Most Actionable Research in Advocacy
October 13, 2017

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.

The nominations help tell the story of how education policy was advanced in 2017.

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.

Most Actionable Research Top Finalists:

Additional Nominees


50-state Analysis of State Report Cards

DQC’s 50 state analysis of state’s report cards on student and school success informed advocates nation-wide, in detail, about the status of school transparency. It was generally known that the information that states provided didn’t do enough to inform communities about the quality of their schools, but this report cast a stark light on missing data, jargon, reports in English only, and the fact that many states were not even complying with NCLB requirements. Advocates used the report to push their own states to consider ways to improve, and reporters dug into the state-by-state data to write articles about where states are falling short. The result has been initiatives from state advocates and national partners to create resources and campaigns to push states for better, more useful transparency about school quality.


Fractured: The Breakdown of America’s School Districts

Somehow EdBuild still flies below the radar within the education reform community, despite the fact that they’re engaging in more and more states.. From their groundbreaking report “Fractured” released this year that received far greater media coverage than any other report or organization’s work (and outpaced the field itself in 2017: to their important partner support in states like Mississippi, Georgia, and Connecticut working on making state school funding formulas more fair and sensible for kids and educators, EdBuild’s importance to our work cannot be overstated. At least a half-dozen states are targeting funding reform over the next two years, and EdBuild is quietly becoming the in-demand player behind the scenes. What makes EdBuild’s work special is that it speaks directly to the fundamental issues edreform is grappling with regarding equity, choice, and school accountability, and they really have no peers doing what they do at their level.

The Collaborative for Student Success, Bellwether Education Partners

An Independent Review of State ESSA Plans

In conjunction with Bellwether Education Partners, the Collaborative for Student Success worked with more than 30 education experts – from both sides of the aisle, and with experience on both the national and state levels – to conduct an independent peer review of submitted state ESSA plans. The goal was to identify best practices alongside areas for improvement, while communicating with SEAS and in-state advocacy partners about the findings. The data are invaluable for anyone working on an ESSA plan, and the organizations sought to provide states with helpful suggestions on improvement, and advocates with independent support for areas they were pushing on. The analysis was particularly timely, by rolling out the findings from round 1 and amplifying the results through exhaustive media outreach, round 2 states had the benefit of both best practices and pitfalls to avoid. The findings are broken down to identify key factors necessary to improve education and the data are being utilized nationally via a website that is clear, substantive, and easy to navigate. This report was conducted by education policy experts and reviewed by numerous current and former PIE Network members (including Dale Chu, previously with America Succeeds; Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Data Quality Campaign; Paige Kowalski, Data Quality Campaign; Claire Voorhees, Foundation for Excellence in Education; Kerry Moll, previously with Stand for Children; Scott Sargrad, Center for American Progress; and Christy Wolfe, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools), for the benefit of everyone involved in this body of work.

Students for Education Reform

First Generation College Student Poll

This year, Students for Education Reform (SFER) released the First Generation College Student Poll, an unprecedented national poll asking a 1,000 first-generation college students for their unique perspectives on their K-12 experiences and on education policies, including school discipline, school choice, and education standards.

Key findings in this report found that 72 percent of first generation college students agreed that education is the best pathway out of poverty; 36 percent felt that high school did not prepare them for college; 75 percent favored being able to choose a school other than their zoned one; 71 percent believed that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, should be held to high academic standards; nearly 1 in 4 said that they did not feel safe in k-12 schools; and most wanted life skills curriculum taught in high schools including: financial literacy (61 percent), job interviewing (56 percent), resume building (54 percent), and stress management (52 percent).

These findings and many more not only validate the demands of the education reform community, but they also shed light on exactly what needs to be fixed in our K-12 system to get more students like them to and through college. The poll was featured in POLITICO’s Education Digest, Philanthropy News Digest, Blavity, LA School Report, and other local publication.

Stand for Children Illinois

An Education Funding No-Brainer: Stop the Teacher Pension Surcharge

This report by Stand for Children Illinois formed the basis for HB656, which brought this year alone another $100 million in Title I and IDEA funds to the neediest Illinois classrooms. (That amount and the report are separate from SB1947, the funding reform compromise bill also enacted this year.)

HB656 ended the heinous practice of pulling Title I dollars from classrooms of low-income students. But for this legislation, when school districts used federal funds to pay teachers, their contribution rate to the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) would rise to 45%. This left districts with two bad choices: relinquish to TRS 45 cents of every federal dollar they receive, or spend federal funds on things other than hiring teachers.

A balanced mix of wonk and simplicity, the report provided specific examples of how this unfair practice was hurting kids, such as in Rockford where the district could otherwise hire 20 more teachers, provide every student with 2.5 hours of private tutoring, or double the size of its four- week summer intervention program for students below standards. Doing so helped legislators, coalition members (including Advance IL and Teach Plus IL), and media understand its importance, and to “tell the story” in a compelling manner that resulted in unanimous passage of the bill.

Foundation for Excellence in Education, GeorgiaCAN, Tennessee SCORE, and TennesseeCAN

ESSA Playbooks, Including Personalized Interventions Playbooks for Georgia, Nevada, and Tennessee

The Foundation for Excellence in Education launched four planned ESSA Playbooks for state legislatures, governors, state departments of education, and state advocacy organizations. The playbooks were shared with more than 450 state-level partners in 43 states and Washington, D.C., including all PIE Network members. The playbooks present clear recommendations, practical advice, and resources on core areas of ESSA: school accountability; school interventions; advancing innovative policy solutions; and student-centered funding for districts.

