Connecticut Using Some Funding to Strengthen Evaluation, Research of Education Investments

The Connecticut State Department of Education is using reserves from its ARP and ESSER funds to establish the Connecticut Education Research Collaborative (CERC) to evaluate investments on an ongoing basis to determine efficacy, provide high-quality data, and guide resource decisions for the students most in need. The Connecticut Education Research Collaborative is a partnership with researchers from the state’s universities, including the University of Connecticut, local representatives, and educators. The collaborative is unique in that it will build strong connections between the research and Connecticut’s districts, schools, and students.

We are spotlighting this practice because the Connecticut Education Research Collaborative appears innovative, as it is a long-term initiative meant to utilize statewide data to track the effectiveness of programs created by recovery funding and help provide accurate and transparent information to the public.

Implementation Update

On January 19, 2023 – the Connecticut State Department of Education publicly announced findings from the Connecticut Education Research Collaborative (CERC) related to the effectiveness of districts’ emergency transition to remote learning at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department also shared CERC findings around the effectiveness of a direct home engagement program developed in 15 school districts to address a sharp increase in chronic absenteeism.

The Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP)
CERC has also provided findings related to the LEAP initiative, which was developed in “April of 2021 to address student absenteeism and disengagement from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” CERC’s analysis included data from 15 participating school districts in the state and pointed to statistically significant positive and “long-term” effects in 14 districts that implemented the program using an in-person model.

The LEAP program allowed districts to leverage federal recovery funds to train and deploy family and community liaisons to conduct in-person, regular home visits with families of students considered chronically absent. The analysis found that the LEAP program resulted in as much as a 30-point improvement in student absenteeism rates in the 6 months or more following the first home visit.

The CERC analysis of the LEAP program found six key areas that, according to home visitors, school staff, and families, contributed to overwhelming success of the program, including:

  1. Personalized, Dynamic Support: Dependent on Family’s Needs
  2. Continued Training and Support for the Visitors
  3. A Process of Collaboration (e.g., Determining Caseload Assignments)
  4. Home Visitor Fluency in the Language Used in the Home
  5. Commitment to Establishing Connections with Families
  6. Collaborative Advocacy for Students (e.g., Parents, Home Visitors)

For more information on the CERC analysis of the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program, click here.

Remote Learning Study
An analysis by CERC found that significant disparities existed in the implementation of remote learning during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also identifying key areas for improved emergency preparedness and reengagement of students and families in hybrid and in-person learning.

Overall, the study found that the transition from remote learning to hybrid and in-person instruction occurred at a slower rate among districts serving the highest proportion of high-needs students; that teachers generally covered less material in remote and hybrid environments than a typical year of in-person instruction; and that teachers, overall, significantly improved their ability and confidence with incorporating technology in all teaching modalities.

The report, while recognizing key areas where remote and hybrid learning contributed to learning loss, also provided clear recommendations for improvement in instruction and emergency preparedness across 8 categories, ranging from teacher and staff development to the provision of robust supports for students and families.

For more information on the CERC Remote Learning Study, click here.

Reviewer Analysis

The Data Quality Campaign

Connecticut’s proposed CCERC is designed to build collaborative relationships across the state, improve the availability and use of high-quality data, and guide policy decisions to support students most in need. - Rachel Anderson

Jocelyn Pickford

It is critical for states to study investments and outcomes and analyze implications for future policies and supports.

The Education Trust

Connecticut’s approach to ensuring that it evaluates the impact of strategies implemented with federal relief funding is critical to ensure that funds are used in evidence-based and effective ways. It will be critical that this research consider the efficacy of strategies for individual students and underserved groups of students. - Denise Forte

TNTP

It is extremely encouraging that they have a plan to utilize continuous data analysis to determine the strategies and programs that yield that most “bang for the buck” as it relates to accelerated learning for students as they return to school and our new normal. Having one central location to house all of the data to show the efficacy of each investment should prove to be an invaluable tool to help districts determine how to get the best resources to the students whose very lives depend on the quality of supports school districts provide due to learning loss. - Dr. Tequilla Brownie

EdAlllies

Surely there are going to be lasting innovations due to pandemic learning forged through trial and error, this kind of small but mighty investment makes it likely that those gems will be noticed. - Matt Shaver

The Rural Alliance

We are encouraged by CSDEs collaborative research with P12, Higher Ed and local representatives. We are encouraged by how they will use data and the tracking of the effectiveness of different programs. With the CCERC providing information to educators to assist in their decisions for students, this collaborative actually adds time back to the educator. - Kevin Jacka

National Parents Union

This is an innovative, data driven approach to help ensure that ARP and ESSER funding is targeted to assist students with the greatest need while providing ongoing transparency.

Learning Heroes

There are a lot of investments being made to address pandemic schooling, and we would all benefit from learning what was most effective and what wasn’t. - Dr. Eyal Bergman

John White

This is great. The end result depends on how they go about all of this, of course, but the impulse to evaluate has been badly missing from the stimulus discussion.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center

It is smart to use this one time investment to strengthen the eval and research elements of the state system - I particularly like the stronger connections between state higher ed researchers and the K-12 practitioners.

New Leaders

This level of research, evaluation and accountability is commendable and will hopefully inform future investments and identify evidence-based best practices that can be replicated and expanded.

Southern Regional Education Board

Connecticut is using its funds to build a long-term plan for identifying promising practices and programs that impact student achievement. This information will be useful as school districts make tough decisions on how to utilize scarce resources.

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