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How School-Quality Data Can Help Leaders Weigh Risk Amid Crisis

September 01, 2020 2 min read
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Risk—and, more specifically, the assessment of risk—is a top-tier concern for every district administrator and state official working to safely, efficiently open K-12 schools for the 2020-21 academic year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of those risks are more obvious than others: the virus transmission rate in the community, the vulnerabilities of students and staff, the financial weight of unprecedented health precautions and complex, shifting logistics.

Others are less apparent, but no less significant: the cost of the pandemic’s disruption on future academic achievement, and its real-time impact on learning for millions of students—many of whom can ill-afford to sacrifice their instructional opportunities.

To help school and district leaders weigh these risks, this third installment of Quality Counts 2020 provides near-term and longer-range analysis from the EdWeek Research Center on a host of data-driven indicators affecting school quality.

In addition to Quality Counts’ annual summative report card for the nation and the states, this year’s “Grading the States” features a Coronavirus Learning Loss Risk Index providing recent data for the decision-making process. This index draws on U.S. Census Bureau findings from the spring—at the height of the pandemic’s shutdown of brick-and-mortar schooling—to assess the vulnerability of states regarding home-learning environments, especially in key areas such as access to technology and parental and teacher engagement with instruction.

The aim of this Quality Counts installment is two-fold.

As educators and policymakers work to address schools’ health and safety concerns, barriers to remote learning, and revenue losses due to the economic downturn, their efforts are heavily influenced by the academic and financial conditions already shaping their states. The summative grades and rankings, based on previous years’ experience, offer crucial context for those decisions.

At the same time, the Coronavirus Learning Loss Index puts a spotlight on current conditions in the home that weigh heavily on students’ ability, readiness, and likelihood of successfully navigating the challenges and shortcomings posed by COVID-19.

For more detail on findings from the Coronavirus Learning Loss Index and to access State Highlights Reports with in-depth breakouts of the data behind this year’s Quality Counts grades and rankings, be sure to read the entire collection.

—The Editors

In March 2024, Education Week announced the end of the Quality Counts report after 25 years of serving as a comprehensive K-12 education scorecard. In response to new challenges and a shifting landscape, we are refocusing our efforts on research and analysis to better serve the K-12 community. For more information, please go here for the full context or learn more about the EdWeek Research Center.


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