Student Well-Being

States Aren’t Meeting Students’ Needs, Wide-Ranging Analysis Shows

By Arianna Prothero — February 23, 2022 3 min read
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How are states doing when it comes to the constellation of education policies that support students’ social, emotional, and academic development?

Not so good, according to a state-by-state policy review by The Education Trust. That is especially the case regarding equity priorities and making key data accessible to families and communities.

A new analysis by the nonprofit research group—in partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL—examined policies around school discipline; wraparound services; educator diversity; professional development; rigorous and culturally sustaining curriculum; and student, family, and community engagement.

While states performed well in some areas but faltered in others, one consistent theme emerged from the analysis: states consistently fell short on collecting data to measure and disseminate the impact of their policies publicly.

“States have a long way to go when actually reporting on discipline rates, when reporting on survey data about community and family engagement,” said Sarah Mehrotra, a data and policy analyst for The Education Trust, in an interview with Education Week. “Parents are hungry for this data. And states across the board need to do a better job reporting this out.”

Only one state, California, met benchmarks for data collection around discipline—including publicly reporting district-level data on offenses and punishments, the number of students who have been expelled more than once, and breaking down the data by race and gender as well as English learner, socioeconomic, and disability status.

Just three states—California, Idaho, and Rhode Island, as well as the District of Columbia—publicly report information collected through surveys and school climate data on how engaged students, families, and local communities feel in their schools.

Nine states report data on high schoolers’ participation in advanced coursework—such as Advanced Placement, dual enrollment, and International Baccalaureate programs—broken down by demographic groups.

‘There is no data to actually measure progress’

When it comes to wraparound services that help students and families get health care, housing, and other social and academic supports, the research group found that 12 states require districts to assess the needs and strengths of students and school systems to identify both gaps and available supports in community services.

While 21 states publish annual school-level data about the racial makeup of their educator workforce—either in an online dashboard, school report card, or in a report on educator workforce diversity—only two states, Connecticut and Delaware, publicly share annual school-level data on retention rates among teachers of color.

See also

Jenna Monley, deputy chief of family and community engagement at Philadelphia Public Schools, stands for a portrait in downtown Philadelphia on December 15, 2021.
Jenna Monley has bolstered family engagement in the school district by improving communications, creating avenues for parents to work with teachers, and giving the community forums to air problems.
Michelle Gustafson for Education Week

“We also scanned most of these categories for whether states had set goals—do they have goals around family engagement? Do they have a goal around wraparound services?” said Mehrotra. “In many cases, the answer was yes, but then there is no data to actually measure progress toward these goals.”

Other key takeaways from the analysis include:

  • Nineteen states allow for corporal punishment. In 15 states that ban corporal punishment, laws remain weak around the use of restraints to control student behavior—for instance, there are no requirements that staff be trained in de-escalation of conflict and the use of safe restraints.
  • Discipline policies on the books can be out of sync with more recent state policy developments. Tennessee and South Carolina, for example, do not ban corporal punishment yet both states also give guidance and training on restorative discipline practices.
  • Most states still allow exclusionary discipline, such as suspensions and expulsions, for minor, nonviolent rule-breaking such as defiant behavior.
  • No state requires schools to meet the 250 students per counselor ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Delaware, however, has passed a law that will eventually require schools to meet that ratio.
  • Most states with so-called critical race theory bans don’t have formal systems in place to include parent voice at a high, policymaking level.

For each policy area, The Education Trust scored states on a range of considerations, such as whether the state set clear goals, provided adequate funding and training, and collected and reported data.

The findings from The Education Trust’s analysis are presented in an interactive map that shows where states are on a continuum for each key policy area and it allows comparisons among states.

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