5 things for superintendents to know heading into 2021

Most teachers want data about successful lesson plans and teaching approaches most during school closures

The big themes that marked the COVID disruptions of 2020 will continue to frame education policy and impact school superintendents well into 2021.

Economic instability and a new awareness of systemic racism will be two of the biggest issues district leaders will have to tackle during next year’s COVID recovery, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s year-end Time to Act 2020 report.

Here are the five things the report says superintendents need to know heading into 2021:

1. Teachers and parents want data to support students through the pandemic.

A majority of teachers want data about which lesson plans and teaching approaches were most successful while schools were closed. They also want to track the amount of academic progress students made during remote instruction.

Almost nine out of 10 parents expect information about how COVID’s disruptions affected high school graduation, college enrollment, future wages, and other long-term outcomes.

In Georgia, for example, parents and educators have secure access to data about students’ academic performance and growth.

Georgia’s Department of Education developed a system that links each district’s data portal with the state’s longitudinal data system.

2. State leaders plan to measure and support student experiences outside the K-12 classroom.

One-fifth of the 242 data-related education bills proposed by state legislators this year focused on early childhood, postsecondary, or workforce data.

This year, Nebraska legislators passed the Nebraska Statewide Workforce and Education Reporting Act, which requires the state to connect workforce and education data.

Students, parents, policymakers, institutional leaders, and researchers now have a way to analyze pathways through education to the workforce and support students’ career success.

3. COVID-19 recovery requires bringing together data from all the programs that serve students.

A large majority of parents and teachers agree that public agencies should securely share information about children and their families to coordinate services during school closures.

Before COVID-19, nearly 30 million low-income students received free or reduced-price lunches through their school. To prevent any lapses, education and social service agencies in 31 states linked data systems to quickly distribute new electronic benefit transfer cards to families not enrolled in assistance programs and then directly transferred meal stipends.

4. States are reexamining how they measure and report information about students and schools.

Michigan passed a law requiring districts to conduct English language arts and math assessments and report results to the state. Other states, such as New Jersey and Texas, offered districts optional diagnostic assessments to assess student learning.

Five states (Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont) passed laws about calculating student attendance and enrollment in light of school closures.

And Illinois’s state report offers education data through clear data visualizations alongside detailed explanations of important concepts and context.

5. States need federal support to improve data systems.

In 2019, 28 state education agencies received grants to establish new data linkages, develop new data reports or dashboards, create data governance processes, and engage in partnerships and external data collaboration.

Massachusetts, for example, plans to create a statewide research hub where state agencies, researchers, and the public can explore data and reports from across the P–20W system.