AEFP 44th Annual Conference

Building the Connections Between Research and Policy

Kansas City Marriott Downtown - Kansas City, Missouri
March 21-23, 2019

AEFP 44th Annual Conference Program

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Featured Policy Talks - Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
- The Intersection of Evidence, Equity, and Continuous Improvement in ESSA: Examples and Opportunities
Room: Mary Lou Williams A&B

Chair: Sara Kerr, Results for America

Policy Maker or Practitioner: Seng-Dao Yang Keo, Nevada Department of Education Office of Student and School Supports
Discussants: Sara Kerr, Results for America, Lenay Dunn, WestEd, Khalilah Harris, Center for American Progress

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:

- The Future of Career and Technical Education under Perkins V
Room: Basie Ballroom A1

Chair: Spencer Sherman, Rhode Island Department of Education

Policy Maker or Practitioner: Spencer Sherman, Rhodr Island Department of Education
Discussants: Jonathon Attridge, Tennessee Department of Education, Spencer Sherman, Rhode Island Department of Education, Brian Jacob, University of Michigan, Eric Hanushek, Stanford University
Education is essential to creating opportunity and upward mobility. Throughout the 20th century the U.S. led the world in its expansion of universal education, a time described as a race between education and technology. In more recent years, however, many worry that technology has caught up to and surpassed much of the skill base, resulting in a polarized labor market and shutting less educated workers out of well-paying jobs. These concerns have revived policy interest in K-12 Career and Technical Education (CTE). Perhaps, the thinking goes, the skills gap feared by policymakers can be addressed by offering K-12 students a menu of programs and pathways that includes college preparation and technical skills aligned to well-defined careers. In theory, students who are not suited to traditional postsecondary study will sort into pathways that emphasize technical skills over academic skills and ultimately find well-paying work. Today’s CTE encompasses much more than “shop class,” i.e., training for technical trades, with programs of study in business, information technology, and health sciences, among other fields. The vast majority of high school students touch at least one CTE course, broadly defined. This movement is not without serious risks to the long-term economic well-being of CTE students and their communities. While CTE students may find work quicker following a focused program of study in technical skill development, they may also be vulnerable to future technological shifts or macroeconomic downturns. Still, federal law as well as state and local education agencies are moving ahead with new and expanding CTE models without a clear understanding of whether and how career-focused education translates into success in the labor market. Now is an opportune, if overdue, moment to have a discussion on the role that research can play in informing the future of CTE. The federal government provides block grants to states to support the offering of CTE programs through the Carl D. Perkins Act. These funds are one of the main sources of CTE spending in states. Reauthorization of the Perkins Act (“Perkins V”) was signed into law July 31, 2018. Two of the key provisions are as follows: * Shifting responsibility to States to determine their performance measures, including new program quality measures, and related levels of performance to optimize outcomes for students * Introducing a needs assessment to align CTE programs to locally identified in-demand, high-growth, and high-wage career fields States will submit four-year plans that include proposed performance measures in the spring of 2020. These developments will also interact with how states comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. ESSA will afford states more flexibility in how they evaluate schools and districts, and some advocate for career readiness and CTE to play a larger role in accountability systems than in the past. The overarching goal of this panel and resulting policy brief is to offer concrete recommendations to states as they develop plans for Perkins V compliance. Panelists include two leading experts on the economic returns to CTE as well as two researchers in state education departments whose work bridges research, policy, and practice. A fifth participant will moderate. Questions to be considered include: • What are relevant outcomes for CTE students? Are these distinct from other students? How can states translate these into performance measures as part of their Perkins V plans? • What do some candidate performance measures look like now? • How are states changing their delivery of CTE and other curricula? Are states tangibly shifting from “college for all” to “college and career readiness?” • What are the intended, and potentially unintended, consequences of elevating new CTE performance measures and seeking alignment with “in-demand, high-growth, and high-wage” jobs?
- What States Can Learn from Local College Promise Programs?
Room: Bennie Moten A&B

Chair: Celeste Carruthers, University of Tennessee

Policy Maker or Practitioner: Krissy DeAlejandro, tnAchieves
Discussants: Celeste Carruthers, University of Tennessee, Sue Dynarski, University of Michigan, Krissy DeAlejandro, tnAchieves, Robyn Hiestand, College Promise Campaign

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.

- What Makes for an Effective Policy Brief?
Room: Julia Lee A & B

Chair: Katharine Strunk, Michigan State University

Policy Maker or Practitioner: Carrie Conaway, Massachusetts Department of Education
Discussants: Jason Grissom, Vanderbilt University, Matthew Chingos, The Urban Institute, Daphne Kenyon, The Lincoln Institute, Katharine Strunk, Michigan State University and Policy Brief Editor for Education Finance and Policy, Venessa Keesler, Michigan Department of Education

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?