With the recent changes to federal education policy, I wanted to learn more so I interviewed Emily Baranello, Vice President SAS Education Practice and Susan Gates, SAS Special Advisor on Education. In part 1 of the interview, they were helpful in explaining the new policies, impact, opportunities and challenges for P-12 education across the U.S. Below is the remainder of the interview.
How are states directed to address low-performing schools?
Gates: States must identify the lowest-performing five percent of their schools and high schools that graduate less than 67 percent of their students. In addition, states must identify any school where one or more subgroups of students are under-performing. Each state can design its own interventions in these schools because ESSA eliminated prescribed turnaround models.
How can data and analytics help states determine the effectiveness of their interventions for low-performing schools?
Baranello: Data and analytics are critical tools for helping states ascertain if interventions are, in fact, working. Real-time analytics will give teachers, principals, and superintendents immediate insight into what's happening on the ground. Predictive analytics can help them make smart decisions about next steps based upon real-time data. For example, they can determine which courses to place students in and ensure students are challenged with rigorous coursework when they're ready for it. In addition, teachers can use dashboards to drill down to their class and see predicated analytics for each student so interventions can be taken. Data and analytics can also help educators better understand the impact of suspensions and chronic absenteeism and help in the design of evidence-based interventions to get students back on track.
Can all of this data and analysis for accountability systems, report cards and school interventions be presented in an understandable way?
Baranello: Very much so. As I mentioned, data and analytics are critical. Technology exists today to present data and analytics in a visual, easily understandable way. Using interactive dashboards and scorecards that incorporate all relevant data – including disaggregated data on student subgroups –users can easily monitor student and school progress. These intuitive tools empower users to visually interact with data. Users can uncover patterns and trends to answer questions quickly. As such, they’re able to make more accurate, data-informed decisions and easily share their findings with others.
For example, SAS partnered with UNC on a dashboard to track educator preparation programs and the impact of teachers and school leaders. This Educator Quality Dashboard provides unprecedented public access to the university’s research and trend data on the preparation and performance in various K-12 subjects of North Carolina’s public school educators.
Are there new opportunities for pre-K programs in ESSA?
Gates: ESSA essentially expands the K-12 system to a P-12 system through the inclusion of a Preschool Development Grants competitive program, which will be administered jointly through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education. Grant funds can be used for conducting statewide needs assessments of the quality and availability of existing programs; developing strategic plans for collaboration, coordination and quality improvements among existing programs; and sharing best practices among early childhood education program providers.
How can data about children in pre-K programs be integrated into the K-12 system?
Baranello: States have exciting opportunities under ESSA to better align their pre-K programs with K-12 and develop an even broader view of how well their education system is performing. Extensive research confirms that high-quality pre-K increases graduation rates, skill levels, and enrollment in post-secondary education – with returns on investment between $5 and $16 for every dollar invested. Thus, many states are looking at expanding and strengthening the quality of pre-K programs. New York City transformed its pre-K program to be “universal," using extensive data to locate and enroll eligible students.
By working across agencies and systems, data from pre-K can be integrated into the K-12 system and, from there, into a P-20W system, consolidating information on students from preschool until they enter the workforce. Having this student-level data over time, users can use it to spot trends in order to improve the state education system and policy. This allows policy makers to understand whether their education system is preparing students with the skills needed in a competitive, global economy. In the book, Implement, Improve and Expand Your Statewide Longitudinal Data System you can learn more about what it takes to implement (or improve) a successful SLDS/P-20W system.
What is the timeline for the implementation of all of these new systems and reports under ESSA?
Gates: Waivers previously issued to states by the U.S. Department of Education will be null and void on August 1, 2016. The new accountability systems and report cards must be in place for the 2017-18 school year. In the interim, states will still have to support their lowest-performing schools and issue school report cards in the same manner they've been doing under ESEA.
It was interesting to learn more about how changes to education policy cause a trickle-down effect to states and districts. But the good thing is that current technology can address those issues by consolidating data and making reports easily accessible and sharable. To learn more, and play with some sample reports yourself, check out this interactive demo. Also, check out http://www.sas.com/p12 to learn more about what SAS does for P-12 education.