AEFP 45th Annual Conference Program
Chair:, Maryland Department of Education
There are loud debates about the rigor and role of quantitative versus qualitative research in the education policy arena. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), quantitative studies that address the impact of policies or programs on practice (e.g., Does policy X cause Y?) are considered to be at the top of the hierarchy of evidence. As such, qualitative research, which can provide complementary information on how context and meaning-making influence policy implementation (e.g. How do educators interpret and enact policy X under conditions A, B, C?), may be overlooked in policy discussions. Yet, by shedding light on the nature of program implementation and identifying mechanisms to strengthen programs, qualitative research can play an important role in the continuous improvement efforts encouraged under ESSA. For example, qualitative research on district structures for instructional coaching can reveal how district leaders frame, support, and prioritize coaching and how coaches conduct different aspects of their work with teachers in different types of schools (Woulfin, 2018).
In this policy talk, we will discuss how and why policymakers and practitioners seek out qualitative research and how they use it to improve policy design and enactment. The talk will bring together key stakeholders representing three different perspectives: Marisa Cannata and Sarah Woulfin, university-based researchers with experience in qualitative policy projects; Dara Shaw, Executive Director of the Office of Research and Strategic Data Use, Maryland Department of Education; Catherine Carbone, Superintendent, Bristol Public Schools (CT); and Cara Jackson, an evaluator with experience working with school districts and nonprofits using research and evaluation to support improvement. Our panelists will share their experiences soliciting, designing, conducting, and using qualitative research to support policy and practice.
We will initiate the discussion by describing the kinds of research questions that can best be answered using qualitative approaches as well as a summary of typically used qualitative approaches and analytic techniques. Panel participants will highlight examples of how qualitative research has been conducted in different settings and how educational agencies have used qualitative results. Further, the panelists will describe challenges, successes, and lessons learned about the role of qualitative research in informing policy. The panel will also share concrete ways that policymakers can embed qualitative research in research, policy, and practice agendas while aiming to support continuous improvement. We will end by inviting the audience to comment, ask questions, and collectively discuss how state and district agencies might leverage qualitative research to improve policy-making and implementation.
While qualitative research can provide valuable insight into policy development and implementation, there has been limited consideration of how educational agencies are engaging in and applying findings from such research. By bringing together the differing perspectives of various stakeholders engaged in such work in different roles, this policy talk promises to shed light on how qualitative research can inform the development and implementation of a wide range of education policies.
Chair:, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Students who finish high school underprepared for college-level work have traditionally faced a difficult decision: either bypass college altogether or enroll in up to a year or more of development education (DE) courses that are required, yet do not count for college credit. While the latter could be a viable pathway to a college degree and a higher standard of living, the vast majority of students placed into DE courses never pass, or even attempt, a college-level mathematics or English course (Clotfelter, Ladd, Muschkin, & Vigdor, 2015; Scott-Clayton & Rodriguez, 2015). Further, DE enrollment rates are particularly high for disadvantaged student subgroups including Blacks, Hispanics, low-income students, and first-generation college students, raising concerns about perpetuating social inequities in college attainment (Chen, 2016). DE also imposes considerable financial burdens among students, institutions, and taxpayers, at an estimated annual cost of $7 billion nationwide (Scott-Clayton, Crosta, & Belfield, 2014). For far too many students, DE is not a pathway to prosperity, but is instead a dead-end littered with wasted time and financial resources (Bailey & Jaggars, 2016).
To avoid this dead-end scenario and the associated time and financial burdens on both students and institutions, an increasingly popular policy option is to abandon the notion that DE must be completed before taking college-level courses and instead permit students to enroll directly in introductory college-level English and mathematics courses while providing them with DE support at the same time through co-requisite DE. In this model, students in introductory college-level mathematics or English courses receive supplemental DE through mandatory companion classes, extra lab sessions, or other required learning supports (Edgecombe, 2011). One of the benefits of co-requisite DE is that students can begin earning college credit immediately, which will most likely reduce the cost of both DE participation and the time to a degree. Through new state legislation, Texas recently began implementing this strategy statewide, and is taking considerable steps forward in DE reform.
