Young Education Professionals (YEP), a nonprofit organization devoted to connecting emerging leaders in education, hosted its third annual Policy to Practice Conference on March 21st. Conference sessions fostered interactivity and collaboration, and were intended to “break down the divide between education policy and practice” with a focus on improving the quality of education for underserved student groups.
With three of my colleagues, I had the honor of attending this year’s conference on behalf of Hanover Research’s education practice. We participated in event panels and break-out sessions alongside teachers, community organizers, policy analysts, and other young education practitioners from the DC area and beyond. Over the course of the day, several salient trends emerged – with direct implications for the partners Hanover serves and the work we conduct.
1) Student Data is Evolving
Hanover is witnessing a surge in the number of data analysis requests from education partners. These research requests include high-impact program evaluations, survey analyses, and the development of predictive data tools. Several conference sessions reiterated this trend, touching directly on evolutions in the use of student data. Specifically, presenters from the Data Quality Campaign discussed the shift in data use from an accountability mechanism to a tool for continuous improvement. Incorporation of data into daily decision making presents an opportunity for Hanover to lend its expertise in quantitative analysis, benchmarking, and best practices to help schools and districts use and interpret their data.
2) Data Protection is an Increasing Priority
YEP conference presenters from the Data Quality Campaign also noted that states are increasingly concerned with data privacy and data literacy. In 2014, 36 states introduced 110 bills directly addressing education data protection. Provisions within these bills assign districts and state boards of education responsibility for ensuring data quality and privacy. As our partners tackle this new responsibility, Hanover can support the transition by establishing best practices and benchmarking data security procedures.
3) Changes in Federal Legislation will Continue to Impact the K-12 Sector
Beyond the emergence and implications of data, upcoming legislative changes at the federal level – namely, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – proved to be a key topic of conference discussion and debate. Due for reauthorization in 2007, legislators have been unable to reach an agreement regarding a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Current debates center on the extent of federally-mandated stipulations included in the bill. Meanwhile, 43 states operate with NCLB waivers, effectively nullifying the responsibility to comply with many of the accountability measures mandated by the 2001 iteration of the bill.
Presenters from the Center for American Progress discussed two key viewpoints shaping the new version of the ESEA – the Harkin 2013 bill sponsored by the Democratic Party and the Alexander 2015 bill sponsored by the Republican Party. Both options provide ample opportunity for Hanover to support its state and district partners. Evolutions in teacher evaluation call for data analysis tying instructional practices to student outcomes, while increased discretion in funding allocations may necessitate an uptick in program evaluations, benchmarking reports, and best practice analyses to help K-12 entities navigate changes across both the state and federal landscape.
The YEP Policy to Practice Conference underscored, among other things, the importance of research in delivering quality education. Further, many trends highlighted in the proceedings speak directly to Hanover’s core qualitative and quantitative research capabilities. On behalf of our partners, Hanover will continue to provide support as schools and districts address these needs, while also exploring new areas of focus that the conference indicates will only increase in relevance throughout the coming year.