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Research Agenda

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s research agenda guides research that helps the department better understand the issues currently facing public education in Wisconsin. This research helps the department advance our mission of educational equity—every student has what they need to learn when they need it to achieve our vision of every child a graduate, college and career ready. The department will focus on the following research areas:

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on education in Wisconsin


The COVID-19 pandemic has had many significant impacts on education in Wisconsin. The immediate response to the pandemic brought the existing challenges facing our schools into stark relief and motivated many to aim to create a “new normal” instead of returning to business as usual.

Projects in this area include:

  • Shifts in enrollment with a focus on virtual schooling
  • Overcoming interrupted learning
  • Addressing physical and mental health

Rethinking how we organize schooling


Education needs to continue to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of all students. However, today’s schools and classrooms are organized much as they were at the beginning of public schooling in America.

Projects in this area include:

  • Helping districts, including those in rural areas, with declining enrollment
  • Designing and implementing the next generation of public education
  • Scaling up promising practices and evidence-based interventions
  • Sustainable and equitable school funding

Recruiting and retaining a diverse cadre of effective educators


Research has shown that teachers have a significant influence on their students, even for outcomes measured years later (Backes, Cowen, Goldhaber and Theobald 2022; Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff 2014). Research has also shown that having a teacher of the same race is important for students of color (Gershenson, Hart, Hyman, Lindsay, and Papageorge 2022; Gershenson, Holt, and Papageorge 2016; Scherer, Cleveland, and Ivester 2021). Unfortunately, schools around Wisconsin are facing teacher shortages in general and a dearth of teachers of color specifically – only one in twenty teachers in Wisconsin public schools identifies as a person of color compared to one in three students.

Projects in this area include:

  • Documenting and monitoring shortages and diversity throughout the teacher pipeline
  • Identifying short- and long-term solutions to recruit and retain high quality, diverse educators

Navigating Educational Transitions


Successful transitions into and out of K12 education are as crucial to achieving DPI’s vision— Every Child a Graduate, College and Career Ready— as experiences in school. Topics in this area include research about the transition into formal schooling or out of high school and into college or the workforce. It also includes research about civic, health, criminal justice, or other outcomes associated with schooling.

Projects in this area include:

  • Illuminating the landscape of early education in Wisconsin
  • Easing the transition to kindergarten
  • Studying the extent to which career and technical education (CTE) and dual enrollment to help students graduate with credentials and outcomes associated with those credentials.
  • Postsecondary education outcomes

Advancing Educational Equity


This research topic comes directly from DPI’s mission statement. While equity is a common theme that should be a prominent theme for projects that fall under any of the other topic areas, projects under this topic area set out to assess current levels of educational equity using existing metrics or develop new metrics of leading indicators that education leaders can use to make Wisconsin’s schools more equitable places.

Projects in this area include:

  • Developing metrics for leading indicators to assess or monitor educational equity
  • Assessing educational equity, including how the interplay between public education and other social institutions influences educational equity