In response to the pandemic, UT College of Education Dean Charles Martinez and Texas 2036 CEO Margaret Spellings convened a half-day summit in March 2021. The summit brought together researchers and education stakeholders from across Texas to discuss resources needed to ensure Texas students recover and thrive in a post-COVID world. This group developed recommendations and urged that Texas’ federal recovery dollars be used to support those recommendations. The group recognized that the development of a statewide research-practice-policy partnership is needed to support and sustain efforts to identify and address the gaps that exist and to research and scale best practices.
Teachers and administrators across Texas employ effective practices within their individual schools and districts, yet in the current system, it is rare that great learning and practices move from school to school, let alone classroom to classroom. The quality of any child’s educational experience should never be defined by their zip code or a poorly equipped teacher. Excellent teaching and leadership practices can be found across the state, and the challenge is to locate, study, elevate, and scale.
Researchers and educational organizations have produced evidence-based interventions and insights that can help PreK-12 students and teachers thrive. Too often researchers and practitioners are siloed and have few chances to build relationships that can lead to improved educational outcomes for PreK-12 students. Students, families, and communities are too often left out of the research-practice process. All stakeholders have valuable and important perspectives to offer.
A Texas Education Research-Practice-Policy Partnership (RP3) would focus on statewide educational needs, innovations, and equity. This partnership would identify, adapt, and develop responsive curricula, tools, and resources. Partners will collaborate to understand educational problems within the community and generate a learning agenda with actionable items. This partnership would provide a continuous cycle of both best practices and evaluation of practices that can be scaled across schools and communities in Texas.
We have a responsibility and an opportunity in these moments to really meet the challenges of the day. That is what we do as stewards of public resources and as advocates for our public schools.Texas 2036 CEO Margaret Spellings
Existing research-practice partnerships, such as Michigan’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC), were able to quickly respond to the pandemic and investigate what was happening in classrooms. Their districts shared information about the different types of instruction they provided (face-to-face, remote/virtual, hybrid) and how different groups of students are being served by grade or setting. Statewide analysis of teaching and learning during the pandemic continues to be extremely informative for Michigan schools.
Establishing the Texas Education RP3 will generate meaningful research that teachers, principals, and other education stakeholders can easily access, understand, and use in response to ongoing and future equity crises. This research will inform and guide equity, policy, equip teachers and school leaders with interventions, and generate groundbreaking research to advance the field.
A successful local example is the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC). HERC research showed that full-day Pre-K doubles the likelihood of school readiness in kindergarten and in May 2019, the Texas Legislature approved House Bill 3, funding full-day PreK across the state.
The Path Forward
The future economic and social well-being of our state depends on today’s students. Our students' recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires strategic solutions and relentless focus. Investment in this approach enables the adaptation and rapid scaling of evidence-based solutions to problems of practice. This is an opportunity for Texas to develop, test, replicate, and model innovative solutions that address family, community, and industry needs to ensure Texas students thrive.