This panel presents a diverse set of insights from three different vantage points: (1) key personnel from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) facilitating and monitoring the reform, (2) faculty members from two Texas institutions implementing the reform (St. Phillip’s College and Texas A&M University-Kingsville), and (3) researchers from the Center for Postsecondary Success at Florida State University (CPS-FSU) who are evaluating the reform. The goal of the panel is to offer three different perspectives on the current status of the reform and its influence on student success from statewide, institutional, and external evaluator purviews. In addition, panel members will discuss distinct benefits, as well as challenges, of working collaboratively to better understand the implementation of the reform and the resulting student outcomes. It is our hope that the researcher-practitioner partnership we have built in Texas can serve as a model for other contexts undergoing statewide education policy reform.
Chair:, DeKalb County School District
Research-Practice partnerships hold the promise of promoting evidence-based decision making through collaborations between academic researchers and school districts or state education agencies. Many such partnerships have formed in recent years and are growing and maturing.
This roundtable will feature leaders from four research-practice partnerships from throughout the county. They include a single-district partnership (the Teacher Workforce Collaborative), a partnership with multiple school districts (Metro Atlanta Policy Lab for Education), a partnership that includes both districts and a state education agency (Education Policy Innovation Collaborative), and a collaboration between a university and the state department of education (Tennessee Education Research Alliance).
Participants will discuss how their partnerships were formed, the process for establishing and updating research agendas, funding mechanisms, successes and setbacks, policy impacts, challenges to sustainability and lesson learned. Representatives from education agency partners will be on hand to share the perspectives of school districts and state education agencies.
Chair:, Rebecca Beeson Teach for America
Today, while over half of all students identify as people of color, just twenty percent of the teaching workforce are people of color (Taie & Goldring, 2017; NCES, 2016). Moreover, teachers of color are more likely to leave schools when compared to their White counterparts (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017). In this joint policy talk, two non-profit organizations, Teach For America and Teach Plus, will share their research and learning on recruiting, supporting, growing, and retaining teachers and leaders of color in schools. Dr. Constance Lindsay (UNC) will discuss the current field of study around teachers of color in education as well as her mixed methods research on Teach For America (TFA)’s impact on attracting and retaining people of color. Mark Teoh, Senior National Director of Research & Knowledge at Teach Plus, will share findings and recommendations from a recent joint Education Trust and Teach Plus report, “If You Listen, We Will Stay: Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher Turnover” (Davis, Griffin, and Teoh, 2019).
Rebecca Beeson (Director, External Research at Teach For America) and Dr. Teoh will then moderate a discussion between Dr. Lindsay, Dr. Stephanie Elizalde (Chief of School Leadership at Dallas Independent School District), Shareefah Mason (Dallas ISD teacher & Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow), Chaneka Rich (Academic Director at Uplift Ascend Preparatory & TFA alumna), and Tristan Bragg (Academic Director at Uplift Elevate Preparatory & TFA alumna). The participants will share the ways in which school systems, district and state leaders, non-profits, traditional preparation programs, and alternative certification routes can think strategically about educator diversity. These school leaders of color will join the discussion to share the reasons that they entered and stayed in education, and what factors influenced their decisions. Finally, the participants will consider what conditions increase the likelihood of remaining in education for educators and leaders of color.
Constance Lindsay, University of North Carolina
Mark Teoh, Teach Plus
Rebecca Beeson, Teach For America
Stephanie Elizalde, Chief of School Leadership, Dallas Independent School District
Shareefah Mason, Teacher, Dallas ISD & Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow
Tristan Bragg, Uplift Education & Teach For America
Chaneka Rich, Uplift Education & Teach For America