3–8, who took growth assessments in the 2017–18 school year, to project possible learning loss in mathematics and reading for 3rd through 8th grade learners. While these models predict learning loss, the study acknowledges that summer learning loss data is different from distance learning data, since it is assumed that students are not receiving instruction during the summer. Researchers also extrapolated data as a starting point for distance learning losses. From data, they created two projections: a COVID-19 slowdown, where students would maintain the same level of academic achievement exhibited when schools closed (set as March 15, 2020), and a COVID-19 slide, where they projected the typical academic setbacks of the summer, but starting at the March 15 closure. The COVID-19 slowdown showed lower scores compared to where students would have ended on the typical last day of school. The COVID-19 slide suggested even worse learning loss than traditional summer learning loss because both declines started with lower March scores.

These projections suggest major academic setbacks for students from COVID-19 closures, especially in math. COVID-19 slide estimates predict that students will return to school in fall 2020 with roughly 70 percent of their learning gains for reading, and 50 percent of their learning gains for math, relative to a typical school year. Some grades suggest that students could return nearly a full year behind in math.

State Board Context: The State Board is committed to ensuring that all D.C. students have equal access to educational opportunities in order to be successful in school and prepared for their future careers. Specifically, this means that the State Board strives to hear from underrepresented student populations like students considered at-risk, students experiencing homelessness, students who identify as LGBTQ, and students with other unique requirements. In order to support these student groups, the State Board has been collecting information and hearing from constituents about how COVID-19 closures have impacted student learning. As distance learning may be needed in the next school year, the State Board will continue to assess the current learning environment so that its work continues to examine the pandemic’s effects on student achievement and outcomes.  

State Board Visit to D.C. Department of Corrections

By Emily Gasoi, Ward 1 Representative

On February 6, 2020, the State Board team visited the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) Central Detention Facility (CDF). Upon arrival, we were greeted by Director Quincy Booth, Deputy Director of Professional Development & College and Career Readiness, Amy Lopez, and Public Information Officer, Dr. Keena Blackmon. Before beginning the tour, Director Booth and Deputy Director Lopez gave us a quick overview of D.C. Jail.

For starters, they emphasized that the terms “jail” and “prison” are not interchangeable. Jails are facilities for those who are awaiting trial or have committed minor offenses while prisons tend to be facilities for those who have been convicted and have longer sentences. This means that D.C. Jail’s population is rather transient—some residents are housed for as short as a day, week, or month, while some are housed for several months or years. Consequently, while Director Booth and Deputy Director Lopez have invested heavily over the past two years to develop and implement educational opportunities and programs for all of their residents, a persistent challenge is how to ensure that their residents are gaining valuable skills, certifications, or even degrees before they leave.

Furthermore, Ms. Lopez discussed how one barrier is the building itself—there is one building unit in CDF that has no windows and little space. It is hard to expand programs when the building was not designed with classrooms in mind. However, despite these challenges, it seems that many of the educational initiatives are making a difference. We heard from residents enrolled in a number of the programs and they really impressed upon us how meaningful these opportunities are to them—like a window on the world that they hope to re-enter with new and immediately applicable skills. Here are a few examples:

Continue reading “State Board Visit to D.C. Department of Corrections”

SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: February 2020 – Science of Reading & Homeless Youth

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

This month, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The
February 2020 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which examines teacher preparation programs and one from the National Center for Homeless Education, which assesses the prevalence of homeless students in the United States.

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.

“2020 Teacher Prep Review: Program Performance in Early Reading Instruction” National Council on Teacher Quality, January 2020

Summary: This report explains the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) findings of teacher preparation programs’ adherence to the science of reading. The “science of reading” refers to methods of reading instruction that have been proven successful by research. To assess whether teachers are actually acquiring the skills to teach the science of reading, NCTQ looked at programs’ required readings and assignments, syllabi, lecture topics, textbooks, and opportunities to practice. Researchers looked for evidence of dedicated course time to the five components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. They also looked for measures to hold teacher candidates accountable for learning each component. Some of their key findings include:

Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: February 2020 – Science of Reading & Homeless Youth”

“The Best Team in District Government” – Matt’s Top 5 Moments at the State Board

By Matt Repka, Policy Analyst

I first started at the State Board in late 2017. Since then, I’ve been on staff for 28 working sessions, 27 task force meetings, 26 public meetings, three performance oversight hearings, two budget oversight hearings, and one public forum on teacher retention. Throughout this time, the State Board has continued to develop as an institution, expanding its reach to take on important issues of equity in education in the District.

