Connecticut Strengthening Evaluation, Research of Education Investments

State Strategy & Vision

The Connecticut State Department of Education has partnered with public and private universities across Connecticut to create a research collaborative designed to provide evidence of the effectiveness of their recovery strategies. The Connecticut COVID-19 Education Research Collaborative (CCERC) is a collaboration of researchers from public and private universities across Connecticut that is designed to conduct evaluation studies of COVID-19 related recovery projects and investments funded through the CSDE; and/or conduct research studies on areas of import as may emerge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CSDE sets the research topics and questions, while a steering committee of representative researchers from different institutions establishes the research team, delegates the work, and ensures that the right expertise is brought to bear for every evaluation/study.

Why It Matters

Postsecondary research of any kind typically takes years and requires a lengthy data-sharing agreement process for each project. This strategy flips the script on academic research, instead prioritizing rapid feedback that the State and districts can use as they employ education recovery strategies. Very few states have articulated how they expect to understand which recovery strategies have been most effective, and Connecticut is a leader in providing the SEA and school districts with those answers. Their efforts to provide feedback on implementation while there is still time to course-correct and inform future decisions about the spending of federal COVID relief funds will ultimately benefit students.

Connecticut is using federal funds to evaluate investments on an ongoing basis to ensure resources are guided to students most in need

What They Did

The Connecticut State Department of Education has partnered with Connecticut’s public and private postsecondary institutions (with the University of Connecticut serving as the fiduciary agent) have agreed to form the state’s research collaborative. Data sharing agreements provide approved researchers with rich, anonymized student-level data in exchange for timely research on recovery strategies. School districts win because they receive actionable information and can course correct, and the collaborative brings talented researchers to the table. Researchers win because they can keep using the data over time for additional, longer-term research and analysis once they have met their obligation to the collaborative. Recovery funds are used as research grants to collaborative-approved research teams.

CSDE officials noted that a typical challenge in developing this kind of initiative would be the absence of funding. Yet, federal COVID relief has provided plenty of financial investment. However, this partnership also entails a shift in culture and approach from the researchers with whom CSDE is engaging. Whereas traditional postsecondary timelines are impacted by semester schedules and graduate assistant availability, these projects can’t wait because state and district leaders urgently need the information. CSDE and UConn have agreed on conditions for research project approval that prioritize the needs of the state and school districts – a notable area of foresight and a commendable partnership.

Agency staff noted that the research collaborative is in its infancy, and few research projects have been awarded. CSDE has also pulled every district-level investment for identification of additional research priorities. We are eager to follow and learn more about the kind of information this arrangement will provide to school districts, not only in Connecticut but potentially across the country.