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Understanding Pennsylvania's Educational Inequities in the Time of COVID-19 

Dear Colleague: 

While most our work over the past two years concerns the daily management of public education during a public health crisis, it is important that we reflect on this extraordinary moment and catalogue the history we're living. 

Earlier this fall, more than 150 of you completed a comprehensive survey on student learning conditions during the 2020-21 school year. This survey was designed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and our partners at Mathematica under a two-year grant from the Federal Institute of Education Sciences—one of seven recovery-focused research projects underway across the country. 

While this initiative will involve a range of research activities, we're committed to communicating what we learn as we learn it. As a first step, I'm pleased to share School Instruction in Pennsylvania During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a summary of survey responses that provides a window into students' school experiences during the first full year of the pandemic. 

Key findings speak to: 

    • The increased focus on in-person learning as the 2020–2021 school year unfolded;

    • Similarities in hybrid learning models as school entities balanced in-person and remote instruction;

    • The mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction across learning models;

    • How school entities prioritized in-person learning for historically underserved student groups, especially students with disabilities; and

    • Advances and obstacles in the deployment of educational technology to facilitate remote learning. 

Moving forward, PDE and Mathematica will draw on a range of data to describe trends in education inequities before and during the pandemic, better understand the role of instructional strategies and other factors in shaping education and health outcomes, and assess dropout patterns during the pandemic and factors that put students at risk for dropping out. 

For now, thank you for your early contributions to this important initiative. I wish you a happy, healthy, and restful holiday break.