One thing I’ve appreciated about the State Board is its ability to work in collaboration with District’s education institutions on policy matters, including compliance with federal law, while maintaining the independent status that allows it to serve as a conduit for the voices of residents interested in addressing important issues in their school communities.

This is my final week at the State Board, and I’ll really miss the team here. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to support the State Board members in thinking about the most critical challenges in public education. But as a District resident myself, I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the State Board and hearing about the office’s ongoing projects—this time as a constituent.

Before I go, here’s a reflection on my five favorite things about my State Board tenure:

5. Representing the State Board at EdFEST

Collage of two photos. The left is of Matt standing next to a mascot of Abraham Lincoln in a Washington Nationals jersey. The left photo is of Matt and Alex tabling at EdFEST.
Tabling at EdFEST!

Continue reading ““The Best Team in District Government” – Matt’s Top 5 Moments at the State Board”

SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: January 2020 – Social Studies & Civics

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

In the new year, the D.C. State Board of Education will continue its “Research Roundup” series in an effort to increase the focus on selected education research and policy concepts, with a specific emphasis on the implications of research and policy on stakeholders in our communities.

This January 2020 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Center for American Progress that examines state civics requirements and one from the National Congress of American Indians that examines state efforts to implement high-quality curriculum about Native American people and culture.

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.

This month, both reports relate to social studies and civics. The State Board is currently embarking on a process to update the District’s social studies standards under the leadership of Ward 6 Representative Jessica Sutter. The state social studies standards have not been updated since 2006.

Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: January 2020 – Social Studies & Civics”

Empowering Student Voice in Policy Development and Discussions

By Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Our education system is more student-centered and student-driven than ever before. This means that policymakers and decision-makers must ensure student voice is elevated and actively heard.

Watch: Empowering the Student Voice

Since 2006, the D.C. State Board of Education has appointed two students to serve as representatives on the State Board. The student representatives are high school students in the District’s traditional public or public charter schools, and they each serve one-year terms. Each student representative is selected from a pool of applicants by the elected members of the State Board. They participate in all meetings and committees of the State Board by providing policy recommendations and testimony, and they co-lead the drafting of written reports; their votes are always recorded but do not affect the outcome of a State Board action.

My colleagues and I had the opportunity to share the work of our impressive student representatives and the power of student voice and representation while at the 2019 iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs, California. We led a session titled, “Empowering Student Voice in Policy Development and Discussions”  which featured a virtual panel of three former student representatives—Brian Contreras, Tallya Rhodes, and Tatiana Robinson. They discussed the role of the State Board’s student representatives, the leadership they provided as co-chairs of the District’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC), and the policy-facing work they accomplished on college readiness, teacher retention, and school equity.

Continue reading “Empowering Student Voice in Policy Development and Discussions”

Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement

By Matt Repka, Policy Analyst

In late October, the State Board attended the iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs, California.

iNACOL, short for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, is a D.C.-area organization that advocates for online, competency-based, and personalized learning opportunities for students. Since 2017, the organization has expanded to focus more broadly on personalized learning and promote policies that advance student-centered experiences.

On the first day, we attended pre-conference workshops, an opening keynote, and a surprise: iNACOL itself would be undergoing a surprise rebrand—effective immediately. Now known as the Aurora Institute, the organization formerly known as iNACOL would continue to focus on innovation and the transformation of education systems, but under a new banner that reflects its expanded, not-just-online-learning focus.

Over the next two days, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to sit in on keynote addresses, conference breakout sessions, and workshops with incredible people from all over the country (and beyond). But we were also there to lead two sessions of our own: one workshop on empowering student voice in policy discussions led by SBOE policy analyst Alex Jue and one on stakeholder engagement in education and the work of the State Board’s task forces.

In “Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement,” we had the opportunity to break down some of the work the State Board has accomplished in the District over the past two years with respect to community voice and stakeholder engagement around state-level education policy.

Continue reading “Elevating the Hidden Voices of a Community: Equity and Authentic Stakeholder Engagement”

Civics Education, Inequities Facing Incarcerated Youth, and More: Takeaways from the 2019 NASBE Conference

By Emily Gasoi, Ward 1 Representative

On October 16, I headed off to Omaha, NE along with a small group of SBOE colleagues and staff for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) annual conference. NASBE is a membership organization that “develops, supports, and empowers citizen leaders on state boards of education to strengthen public education systems…” (see more about NASBE’s mission and purpose here).

