Economist Emily Oster creates data site on schools and Kovid
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of centralized, national data on school education has made it difficult for parents, teachers, policy makers and researchers to make decisions and analyze trends.
On Wednesday, a team from Brown University, led by economist and author Emily Oster, is launching the COVID-19 School Data Hub, a site that includes data from nearly 56,000 schools in 31 states. It is one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to measure the impact on how schools operate during the pandemic, and eventually, the researchers hope, on children and the education system.
The site’s data would show when school buildings were open, closed or operating in hybrid mode. In 11 states, the hub can match the number of students participating in each mode of learning. It also includes the number of coronavirus cases detected in schools in 30 states.
In the coming months, Professor Oster said, his team hopes to add data on student achievement and school enrollment to the site, tracking whether students who left local schools in the past year have returned. He said that in the future, researchers may be able to answer how school closures affect high school graduation rates, crime, obesity and mental health needs.
Professor Oster emerged as a well-known voice in favor of in-person learning early in the pandemic. In addition to her scholarly research on economics and public health, she is the author of a series of popular parenting books.
In a preliminary analysis using the new Data Hub posted Wednesday, Professor Oster demonstrated that third to eighth grade test scores in Virginia declined the most in the past year at primarily online-operated schools, and that That effect was greater in mathematics than in reading.
Those findings fit within a broad, emerging body of research showing that millions of students experienced academic failures during the pandemic, with black and Latino students as well as students from low-income families making the most. Impressed. Those groups had the least access to open classrooms.
The Data Hub will fill a critical information gap. There is no federal database of coronavirus cases discovered inside school buildings or during extra-curricular activities such as sports.
The federal government has conducted a limited survey of when various schools operate in-person or online, and how many students attended in each setting. But the survey focused only on fourth grade and eighth grade in 4,000 schools.
The Hub is funded by several high-profile philanthropists: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan; Emergent Ventures, a program at George Mason University backed by technology venture capitalist Peter Thiel; and Arnold Ventures, hedge fund billionaire John D. Founded by Arnold and his wife Laura.
Although the effort is extensive, some pressing questions can be difficult to answer, Professor Oster said. For example, states are not collecting data on school quarantine policies or virus-related detainees this academic year. And there is no concrete information yet about how individual schools plan to help students recover academically from the pandemic.
“When the kids are far behind, how do you hold them?” Professor Oster asked. “It’s not just a pandemic problem.”
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