For the school interventions playbook, ExcelinEd consulted with partners like GeorgiaCAN, Tennessee SCORE and TennesseeCAN to launch customized interventions playbooks in three states: Georgia, Nevada, and Tennessee.

A+ Colorado

The State of Colorado School Districts 2016

The Outlier Report was the first academic review of all Colorado school districts with a breakdown by each student group for which districts were performing best in CO for that group of students. (e.g. Black, Low-income, Special Needs, ELL, etc.) This research allowed policy makers, educators, community leaders, school district leaders to see for the first time which school districts and high schools were best serving particular groups of students.

This research is applicable to other states because it can be easily replicated even with changes in state tests and it allows advocates to zero in on what is working for particular groups of students rather than just focusing on identifying the lowest performers.

Education Resource Strategies 

Ignite the Learning Engine

Ignite the Learning Engine by Education Resource Strategies provides advocates with the policies and practices necessary to ensure high-quality implementation of College and Career Ready Standards. Advocates nationwide pushed hard to adopt and sustain these standards. This report provides a roadmap for advocates on how to make sure teachers can help students meet those standards. The report details key actions for districts and states that will enable the kind of “Connected Professional Learning” that will turn new standards into higher learning outcomes for all.  Actions include:

  1. Loosening overly restrictive requirements around dollars and time;
  2. Adding time for teacher collaboration and learning
  3. Investing at a state level in high-quality curricular resources for districts;
  4. Shifting dollars from lane pay and automatic step pay toward teacher leadership;
  5. Securing funding for the significant start-up costs necessary to make the transition to professional learning practices.

These kinds of big shifts require political will to pull off. The advocacy community must be ready at the city and state level to provide that political cover.

Educators for Excellence-Chicago

Sounding the Alarm: Building the Climate and Culture Our Students Need

Educator for Excellence – Chicago’s report, Sounding the Alarm: Building the Climate & Culture Our Students Need, was researched and drafted by a team of 18 E4E-Chicago teachers and school staff from January-March 2017 and was released in June 2017. The recommendations included in the report reflect academic research, conversations with a diverse set of education stakeholders and local leaders, lived experiences of teachers from across the city, and the results of focus group conversations with over 300 Chicago teachers and surveys from nearly 500 Chicago teachers. The report also highlights national examples of best practice and connections to relevant state and local legislation.

The recommendations in this report are written by teachers with an emphasis on what teachers themselves feel they need to more fully serve the students in their classrooms. According to teachers, the most pressing issues related to school climate and culture are connected to a school’s ability to meet the social-emotional needs of students. Therefore, among all the ways that schools can best create a positive climate and culture, teachers were clear in their assessment that increased resources, supports, and trainings in the areas of social-emotional learning, trauma- informed teaching, and restorative justice would be most impactful. These recommendations, although focused on Chicago, are still widely applicable and transferable to other districts and schools.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute

High Stakes for High Achievers

Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s report, High Stakes for High Achievers, made the case that state accountability systems under ESSA should signal to schools that all kids matter, including those who already score above the proficiency level. While ESSA plans are not yet finalized, it looks like a vast majority of states took at least some of Fordham’s advice, moving much more aggressively to measures of student growth than in the past. Many also adopted a “performance index” or used “scale scores,” which they recommended as well.

Colorado Succeeds

Positive Outliers – Scaling Colorado’s Most Successful Schools

In late 2016, Colorado Succeeds issued the report, Positive Outliers – Scaling Colorado’s Most Successful Schools, demonstrating that 70 percent of Colorado’s highest-performing schools for low- income students were public charter schools. This is especially compelling considering that public charters only account for about 10 percent of all Colorado public schools. The report was shared with all members of the Colorado General Assembly and identified three key policies to expand and scale high performing charter schools to better serve Colorado’s most vulnerable students. By showing the success of charter schools, the report bolstered support for charter expansion and built political will for the passage of historic legislation requiring school districts to equitably share locally raised tax revenue with all public schools, including charter schools.

Institute for Quality Education, Foundation for Excellence in Education, EdChoice

Survey of Fewer, Better Tests Policy Options

The Institute for Quality Education, EdChoice, and ExcelinEd collaborated to survey 400 parents and 400 teachers in Indiana to determine their opinions on policy options developed by ExcelinEd’s “Fewer, Better Tests” initiative. Results helped form specific Indiana policy recommendations that passed as part of HB 1003, legislation that better focuses Indiana’s assessment system on measuring students’ learning gains. HB 1003 replaces the statewide assessment with a new program known as Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network. Measures in the bill will help ensure alignment between standards and assessments while also continuing to hold students to high expectations. Pursuant to research recommendations, the bill also moves the state exam to the end of the school year providing more time for classroom instruction. The bill also requires the state to provide user-friendly score reports as well as assessment literacy training, making the state exam more useful and meaningful to parents and teachers.

Winners will be announced at the PIE Network 2017 Summit on Thursday, Oct. 26.

    PIE Network

    PIE Network supports and promotes a network of education advocacy organizations working to improve K-12 education in their states so that every student graduates world-ready.

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