I generally love the concentrated learning and networking that takes place at conferences, but this was my first time attending a gathering of state board members, and I had no idea what to expect. After three days packed with impressive keynote speakers, motivating panel presentations, inclusive decision-making sessions and ample time for unstructured discussion, I was not disappointed!

I am still processing everything I took in during my three days in Omaha, and there was far too much to share it all in this post, but I will attempt to seize on some common threads that ran through the talks and sessions I attended and share my key takeaways with you all:

Civics Education

One theme that ran through several of the convenings was the importance of providing students access to authentic, empowering civics education that leads directly to real-world opportunities. This resonated with some of the work I am leading on our Board with the Well-Rounded Education committee, which is conducting research to learn the degree to which DC schools are able to ensure students have access to non-tested subjects including arts, sciences, and social studies.

Some action- and thought-provoking points I took away from the panel on “Transforming Civics Education in an Era of Polarized Politics”:

• Asked to define what meaningful civics education entails, panelists generally panned the idea of using the US Citizenship test, which they deemed to be too narrow and inert, and instead noted that strong civics education both connects with and expands students’ lived experience. Several panelists, including one high school student, noted that authentic projects with real outcomes are more likely to engage students and lead them to feel more connected to the community and civically empowered to effect positive change.
• Panelists shared multiple models worth emulation:

• In Florida, the entire middle school curriculum is focused on civics education.
• Similarly, as of this year, in Massachusetts, the entire 8th-grade curriculum is dedicated to civics. In addition, state law now requires all middle and high schools to dedicate at least one semester to “’action civics’ – having students research and use local civic channels to solve problems in their community.”
• Illinois has also passed a statewide law requiring high schools to spend at least one semester on civics education. And in Chicago Public Schools, every high school has a “Student Voice Committee” designed to help students develop leadership and decision-making skills that will impact their school and home communities.

• Two related challenges panelists raised was how to effectively assess the quality of civics learning and how to make civics education a curricular priority without necessarily dragging it down with a narrowing accountability incentive.

Continue reading “Civics Education, Inequities Facing Incarcerated Youth, and More: Takeaways from the 2019 NASBE Conference”

SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: October 2019

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

This month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The October 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the D.C. Policy Center discussing the need for increased access to high quality schools for at-risk students and one from The Education Trust that examines why teachers of color leave schools and what schools can do to retain them.

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

“Access to Schools that Level the Playing Field for D.C.’s At-Risk Students” D.C. Policy Center, September 2019

Summary: This D.C. Policy Center report finds that though student test scores have improved, there are still achievement gaps that persist. That is why access to high quality schools is especially important for at-risk students. The report discusses “leveler schools”, or schools that level the playing field for at-risk students. In order to be a leveler school, schools must meet the target of growth (90th percentile) on the state report card in either ELA or Math. Twenty elementary schools and 12 middle schools met this target, and so, are considered leveler schools. There are leveler elementary schools in all wards aside from wards 2 and 3 and leveler middle schools in all wards aside from wards 3 and 6 however, the students who need these leveler schools the most often live the farthest away from them. Furthermore, there is simply not enough space for all the students who need access to leveler schools. While improving geographic access to high quality schools would help the situation, it is more important to improve and support schools that are not leveler schools but that serve at-risk to help accelerate academic gains. The D.C. Policy Center highlights ways that D.C. can support those schools:

Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: October 2019”

SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: September 2019

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

This month, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The September 2019 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Education Commission of the States discussing STEAM education and its impact on student success and one from FutureEd that looks at how state testing systems are changing under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

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

Preparing Students for Learning, Work and Life Through STEAM Education” Education Commission of the States (ECS), Mary Dell’Erba, September 2019

Summary: The Education Commission of the States (ECS) and the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) conducted a study on state policies that include STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education. They defined STEAM education as “an approach to teaching in which students demonstrate critical thinking and creative problem-solving.” This type of education focuses on learning through experience, exploration, inquiry, and creativity. Specifically with the addition of arts into a more traditional STEM program, they found that students had increased opportunities to practice active learning and divergent thinking, to build social and emotional skills, and to develop cultural competency. Continue reading “SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: September 2019”