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Good morning!

We have a double dose of just-released research to start your day: a new study from NWEA on widening learning gaps even within individual classrooms, and the results of a pilot program in Chicago that found $40 in incentive pay can coax substitute teachers to cover classes in hard-to-staff schools.

Plus, the devastating effects of abrupt college closures, the latest results from EDlection2022 and closing the "honesty gap" on student performance, today at The 74.

Big Picture

'The Bottom Has Dropped Out': Study Confirms Fears of Growing Learning Gaps

Soon after COVID-19 forced schools to close, NWEA researchers made two predictions: Disadvantaged students would lose two or more years of academic progress, and that would widen the range of academic achievement in any given classroom. Now, a new analysis bears this out. It shows that all students lost ground in 2020-21, but in 2021-22, kids at the top surged ahead, while those at the bottom languished. Meaning that classrooms that used to have kids at seven grade levels of achievement are experiencing even wider gaps. Beth Hawkins reports.    


Go Deeper:

Check out the latest episode of the Route K-12 Podcast: Exploring Education Recovery to hear from Linda Jacobson, Senior Writer for The 74.
Linda shares her unique perspective on education recovery and how The 74 approaches stories about student assessments and how federal recovery funds are spent on schools. Look for new episodes on, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube.


New Study: $40 Stipend Draws Substitute Teachers into Hard-to-Staff Schools

Before the pandemic, about one in five requests for a substitute teacher went unfilled, and COVID-19 has only made it harder to cover classrooms in under-resourced schools serving Black, Hispanic and low-income students. But a pilot program in Chicago that paid subs $40 stipends to work in hard-to-staff schools cut the number of unfilled requests approximately in half — and produced a slight but significant positive effect on student achievement in English language arts. Contributors Matthew A. Kraft, Grace Falken and Phyllis W. Jordan have the results of this new research.



  • Louisiana: Lawmakers Encouraged to Serve as Substitute Teachers
  • New Mexico: More Than 70 National Guard Members Step in as Substitute Teachers to Keep Schools Open
  • Texas: Amid Substitute Teacher Shortage, Many Classrooms Are Being Led by Administrators, School Staff and Uncredentialed Stand-Ins


Double the Impact; Double the Reward

Several generous benefactors have put up $18,000 to match donations to The 74 during our year-end campaign.

That means your gift can have double the impact, AND you will be able to feel doubly good about helping the cause of nonprofit, fact-based journalism. Please give by pressing the red button.


Big Picture

Students at Colleges that Close Abruptly Less Likely to Finish Elsewhere

Students whose colleges closed abruptly — some with just a day’s notice — were far less likely to complete their studies elsewhere than those whose schools shuttered in a more orderly fashion, a new study shows. While 40.7% of white students who experienced an abrupt closure finished at other locations, only 25.3% of Black students and 26.4% of Hispanic students did, Jo Napolitano reports. Researchers recommend more stringent state oversight — and that students keep copies of their transcripts and learn about the transfer process. 

Read More:

  • 'Flipping the Script': Low-Income Chicago Students 40% More Likely to Earn Bachelor’s After College Prep Program
  • From the 2020 Archive: College Enrollment for Low-Income High School Grads Plunged by 29% During the Pandemic


How Rethinking Industry-Recognized Credentials Can Help Boost Student Success


More than half of states include student attainment of an industry-recognized credential in their school accountability systems. But, says contributor Amber Northern, there’s more they could do to help these programs live up to their potential — and to shape how students think about career and technical education. A flexible system that offers exploratory courses, followed by a hierarchy of credentials, can help students make more informed choices, whether they want to just dip their toe in the water, learn about a field or pursue a career.


  • Big Picture: Career and Technical Education Yields Not Just Higher Earnings but Higher Test Scores
  • Indianapolis: Students Get ‘Leg Up’ On Careers With European-Style Apprenticeships
  • Academic Career Plans’: Have Students Exploring Careers as Early as Kindergarten


To Improve the Nation's Schools, First Close the Honesty Gap


The disparity among NAEP scores, state exam results and classroom grades is sometimes called the honesty gap — mixed messages parents, policymakers, voters and taxpayers receive about how well schools are educating their students. If families are provided with overly optimistic data, asks contributor Rianna Saslow, how can leaders expect their support when looking to implement robust policies and practices to improve public education? Here, she offers some suggestions for how state, local and district officials can make schools a priority and hold them accountable.


Go Deeper:

  • Disturbing Trends: Nation’s Declining Report Card Mirrors Drops in State Standardized Test Scores
  • Andrew Rotherham: Parents Are Owed the Truth About Learning Loss. NAEP Proves It
  • From the 2017 Archive: 90% of Parents Think Their Kids Are on Track in Math & Reading. The Real Number? Just 1 in 3, Survey Shows

74 Interview 

Homeland Security Chief: Relationships, Not Technology, Central to School Safety


Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas leads an agency best known for surveillance and airport checkpoints. But to him, the key to keeping students safe at school rests with strong relationships. Time and again, shooters display warning signs before opening fire in schools. It takes a vigilant community, he says, to break the cycle. In an exclusive interview with The 74’s Mark Keierleber, Mayorkas fielded questions about campus security, from an uptick in mass school shootings and the botched police response in Uvalde, Texas, to a massive ransomware attack in Los Angeles. 



  • Watch: Homeland Security Chief Alejandro Mayorkas Talks Keeping Schools Safe


Arizona's Next Governor, a Democrat, Will Oversee Huge School Choice Expansion


Democrats cheered Monday night when Democrat Katie Hobbs was declared governor of Arizona after a tight contest against Republican Kari Lake. While much of the race revolved around Lake's denial of the results of the 2020 presidential election — she has not conceded her own loss, either — the campaign will also cast ripples through state education policy: Hobbs must now oversee a huge expansion of school choice passed by Republicans earlier this year. Kevin Mahnken reports.

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