The Learning Accelerator Blog/Helping Educators and Leaders Surface What Works, For Whom, and Under What Conditions 

research & measurement seeking and measuring broader aims

Helping Educators and Leaders Surface What Works, For Whom, and Under What Conditions 

by Violet Ford on November 29 2023

Over the past few years, the context of education has dramatically changed as schools and systems grapple with the ongoing ramifications of emergency remote learning, lost instruction time, a growing student well-being crisis, and educator shortages. With all of this continuous change, a need exists to examine how well practices and policies set in place to enhance student learning environments are meeting their needs. To help solve this need, The Learning Accelerator (TLA) developed a Research and Measurement Guide to help educators and leaders determine to what extent new programs or interventions succeeded, how and why they worked, and for whom.

What We Mean by Measurement

Educators are not unfamiliar with the concept of measurement. Teachers regularly measure student learning through formative and summative assessments. Similarly, school and system leaders routinely measure the effectiveness of programs by conducting evaluations of student learning outcomes and analysis of standardized test scores. With that said, what we mean by measurement in the Research and Measurement Guide is neither synonymous with large-scale academic studies nor limited to the analysis of a single summative assessment. What we propose is an inquiry-based approach, whether to identify a need or problem of practice, determine if a pilot should be taken to scale, or understand how the outcomes of programs and implementations are having (or have had) the desired effects.

The Importance of Measurement, Especially Post-Pandemic

As K-12 education continues to deal with both the silver linings and ongoing ramifications of the pandemic, a renewed effort to address measurement has taken center stage. Several practices and policies have been set in place to meet the needs of students since the onset of the pandemic; the use of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund is one of the most known. Since March 2020, approximately $193 billion in (ESSER) funds have been awarded to purchase devices, hotspots, and protective gear, provide assistance to families and staff, and implement interventions to address and mitigate lost instructional time. At this moment, there’s increased pressure on school and system leaders — as well as educators — to demonstrate the efficacy of their programs, policies, and practices, forcing them to justify their ESSER spending, particularly as it relates to student learning outcomes.

As the educational ecosystem continues to evolve post-pandemic, there is a growing need to understand how and why certain practices, policies, and programs may (or may not) be working for students. We have observed that schools and systems have benefitted from an influx of technology, funding, and professional learning as a result of ESSER funds, all prompting the question: is it working?

Using the Research and Measurement Guide to Move Forward

As the education sector strives to meet the ever-changing needs of students, it is important for systems to implement measurement strategies that help identify trends, needs, successes, and areas for improvement — both to get a pulse on current practices and make plans for the future. The Research and Measurement Guide addresses this dual purpose and offers concrete strategies to help school and system leaders engage in inquiry and determine the effectiveness of their initiatives, programs, and interventions.

At TLA, we believe that great measurement begins with centering equity — the intentional process of creating and sustaining just and fair conditions and systems that allow every individual to reach their full and unique potential. To enable this, we encourage practitioners to use the Research and Measurement Guide as a blueprint to incorporate the following approaches into their research work:

  • Take a participatory approach and include the voices of multiple stakeholders (e.g., parents, students, community members) and proactively center the needs of subgroups historically positioned furthest from opportunity.
  • Focus on both quantitative and qualitative data. Instead of maintaining a singular focus on test scores or survey data, allow texts, interviews, and observations to present rich and deep understanding of the multiple perspectives and lived realities of stakeholders.
  • Beyond traditional assessments, incorporate both culturally responsive and proximate measures by using tools that might capture concepts like belonging, identity, or confidence.

The bottom line is this: measurement should surface what works, for whom, and under what conditions. If educators and leaders can better evaluate current practices, plan for the future, and implement right-sized practices, we can make sure we’re delivering an effective, engaging, and equitable education for all students.

About the Author

Violet Ford is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. She has held key roles in various research and evaluation projects across sectors such as community health, education, and social services, with a focus on qualitative research. She is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, ensuring that evaluations are conducted with sensitivity to cultural nuances and the well-being of the populations studied.