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A regular update from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown’s McCourt School. 
By Chad Aldeman
Marguerite and I wrote a provocative article in The Hill this month, arguing that, “Public education missed the data revolution. It’s time to catch up.” 
One response we got: “We have data, we just don’t use it.” 
Our response back: Let’s start now! First up: What data can shed light on whether recovery efforts are working? With all the new hires, are rates of chronic absenteeism coming down? Are students back on grade level in math? District leaders will only know to pivot if they look at the data.
Last week, we hosted and recorded a panel conversation on this topic. Mark Schneider at IES hit on data timeliness, and acknowledged that delays get in the way of making federal data actionable. (Psst...Have we mentioned that the most recent NCES financial data is from 2018-19?)  
Perhaps vendors are better at the data stuff. Shalinee Sharma said schools use Zearn data in part because it’s immediately helpful to support students.
Nat Malkus made the case that the greatest need is to work on the “last mile” so data can help teachers connect with families. That might mean having an honest conversation to say “your kid is behind, and they need to catch up, and we need to partner together.” 
Kaya Henderson warned that when data becomes “weaponized” it erodes trust, and reminded us that data is about people. 
How to get started? Leaders hoping to accelerate the use of data might: 
  • Bring school-by-school financial-vs-outcomes data to budget work sessions;
  • Schedule a meeting to assess whether ESSER investments are working (use our grid);
  • Organize leaders facing common challenges (like chronic absenteeism) into working groups to measure the progress their efforts are making; 
  • Ask vendors to assemble data on the effectiveness of their efforts; or 
  • Dress as “Data” for Halloween. 
Another place data matters: understanding labor markets. Recently in Education Next, I explored the causes behind the decline in the supply of new teachers and noted that, “Until we diagnose the problem accurately, we won’t be able to devise solutions to fix it.” 
Good data also helps in forecasting enrollments and budgets. Laura and I talked with Fort Worth Report about the district’s budget challenges going forward. We suggest being transparent with the data and doing multi-year planning. 
So, that’s our finger-wagging data lecture for the month. In other news…
And the award goes to…Edunomics Lab’s Learning Loss Calculator! Last night we took home an award for PIE’s “Most Actionable Research.” The calculator provides each district an estimate of how far behind students are in their learning, and the cost to fix it. (Shout out to Katie and Ash on our team for the monumental data lift to build out this tool.) See how WSB-TV used the calculator to assess whether Georgia districts are spending enough on learning loss. 
Plus: A heads up for vendors and contractors. In a conversation with EdWeek’s Market Brief, Marguerite cautions that 2024-25 will likely be a tough year for sales. With ESSER funds expiring and other financial pressures, many districts will be facing a financial cliff. If history is any guide, districts will pull back on spending via contracts in order to protect labor. 
An innovation that seems reasonable to us!
Speaking of data, check out how Connecticut used its ESSER funds to partner with districts on producing data for evaluation efforts. Note: the link takes you to the EduRecoveryHub, a site we helped produce that highlights promising ESSER investments all across the country.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with insights or suggestions:
Connect with us on Twitter:
@ChadAldeman, @MargueriteRoza, @EdunomicsLab
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Edunomics Lab is a Georgetown University research center exploring and modeling complex education finance decisions to inform education policy and practice.
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