2019 Most Actionable Research
August 13, 2019

Tools Broadly Leveraged to Make a Case for Policy Change

This page has been updated to reflect the 2019 winner, as well as the nominees.

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.

See a complete list of winners, nominees, and finalists in all categories here.

2019 Most Actionable Research

  • TNTP: The Opportunity Myth

Top Finalists

Additional Nominees

Data Quality Campaign (DQC)

Growth Data: It Matters, and It’s Complicated

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia committed to measuring and reporting individual student growth under ESSA. This means everyone in those states—from parents to policymakers—will have a more accurate picture of student performance and school quality. DQC’s “Growth Data: It Matters, and It’s Complicated” is a first-of-its-kind report that breaks down growth measures in a way that’s easy to understand for stakeholders at all levels and across all states. This state-by-state analysis details what measures states are using, what those measures say about student progress, and what questions stakeholders can answer with this information. “Growth Data” serves PIE Network members as they seek to hold their states accountable to their ESSA plans and enables parents, educators and advocates in all 50 states and DC to ask deeper questions about how the state is measuring growth and what that means for their understanding of student success.

Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd)

Five-Part CTE Playbook Series

The Foundation for Excellence in Education’s (ExcelinEd) five-part Career and Technical Education (CTE) playbook series offers specific steps to help states improve career pathways for their students. Playbooks examine the characteristics of high-quality CTE programs, explore cross-sector partnerships, make the case for CTE program audits to ensure access and equity, present funding models and address ways to strengthen alignment to in-demand career opportunities. Together, the series provides a comprehensive resource for state leaders, industry executives, and local employers to significantly improve education-to-career pipelines in their states and communities. And with a focus on postsecondary credentialing and pathways into middle- and high-wage careers, these resources are helping states use new flexibility from the Perkins Act reauthorization to transform the value of their CTE programs. Four states—Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Indiana—are already implementing recommendations from the playbooks. 

GO Public Schools West Contra Costa (GO West Contra Costa)

GO West Contra Costa’s Kids Can Report

GO Public Schools West Contra Costa’s Kids Can report is a comprehensive K-16 conversation—with rigorous content—that is truly accessible to parents, and offered bilingually. Whether a parent has earned many degrees or is navigating the American public education system for the first time, the Kids Can report provides families from all backgrounds with the appropriate on-ramp to become powerful advocates for their children—and ultimately—all children. The content itself candidly calls out the social, racial, and economic disparities that exist in our local schools, while providing a path to turn knowledge into action.

Too often, parent voice is absent from rooms of power. At GO West Contra Costa, their work is grounded in ensuring that parents have access to information, tools, and skill-building to be able to engage with—and ultimately lead—decision-making bodies where education policies are discussed and shaped. The Kids Can report is one such tool that puts power in the hands of families by demystifying data and creating a path to advocacy within the K-16 space. The report provides parents with key data points, resources, and immediate steps that can be taken to support young people along their academic trajectory, as well as long term actions to change a system that continually oppresses low-income communities of color. 

Importantly, the Kids Can report framework can be adapted to meet the needs of any local ecosystem. While this report is rooted in West Contra Costa, advocates plan to release a version of Kids Can in Oakland and Fresno this year.

National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

A Fair Chance: Simple Steps to Strengthen and Diversify the Teacher Workforce

New research from NCTQ advocates maintaining high standards for the teaching profession while also increasing teacher diversity through better content preparation for elementary teacher candidates. A Fair Chance revealed both astonishingly high numbers of elementary teacher candidates failing their professional licensing tests each year, as well as widespread evidence that teacher preparation programs give scant attention to the content knowledge candidates need. Teacher candidates of color are hit the hardest. Better elementary content preparation is needed to help candidates succeed on licensing tests and in the classroom.

States across the country are experiencing political pressure to lower standards for the teaching profession by discarding licensing tests or lowering the passing scores to address teacher shortages and make it easier to diversify the profession. A Fair Chance supports state advocacy campaigns in countering this narrative by addressing the central problem that low pass-rates on licensure tests diagnose: aspiring teachers are not sufficiently prepared in the content they will have to teach. 

