New & Noteworthy: November 2021

This month we are reading a report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and Turnaround for Children (TfC) that outlines design principles for schools to ensure all students have high-quality learning opportunities; a Georgetown University report that advocates for a more coordinated approach to youth policy; a Rand Corporation study that finds positive impacts for schools as a result of NCEE’s professional learning and coaching for principals; a New York Times article showing how the U.S. lags the rest of the world when it comes to paid parental leave; and a brief from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) looking at teacher shortages and calling for targeted solutions.

Design Principles for Schools: Putting the Science of Learning and Development Into Action, released by LPI and TfC, translates the science of learning and development and the experience of practitioners into principles for redesigning schools to support whole child education. The report presents a framework with five key design principles, including integrated support systems, positive developmental relationships, and safe learning environments. It and an accompanying interactive website provide examples for how schools can incorporate the latest findings to build empowering, culturally affirming, transformative, and personalized learning environments to help their students succeed.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce’s If Not Now When? The Urgent Need for an All-One-System Approach to Youth Policy argues the U.S.’s siloed approach to youth policy is failing young people by not giving them the education and life skills to succeed in school and after graduation. Despite almost 50 years of reforms, it says there has been relatively little progress in making high school students college- and career-ready. The authors contend that major reform is needed to create an all-one-system approach that links pre-K-12, postsecondary education, and the transition to the workforce. This system would include career exploration, innovative classroom- and work-based learning, and transparent data systems to evaluate progress and hold the system accountable. 

RAND Corporation has released a new “gold standard” research study showing that NCEE’s Executive Development Program (now known as NISL) for school leaders paired with coaching leads to measurable improvements in student learning. In this first large-scale study of the effects of coupling professional learning and coaching for principals — just published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis — RAND followed principals and the students they oversee at 800 schools across Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. Students in schools that had principals who went through NISL’s professional learning and coaching demonstrated statistical improvements in English language arts on state tests. For middle schools specifically, researchers also found an improvement in science scores. These improvements were more pronounced in schools with higher levels of students living in poverty or whose native language is not English.

As U.S. policymakers continue to debate instituting paid leave at the national level, an article in The New York Times, The World ‘Has Found a Way to Do This’: The U.S. Lags on Paid Leave, details paid leave policies around the world. While the global average is 29 weeks of paid maternal leave, the U.S. is currently one of only six countries — and the only wealthy one — without any national paid leave. Some workers do get leave: federal workers currently get 12 weeks of paid parental leave and nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted their own paid family and medical leave policies. Nevertheless, the article makes clear that the U.S. is way behind, and even if political compromises are made to guarantee leave at the national level, it will still likely be far less than the rest of the world.

NCTQ examines available evidence to determine What we know (and don’t know) about pandemic-era teacher shortages. Despite widespread concerns that the pandemic would lead to a “great resignation” among teachers, national jobs data indicate rates of teachers resignation have remained constant compared to previous years. However, open listings for public education jobs, tracked through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, have increased sharply in 2021, outpacing hiring rates. It’s unclear whether the high number of vacancies is due to higher resignation rates, chronic vacancies, or an increase in school jobs due to federal stimulus funds. NCTQ suggests the lack of available data should push policymakers and education leaders to carefully assess their needs at the local level, identify the root causes of persistent shortages, and target resources towards long-term solutions.