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New & Noteworthy: April 2022

This month we are reading several pieces on a range of topics relevant to pandemic recovery including the allocation of teacher talent across schools, the importance of school leadership in an increasingly complex and challenging environment, the pandemic innovations most likely to be sustained in the coming years, strategies for states seeking to combat teacher shortages, and how the nation’s report card, NAEP, is adjusting to be more flexible and adaptive while still providing a consistent national measure of student achievement.

OECD’s Mending the Education Divide: Getting Strong Teachers to the Schools That Need Them Most uses 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) data to examine how teachers with varying levels of experience and skills and who use teaching practices of varying level of effectiveness are distributed across advantaged and less advantaged schools. This pre-pandemic survey has implications for current day challenges as schools seek to make up lost instructional time for disadvantaged students who have fallen farther behind their peers during remote schooling in the pandemic. The equitable distribution of teachers who are experienced, optimize class time, and have strong digital skills is key to helping more students master core skills. This report finds that more often than not, experienced teachers and those who maximize instruction time are over-represented in socio-economically advantaged schools. Additionally, the results show that the provision of quality instruction in socio-economically disadvantaged schools is more likely to be hindered by insufficient Internet access and inadequate digital technology.

A new paper published by the Center for Strategic Education in Australia makes the case that now, more than ever, we need capable school leaders who can manage complex systems and navigate challenges. Education Reimagined: Leadership for a New Era, was organized by the WISE Agile Leaders of Learning Innovation Network (ALL-IN), a group of educational leadership experts from across the globe that seeks to increase the number of “future-fit” and resilient school leaders who can maximize student learning and well-being. Many of ALL-IN’s working group conversations took place during the pandemic school shutdowns, providing new insights into the kinds of skills and competencies required in the school leader role such as flexible mindsets and the ability to create equitable learning environments. The paper also explores teachers as lifelong learners and the power of leadership networks.

Responding to a national survey of educators led by the EdWeek Research Center, teachers and school and district leaders identified the innovations they believe will be sustained beyond the pandemic. The Teaching Strategies Educators Say Will Outlast the Pandemic highlights key findings, including that nearly 40 percent of respondents expect their schools or districts to maintain extended school years or summer sessions, and nearly 40 percent said their districts will continue widespread use of online learning platforms. Mental health support will likely also remain a priority; 30 percent of respondents are hiring and plan to keep additional support staff, including social workers, counselors, and parent liaisons. Vicki Phillips, NCEE’s incoming CEO, said to sustain pandemic-era innovations, education leaders need to consider them in the context of continuous improvement. “We need to think differently about the system so that we don’t just get momentary gains, but we have a long-term, sustainable way of addressing the needs of young people and the educators who reach them.”

While many states are responding to teacher shortages by eliminating licensure exams, the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) offers “four responsible steps” states can take to fill classrooms including: 1) better understand the teacher labor market; 2) use existing state regulatory authority over teacher preparation programs through means such as emergency provisions and incentives to programs that respond to workforce demand; 3) hold preparation programs accountable for raising pass rates on licensing exams; and 4) raise pay for teachers who will work in shortage areas and find creative ways to get teachers where they are most needed.

EdWeek’s The ‘Nation’s Report Card’ Is Getting an Overhaul: 5 Things to Know highlights some of the changes coming to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which has been providing nationally comparable information on K-12 student achievement in reading, mathematics, science, and other subjects since 1969. There are now plans for the NAEP to be given on different kinds of electronic devices by 2026 which will make administering the test more flexible and will allow students enrolled in online learning programs to participate. NAEP also plans to experiment with computer-adaptive testing to help generate more specific feedback on where students get tripped up and what sets apart top-performers. The long-term trend exams, the only continuous measure of student achievement dating from the 1970s, are underway now and the results will offer the only national measure of the pandemic’s impact on learning. NAEP is also considering how best to structure test frameworks to embrace equity while maintaining technical quality.