A Fair Chance provides best practices, recommendations, and tools for state advocates and state policy makers to identify where weaknesses in content preparation may be affecting the aspiring elementary teacher workforce, defend strong content licensing tests, and hold teacher prep programs accountable for preparing candidates in the content aligned to elementary standards.

A Fair Chance also provides recommendations and tools for teacher prep programs, and incorporated feedback and recommendations from over two dozen university teacher preparation institutions, state education agencies, and national advocacy organizations.

See also: A Fair Chance Program Action Guide: An Action Guide for Teacher Preparation Programs to Ensure Elementary Content Knowledge


The Opportunity Myth

School-level resources (grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and high expectations) can help students make big academic gains—and prepare them to reach the big goals they have for their lives.

The Opportunity Myth followed nearly 4,000 students in five diverse systems to learn more about their experiences in school. What they found was unnerving: classroom after classroom filled with A and B students whose big goals for their lives are slipping further away each day—not because they can’t master challenging material, but because they’re rarely given a real chance to try. TNTP’s research gives policymakers a new perspective on the root causes of inequity in our schools, while highlighting four in-school resources that can help students make big academic gains—grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and high expectations—along with an entire toolkit of actionable resources to help make these resources a reality for more students. Nearly 6,000 leaders, educators, and advocates have already pledged to work toward providing these resources more consistently in their schools.

The Opportunity Myth paints a vivid picture of how choices made by adults regarding education have led to millions of students missing out on the promise of opportunity. This report calls out the misconception that today’s students can’t master challenging material and identifies the true issue: Most have never been given the opportunity to try. It highlights the disparities in resources available to minority students, English language-learners, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and student with disabilities, and it challenges education and policy leaders to do more. The report finds that the vast majority of today’s students aspire to attaining a college degree and it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure all student have consistent opportunities to grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers with high expectations.

Additional Nominees

Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and Burning Glass Technologies

Credentials Matter

Credentials Matter is a first-of-its-kind examination of industry credential attainment in high school career and technical education (CTE) programs. The analysis, produced by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and Burning Glass Technologies (experts in cutting-edge labor market analytics), includes research-driven reports and a website with interactive maps and data that compares state-specific K-12 credentials earned with the credentials’ alignment with labor market demand. With the 2018 reauthorization of the $1.2 billion Perkins Act, states can reassess the effectiveness and value of their programs and make credentials a metric for success for all students. Credentials Matter resources serve as a jumping off point for states to begin identifying which credentials are high-value and can lead students to middle- and higher-wage careers. So far, 15 states have confirmed they will use the Credentials Matter suite of resources in their work to improve CTE quality and pathways in their states.  

Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) with a myriad of non-Network partners

Addressing America’s Growing Demand for IT and CS: The Case for Change in K–12 Education

America’s unmet need for top talent in information technology (IT) and computer science (CS) is a longstanding problem. However, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and Code.org’s new report, “Addressing America’s Growing Demand for IT and CS: The Case for Change in K–12 Education,” details critical steps businesses, education leaders and policymakers can take to address this skills gap. Education organizations, businesses and some of the world’s leading tech companies signed on to the report’s key recommendations: aligning education and employment; engaging employers to support underrepresented students; incentivizing IT career pathways and integrating foundational CS; and building K-12 CS pathways that link to postsecondary offerings. Just 35 percent of American high schools teach CS, yet 90 percent of parents want their children to study it. Already this year, 32 states have passed legislation and funded $41.5 million to advance K-12 CS learning. This report serves as an essential resource to help policymakers in this work.

Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and Foresight Law + Policy

State Progress Toward Next Generation Learning: A National Landscape

States are exploring next generation learning to provide schools with the flexibility and support needed to ensure students graduate prepared for college or career. A new report from the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and Foresight Law + Policy’s offers education leaders a valuable resource to use in this important work. “State Progress Toward Next Generation Learning: A National Landscape,” closely examines state innovation and pilot programs supporting next generation learning, which includes personalized learning and mastery-based education. The report uses data and information gathered during a review of these programs in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., to provide a national overview and identify seven Key Policy Components for these programs. As states look to expand innovations in learning, providing policy support remains a priority for ExcelinEd. So far this year, ExcelinEd has supported states to expand or adopt new policies in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and West Virginia. 


