AEFP 44th Annual Conference Program
Chair:, Results for America
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires and encourages the use of evidence-based approaches and continuous improvement. ESSA also has specific equity-focused requirements. Consequently, ESSA can guide strategic investments in practices, policies, and programs that are most likely to have a positive impact on student outcomes and achieve equity-minded goals such as improving the lowest-performing schools, raising college- and career-ready graduation rates, closing race- and income-based opportunity gaps, and strengthening the quality and effectiveness of teachers and school administrators. Yet, few state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) have fully explored this intersection of evidence, equity, and continuous improvement under ESSA.
This policy talk will focus on two inter-related key concepts: 1) ESSA is, at its core, a civil rights law with specific requirements focused on equity and 2) ESSA evidence provisions provide an opportunity for SEAs and LEAs to become “learning organizations” and engage in ongoing reflection and improvement. Through a panel discussion, the talk will highlight the opportunities for SEAs and LEAs and, as possible, share examples of SEAs/LEAs who are leveraging these opportunities.
What are these intersections and opportunities of evidence, equity, and continuous improvement? They include considerations about amplifying the civil rights orientation of ESSA, using policy as a lever to address achievement and opportunity gaps, and using evidence to inform the selection of strategies to address needs and gaps. Further intersections and opportunities include integrating equity considerations in assessing the robustness of an evidence base, applying that evidence base to the selection of a strategy for a targeted group of students, and building an ongoing research/learning agenda intentionally focused on equity/opportunity. Finally, SEAs and LEAs could consider how to build evidence and use data to assess the impact of policies/practices/programs for all students.
The panel addressing these intersections and opportunities will be four education leaders with deep expertise and experience in evidence, equity, and continuous improvement. They will share their perspectives leading and/or supporting this work through policy, research, and practice:
Chair:, Rhode Island Department of Education
Chair:, University of Tennessee
Tuition-free college initiatives, often known as “College Promise” programs, have proliferated in recent years and represent a dramatically new approach to financing post-secondary education. These programs have expanded from their origins as community initiatives designed to promote educational attainment and local economic development to statewide movements meant to slow the inexorably increasing costs of college and build a skilled workforce. In the 2018 election cycle, at least ten gubernatorial candidates included “free college” as part of their campaign platforms, adding to the dozen or so programs already created in states like Tennessee, Oregon and New York in the past few years.
As interest in these state programs has skyrocketed, many proposed and actual initiatives have veered from the design principles at the heart of the most successful local Promise programs. A growing body of research has shown that the impact of local programs on K-12 achievement, postsecondary success, and economic development—as well as the distribution of these impacts on different student groups—depends critically on Promise program design features. What can state leaders learn from this literature and how should the goals of state programs align with their local predecessors?
This policy talk will bring together academic researchers, policy advocates, and policymakers for an interactive discussion on what state programs can learn—and in some cases, have learned—from the local Promise movement. The panel includes leading academics who study local and statewide scholarship programs, the executive director of the supporting organization for the Tennessee Promise, and the research and policy director of the College Promise Campaign, an advocacy group that advises state policymakers engaged in creating Promise programs. The panel will be moderated by a researcher who has conducted several studies on the Kalamazoo Promise, one of the earliest and most prominent local Promise programs, and a co-leader in consortium studying multiple programs.
Some questions that may be covered include: How do design features influence both effectiveness and equity? How do funding systems interact with design features? To what extent do the policy priorities behind local programs align with those of state programs? Who designs statewide programs and how should researchers ensure their findings reach these policymakers? What other supports or cross-sector strategies besides the scholarship are needed for student success and are they scalable?
Only by recognizing and building on the lessons of more than a decade of research into local Promise programs can state policymakers ensure that statewide Promise programs achieve their goals.
Chair:, Michigan State University
Education research is increasingly relevant for policy, but most policymakers don’t have the time or training to wade through dozens of individual research papers and figure out which findings are most relevant to their work. Policy briefs can help bridge this gap by describing the scope of a problem, the state of the research literature about this problem, and suggestions for potential policy solutions, using policymaker-friendly language. To this end, Education Finance and Policy, AEFP’s journal, has recently revised its submission guidelines for policy briefs to increase the relevance and usefulness of the briefs it publishes.
This policy talk will provide perspectives from policy brief authors and policymakers on what makes for an effective policy brief. Questions to be covered include:
- What characteristics do strong policy briefs have in common?
- What makes a policy brief different from a literature review? From an editorial or opinion piece?
- When should you write a policy brief? Who should write them?
- How do policy briefs that summarize a single study differ from those that summarize across a stream of research?
- What strategies can policy brief authors use to make sure they provide an objective summary of the research literature?
- When should policy briefs include new empirical evidence?
- What more do policy brief authors need to do once their brief is published to help policymakers find and use it?