2018 Most Actionable Research in Advocacy
September 6, 2018

Tools Broadly Leveraged to Make a Case for Policy Change

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—celebrate excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns across the country.


Below are the nominations for Most Actionable Research—an important resource or tool that was broadly leveraged across the Network and helped advocates make a compelling case for policy change. Click on a specific nomination to see more. You can see the complete list of Eddies! nominees in other categories here.

Most Actionable Research Top Finalists

Additional Eddies! Nominees

A+ Education Partnership, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Mississippi First, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, & Tennessee SCORE

Accelerating the Pace: The Future of Education in the American South and Accompanying Education Poll of the South

The landmark Columbia Group report, Accelerating the Pace: The Future of Education in the American South and accompanying Education Poll of the South, revealed strong consensus among voters across an entire region for increasing equity in public education and for targeting policy priorities. Research for the report included extensive engagement with voters, educators, policymakers, parents, students, business leaders, and others across the South. Those findings were used to launch or augment outreach and policymaker engagement for five PIE member organizations and several additional partner groups. Serving as a replicable model for other regions or coalitions, the project has allowed comparisons with neighboring states and sharing of strategies, knowledge, and leverage for policymakers. It has been particularly timely for informing candidate platforms in those states facing major statewide elections.

The Columbia Group state organizations are using the report to frame their equity-related policy positions and to help organize communications strategies, including op-eds, blogs, social media content, magazine articles, news media interaction, program content, and more. It is helping reshape the education narrative for an entire region that shows shared priorities for the transformation of public education toward a system that serves all students well.

Data Quality Campaign

Show Me the Data

All too often, state report cards are frustrating—outdated, opaque, hard to find, and hard to understand. They are not a tool to inform school choices or a resource to advocate for change that they could be. DQC’s Show Me the Data brought this dirty little secret to light. The research demonstrated that the quality of report cards is a national problem, and also showed that in some cases states were not even meeting basic compliance, like disaggregating student performance data. Now, advocates have a resource that clearly highlights the problem and low hanging fruit to solve it. The research on the report cards of 50 states and D.C., along with the scavenger hunt and action recommendations, have informed conversations in every state. Thanks to the “light and heat” from DQC and state-based advocates, more than half the states are significantly revamping report cards—improving transparency for families and communities.


School Finance Reports

EdBuild’s research is the go-to on state school finance and they’re on a mission to help every state advocacy organization tackle the hardest problem in education in the smartest way possible. Who else would you trust for your information and analysis? Just ask PIE members in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. From stories on how districts are re-segregating, to how unfair funding models shortchange the neediest students, to schools and districts abandoned by the state when they need support, EdBuild continuously puts out great resources. They have Alexander Russo wondering where EdBuild came from and how everyone is citing their work all of the sudden. They’re referenced in legal filings and court opinions. Their data visualizations are regarded as among the best in the business.

Educators for Excellence

Voices from the Classroom Survey

Designed by teachers, for teachers, Voices from the Classroom: A Survey of America’s Educators captures insight on the views and opinions of 1,000 randomly selected public school educators across the country on issues impacting their students and their profession. Topics from this nationally-representative, 182-question survey include recruitment and retention, school safety, union representation, and more. Of particular impact were the results from questions about Janus v. AFSCME, which indicated how unions will have to better listen to their members and update their policies, positions, and priorities to better reflect those of today’s classroom teachers. With oversampling in six states, E4E will also leverage the data to drive state advocacy campaigns in Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and New York. As of August 14, e4e.org/teachersurvey had over 6,000 unique visitors, and E4E tracked 58 press hits from outlets such as Politico, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Education Week. Press cited the survey in reporting on school violence, unions, school choice, and more.

Teach Plus Illinois

Reforming School Discipline

Illinois passed SB100 to reform school discipline in 2015. After the first year of implementation, Teach Plus Illinois surveyed teachers to understand how the law impacted their schools. The results were alarming—49 percent of teachers reported that student behavior had deteriorated because of the law.

Armed with this research, Teach Plus Illinois Fellows engaged legislators, PIE Network members including Advance Illinois and E4E Chicago, and other stakeholders. The Teach Plus fellows published their report, wrote five op-eds, and presented at four statewide conferences, including one cosponsored by Teach Plus and Educators for Excellence-Chicago. Finally, Teach Plus Fellows wrote legislation that brought to the table the Illinois Principals Association, who committed to co-creating better training on discipline reform.

This research has broad applicability, highlighting the need to provide adequate support when changing discipline systems. The research also documents why reform is necessary and what supports are necessary to make it stick.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Charter School Deserts

Charter School Deserts: High-Poverty Neighborhoods with Limited Educational Options, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, analyzes the distribution of charter elementary schools across the country to provide parents, policymakers, and educators with information about which high poverty communities do not have access to charter schools today.

The study defines “charter school deserts” as areas of three or more contiguous census tracts with moderate or high poverty and no charter elementary schools. It finds that thirty-nine of forty-two charter states have at least one desert each—and the average number of deserts per state is 10.8.

The study and its accompanying interactive map uses geographic information system (GIS) software to display the locations, demographics, and proficiency levels of all elementary schools (charter and traditional) across the country, as well as the poverty level of every single U.S. census tract. These data, never assembled before now, provide charter networks and authorizers with actionable information about where to locate new schools in their local jurisdictions to better serve low-income families. And it offers advocates clear evidence about the effect of policies that restrict charters to limited geographical areas—restrictions they can and should work to eliminate.