Common Lottery Systems: Choosing Traditional Public and Charter Schools through One Application

Common lottery systems help families navigate the school choice landscape, but many local and state advocates don’t know much about this innovative approach. FutureEd Director Thomas Toch wrote a compelling story for The Washington Post magazine exploring how the algorithm works and following families whose children found their placements—in both traditional public and charter schools—through D.C’s lottery. He interviewed experts, including the Nobel-Prize winning economist who invented the algorithm. And he followed families for more than a year as they made their decisions. The meticulously researched article provides a sense of how lotteries function and the role that advocates can play in guiding families through the process.

Teach Plus (Teach Plus California, Teach Plus Illinois, Teach Plus Texas): Equity and Diversity

Retaining Teachers of Color

Having just one Black teacher makes a significant difference for students of color, and yet there are significant gaps between student and teacher diversity. In framing their research, Teach Plus teacher leaders posed two questions central to building an equitable education system: Why are teachers of color leaving and what can districts and schools do to support and retain a racially- and linguistically-diverse cadre of teachers that reflects the student population?

In the resulting research briefs, Teach Plus California, Teach Plus Illinois, and Teach Plus Texas identified specific strategies to improve recruitment and retention. Teach Plus’ recommendations have created actionable advocacy opportunities at the state and district levels, including launching affinity groups funded by the district and developing training for principals in multiple states. Through this research, Teach Plus is advocating for legislative, local policy, and mindset shifts to empower teachers of color to remain in the field and to change the make-up of the teacher workforce to better serve all students.

Tennessee SCORE and TNTP

A Playbook for Improving Literacy

Tennessee SCORE’s Instructional Materials Implementation Guidebook catalogs the processes, tools, and supports used by several Tennessee education leaders to improve early literacy instruction in classrooms within their districts. This small group of superintendents is collectively known as the LIFT Education network and with the assistance and support of TNTP and SCORE, LIFT superintendents have dedicated more than three years to focus on improving early literacy by providing teachers high-quality instructional materials aligned to state standards and technical assistance in implementing them. The Implementation Guidebook has garnered national attention from organizations such as Learning Forward and FutureEd while increasing statewide understanding of the importance of access to high-quality curriculum. With a 2020 timeline for English language arts textbook adoption in Tennessee, this manual serves as a playbook for districts and a persuasive tool for advocates working to secure aligned, rigorous instructional materials in every language arts classroom.

The Education Trust–New York

The New York FAFSA Completion Project 

The New York FAFSA Completion Project is a statewide campaign that aims to encourage public high schools to adopt policies and practices that increase the proportion of eligible low-income students who complete the FAFSA. The project included a tool allowing users to track the progress of high schools across New York. The project also included a tip sheet sharing best practices being used in New York high schools and highlighted top-performers. This tip sheet was mailed to New York high schools. The 2019 Challenge culminated with Ed Trust–NY recognizing 12 New York schools for their completion rates or improvement by awarding them each $750 to be used as a student scholarship. The project encouraged schools to adopt policies that support FAFSA completion. It can be used as a model by advocacy organizations across the network, and can be replicated. Media outreach also led to three Sunday front page articles.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute

High-Quality Career and Technical Education, Aligned to Local Labor Market Demand

In April, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released How Aligned is Career and Technical Education to Local Labor Markets? The team found that students are more likely to take courses in fields where more local jobs are available, though not in fields where the local jobs are relatively high-paying.

This report includes profiles of alignment between local labor markets and CTE course-taking in ten states: Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indianapolis, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Texas, and Washington. Fordham collaborated with PIE Network members in these states, and together helped to drive media coverage and impact in the real world. For example, A for Arizona and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce disseminated the report to key stakeholders, covered it in their newspaper, and used it to urge huge improvements to the state’s CTE system. Fordham placed locally-relevant op-eds that summarize regional results in Detroit, LA, New York, and Atlanta.

Learn more about the 2019 winners, finalists, and nominees in each category.

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    Ashley Schmidt

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

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