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Research Agenda 2018-2019

The theme of the 2018-2019 research agenda is to use data to understand and advance equity for Wisconsin's students. It is organized into the following 7 topical areas:

Topic Area 1: Contextual Data for Equity Gaps

Collect, disaggregate, analyze, and summarize indicators that influence equality of opportunity/achievement gaps. The focus of this topic is on community factors that go beyond the school building. Its purpose is to establish a common source of information that can inform and guide conversation among parents, school personnel, school boards, and community leaders about all of the barriers to equity in Wisconsin.

  • Project 1.1: Curate a collection of equity-relevant contextual data from appropriate sources (e.g., the U.S. Census Bureau, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, etc.); then aggregate the data to relevant geographies (e.g., school attendance areas; school district boundaries) and develop effective ways of summarizing and communicating these data effectively.
  • Project 1.2: Explore the associations between the DPI’s school and district performance reports with third party rating systems. Examining these associations may lead to other sources of contextual information to include in project 1.1, above.

Topic Area 2: Access to High Quality Educational Opportunities

The DPI has identified three specific, high-quality educational opportunities on which to focus: (a) advanced courses, (b) a well-rounded curriculum, and (c) the latest technology. The common thread of these sub-topics is that they are likely precursors to the academic achievement and graduation gaps that are the focus of much of our equity work. Each sub-project will also examine whether any gaps that are discovered are driven by demand-side versus supply-side forces.

  • Project 2.a.1: Develop useful DEWS- and CCREWS-type predictive analytics to flag students who might be expected to perform well in advanced courses (mostly based on prior performance) but are not taking them.
  • Project 2.b.1: Describe existing gaps among students in taking a well-rounded curriculum. The bulk of this project will focus on defining what “well-rounded curriculum” means and how we can operationalize that definition using available data.

Topic Area 3: Access to Key Educational Resources

Research questions under this topic go beyond standard questions along the lines of “does money matter?” to investigate how crucial, well-defined educational resources are distributed to and among Wisconsin’s primary and secondary public school students. There are two sub-topics in this area: (a) teacher quality and (b) other resources.

  • Project 3.a.1: How well does performance on teacher preparation exams predict teacher quality?
  • Project 3.a.2: Explore the effect of teacher-student demographic match in Wisconsin’s public schools by replicating recent work by Gershenson et al., showing positive long-term effects of students matched to a same-race teacher in elementary school.
  • Project 3.b.1: Describe gaps in access to, and participation in, co-curricular (e.g., field trips) and extra-curricular (e.g., sports; clubs) opportunities.
  • Project 3.b.2: Describe equity gaps in access to mental health professionals (e.g., school psychologists; social workers); focusing on workload and experience.

Topic Area 4: College and Career Readiness

Our vision is “Every Child a Graduate, College and Career Ready.” DPI currently has two early warning system tools, based on prior research projects, to help schools identify students who are at risk of dropping out of high school (DEWS) or not graduating career and college ready (CCREWS). At the center of this topic area are questions related to the meaning of college and career readiness and how we can close existing gaps in readiness.

  • Project 4.1: Document the gaps among Wisconsin students who are required to take post-secondary remediation (i.e., non-credit-bearing) courses. Also look into school level variation in graduates required to take remedial coursework and explore the possibility of working remedial coursework into CCREWS.
  • Project 4.2: Work on tools that schools and districts can use to turn the insights from project 4.1 into prevention and/or intervention strategies.

Topic Area 5: Early Childhood Education

Given that early childhood is a critical period of life, any plan to promote equity should include efforts to understand early childhood factors that give rise to later equity gaps. Improving our understanding of when and why these gaps occur will help us ensure all children begin their educational careers ready to succeed. Internal projects in this topic area will likely leverage the Early Childhood Integrated Data Systems (ECIDS) tool that allows us to link records with The Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Health Services (DHS).

  • No current internal research projects.

Topic Area 6: Social and Emotional Learning

Graduating from high school "College and Career Ready" depends as much on social and emotional learning (SEL) as it does on academic learning. Research projects under this topic area will focus on (a) developing and/or evaluating individual- and school-level metrics that schools can use to monitor progress toward their SEL goals, (b) methods of increasing SEL, and (c) effects of SEL on key educational outcomes.

  • Project 6.1: Analyze the timing and interplay between being identified as having an Emotional Behavioral Disability and disciplinary actions. The focus of this project will be on demographic differences, sequences, and time-to-event type questions.
  • Project 3.b.2 also fits under this topic area.

Topic Area 7: Advancing Equity through Data Reporting

Analyze and provide historical, national, and/or statewide context for new reporting requirements. The focus of work under this topic area is on understanding what new reporting requirements say about equity and how they can be used to further DPI’s equity agenda.

  • No current internal research projects.
For questions about this information, contact Carl Frederick (608) 267-9232, Justin Meyer (608) 266-5186