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No Lazy Days of Summer for REL Mid-Atlantic: Highlights from Recent Conferences
By Kristin Hallgren and Diana McCallum

No Lazy Days of Summer for REL Mid-Atlantic: Highlights from Recent Conferences

School’s out for summer--but that doesn’t mean REL Mid-Atlantic is on summer break. We’ve been hard at work helping states, districts, and other stakeholders use evidence to address pressing education issues. Recently we co-sponsored two events on using data and research in education with our regional partners.

The first, co-hosted with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), was the fourth annual Research, Policy, and Practice (R2P) conference. The conference convened experts in education research, practice, and policy to share information about their latest activities, lessons learned, and challenges. Breakout sessions focused on four themes:

  • Improving literacy from pre-K through grade 3: The three early literacy breakout sessions focused on (1) literacy development among English learners, (2) kindergarten registration and attendance, and (3) strategies for supporting parents and teachers.
  • Reducing the risk of dropping out: This topic included featured presentations that highlighted measures SDP uses to determine which students are on track to graduate and various strategies for preventing dropout among youth.
  • Contributing to positive school climate: Presentations featured research on a variety of approaches to enhance school climate, including interventions designed to increase school involvement in nutrition and physical activity and to improve outcomes such as attendance, student suspensions, and school safety.
  • Using research and data to inform evidence-based decision making: Breakout sessions on this topic focused on using localized accountability systems, using existing data for program improvement, and using data at the high school level to assist with career development and ensure that all students remain on track.

More than 40 presentations focused on research taking place in Philadelphia or in other districts addressing similar priorities. This conference provided a forum for educators, policymakers, and researchers from inside and outside Philadelphia to share approaches, findings, and next steps for addressing key issues. According to Joy Lesnick, Director of Research, Policy, and Practice at SDP, “the R2P conference in Philadelphia has been a great way to highlight projects that are making connections between research, policy, and practice. The combination of presentations and networking opportunities helped to generate new ideas, new connections, and new colleagues, all with the goal of improving outcomes for students.”

In June, REL Mid-Atlantic partnered with the Maryland State Department of Education on the Maryland Connections Summit. The Summit explored how Maryland’s schools and systems collect, use, and reflect on data. Dr. Elizabeth Farley-Ripple provided the keynote address on making evidence matter in education, and local school systems, educators, research partners, and education organizations shared their work in presentations focused on four data-related themes:

  • Evidence-based activities, strategies, and interventions: Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), schools must select activities, strategies, interventions, and programs on the basis of existing data and research. This strand explored how schools and school systems select, implement, and evaluate these areas in Maryland’s public schools.
  • No PARCC, no problem: Presentations highlighted strategies, data collection instruments, and other practices that provide feedback for decision making when standardized test data are lacking.
  • Using data to implement and communicate change: Presenters shared their experiences engaging educators and stakeholders.
  • Creating infrastructure to support data use: This theme explored IT infrastructures and technology implemented to support data use, including privacy-related topics such as disclosure avoidance, suppression, and privacy.

Participants at the Summit found the event to be very relevant, with 93 percent reporting that it was a valuable experience.

If you weren’t able to attend these conferences, learn more by watching highlights from the 2018 Research to Practice Conference  and Maryland Connections Summit. Stay tuned for additional conferences, workshops, and webinars in 2018 from REL Mid-Atlantic.