Misleading Report Fails to Provide Whole Picture of Survey Results

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The RAND Corporation recently released a report based on a national survey of school district superintendents and charter management organization (CMO) directors (or their designees) about their experiences navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Garcia of Arizona State University reviewed Remote Learning Is Here to Stay and found some issues with one of its two recommendations.

Professor Garcia also found the report to be curiously titled, as the headline is unwarranted by the survey responses. In fact, the respondents expressed much higher concerns about three other areas: (1) “addressing students’ Socio-Emotional Learning and mental health needs” (the area with the greatest need for additional resources), (2) “addressing disparities in student opportunities to learn that result from differences in supplemental supports provided by families” (the most anticipated challenge), and (3) inadequate funding (the top staffing challenge).

Relative to these three concerns, remote learning is a minor consideration.

While the report’s first recommendation, for more funding to address inequities and socio-emotional learning, follows from the respondents’ stated needs, the other recommendation, for more funding to support remote learning, does not appear to align with needs expressed by district leaders.

Professor Garcia also points out that the report combines two different types of local education agencies (school districts and CMOs), and it does so in a way that prevents readers from determining whether a given result is driven by one group or the other. Thus, while the report suggests that its most important finding is that “about two in ten districts have already adopted, plan to adopt, or are considering adopting virtual schools as part of their district portfolio after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it is unclear how much of this result is driven by CMOs rather than school districts.

For these reasons, readers are encouraged to go beyond the title and read deeper to get a complete picture of the challenges, needs, and future of education from district leaders’ perspectives.

Find the review, by David Garcia, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/remote-learning

Find Remote Learning Is Here to Stay: Results from the First American School District Panel Survey, written by Heather L. Schwartz, David Grant, Melissa Diliberti, Gerald P. Hunter, and Claude Messan Setodji and published by the RAND Corporation, at:
https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA956-1.html

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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