Additional Nominees

Foundation for Excellence in Education

CTE Playbook Series and Research

Career and Technical Education (CTE) is becoming an increasingly vital part of a state’s long-term economic plan. Just last year, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the country had 6.2 million job openings. Meanwhile, 7 million Americans were unemployed. Clearly there is a disconnect between the skills and qualifications employers are seeking and those held by jobseekers. ExcelinEd’s CTE Playbook series addresses opportunities and pathways for states to help students begin their own path to a career while still in high school—the chance to earn industry certifications, college credits, and other credentials that would prepare them for meaningful, in-demand careers. The first playbook explores the ways policymakers can promote and strengthen CTE program outcomes for students. The second playbook examines key elements of robust cross-sector partnerships and dives deep into real-world efforts in leading states like Tennessee, Delaware, and Minnesota. The third playbook outlines key design components of a purposeful state CTE program audit.

ExcelinEd’s CTE Playbook Series:
1 – Putting CTE to Work for Students
2 – Building Cross-Sector Partnerships to Support CTE Pathways
3 – How to Conduct a CTE Program Audit

Texas Aspires, Foundation for Excellence in Education,Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Texas Business Leadership Council

Time to Change Course: Reclaiming the Potential of Texas Public Charter Schools, A State Case Study

Time to Change Course: Reclaiming the Potential of Texas Public Charter Schools, A State Case Study” takes you through the history of charter school authorizing in Texas and its implications for the future of the public charter school movement across the nation. This case study, authored by ExcelinEd and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), helps answer the question of why public charter schools are growing at slower rates despite strong demand and serving communities well.  ExcelinEd, TPPF, and partners, including Texas Aspires, recommend a renewed intentionality when it comes to charter school authorizing with guidance for improving administration as well as statutory and policy enhancements that could remove barriers to public charter school growth. Since releasing the paper, they have already seen a favorable reaction and collaborative policy development by the Texas Education Agency, who praised the paper as much needed “air cover” for substantive changes to Texas charter policy.

Mississippi First

Understanding District and State Testing in Mississippi

Understanding District and State Testing in Mississippi“—the first report of its kind in Mississippi—uses field research on testing practices in four diverse Mississippi school districts to determine how many tests Mississippi students take and how much time they spend taking those tests. It also describes common district testing practices, such as how testing is conducted and how tests are used in the districts.

Mississippi First wrote this report to bring much-needed research and analysis to a debate mostly characterized by impassioned anecdotes. The report offers several eye-opening general and comparative findings as well as recommendations for the Mississippi Department of Education, the legislature, and school districts.

One major outcome of the report is that the Mississippi Department of Education formed a State Testing Taskforce to examine the issues raised by Mississippi First and make recommendations. Executive Director Rachel Canter was appointed as a co-chair of the Taskforce.  In addition to the Taskforce, this report was one of the most publicized reports in Mississippi First’s history.

For this project, Mississippi First used adapted research tools from Achieve, a national education policy organization that conducts nationwide research on standards, assessments, and accountability. Achieve developed the Student Assessment Inventory to support school districts in determining the appropriate balance of testing necessary to serve essential diagnostic, instructional, and accountability purposes. Mississippi First modified the Student Assessment Inventory to capture more information about how assessments impact the whole school environment. Mississippi First also authored a Technology Inventory to uncover information about whether districts had the right technology to implement computer-based assessments. Mississippi First made sure to detail their research process and include all research tools in order to provide an auditing process to school districts across the state and nation.

Tennessee SCORE

Educating the Workforce of Tomorrow

To advance career readiness, SCORE produced “Educating the Workforce of Tomorrow,” research that examines the landscape in Tennessee, providing a common foundation for conversation as local and regional leaders in business and education come together to discuss what it will take to secure a highly skilled workforce. The report provided the first overview of Tennessee’s many postsecondary and career readiness policies, programs, resources, and efforts at the state, regional, and local levels. It also offered suggestions for what can be done by regional and local leaders, employers, and educators from K-16. The report was co-produced with the Tennessee Business Roundtable, which used it at a gubernatorial candidate forum focused on education and workforce development. The report also supported efforts by SCORE, TennesseeCAN, and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce in spearheading and helping to pass a bill that removes some obstacles for work-based learning opportunities for high school students.

The Education Trust-New York

Within Our Reach

In New York State, if Black and Latino middle school students were enrolled in Algebra I at the same rate as all students in the schools with the greatest enrollment rates statewide, the number of additional Black and Latino middle school students in Algebra I would fill Madison Square Garden 1.5 times. That’s just one finding from The Education Trust-New York’s report Within Our Reach, powerful new research into which students get access to rigorous instruction in a range of courses that will prepare them for college, careers, and civic life by the New York Equity Coalition, a group of civil rights, education, parent, and business organizations including Network members Ed Trust–New York and Educators for Excellence. Multiple analyses of unpublished enrollment data make clear the underrepresentation of Latino, Black, and American Indian students in gatekeeper courses that prepare students for college and career success. These findings drive the 5×25 Agenda, five commitments to every student in the graduating class of 2025. Already, the report has prompted widespread media coverage, served as the basis for meetings with policymakers and elected officials, and, most importantly, garnered support from more than 500 New Yorkers committed to opportunity and achievement for all students.

Winners will be announced at the PIE Network 2018 Summit on Thursday, Oct. 4.




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    Ashley Schmidt

    Ashley is PIE Network's Senior Director of Member Engagement & Communications

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