One major impediment to research on the relationship between K-12 schooling modes and COVID-19 health metrics—and to better understanding the effects of schooling modes on many outcomes of interest—is the lack of comprehensive, detailed data on school operations and policies. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently announced a systematic effort to collect representative data on the status of in-person learning. On the heels of President Biden’s Executive Order on school and childcare operations, the survey is intended to provide data to support safe school reopening and continued operations, and to inform future policies to remediate instructional setbacks from the COVID pandemic.
In late February, ED informed states in a letter to state superintendents that they would be expected to conduct federally-mandated standardized tests this academic year, but that there would be substantial flexibility in both the administration of annual exams and the use of their results. This decision has generated a lot of discussion. Andrew Ho, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, proposes three metrics to guide how states report the results of standardized exams in this pandemic-affected year. According to Ho, these metrics incorporate the current context and allow for targeting resources and supporting high-need students:
- Match Rate: flagging whether the percentage of comparable test scores from previous years to the current year in a school or school district is particularly low
- Fair Trend: comparing scores from this year to those of similar students from two academic years ago
- Equity Check: bounding best-case academic gaps given potentially large proportions of students who do not have directly comparable test scores