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From the N.C. Department of Public Instruction

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and North Carolina Collaboratory are leading a joint $6.73 million effort to spur research on the impact of COVID-19 on student learning in the state, with the goal of helping educators and students recover from pandemic-related disruptions and lost instructional time.

Based on priorities identified by NCDPI’s Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration (OLR), the partnership will fund 20 academic research teams across North Carolina to understand the effectiveness of existing state and local programs and policies that were supported through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) legislation.

NCDPI will work closely with all funding recipients throughout their projects. As a result, this unique program will strengthen partnerships between state education leaders and academic researchers on a priority issue that impacts many North Carolinians.

“This joint effort will be instrumental for policymakers as we seek to address the most pressing challenges K-12 students and educators face as a result of the pandemic,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said. “More importantly, this research provides a unique opportunity for the K-12 system to harness the research power of North Carolina’s great institutions of higher education.”

The 20 research teams, many of which will collaborate with key stakeholders such as elementary schools, will receive between $150,000 and $500,000 to conduct the projects listed below. Each project will last approximately two years, with many slated to start as early as next month.

To transform this large volume of research into useable information for policymakers and communities across North Carolina, a group of faculty based at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, led by Drs. Ethan Hutt, Matthew Springer and Thurston Domina in the College of Education, will work closely with the OLR to build a network across all research teams and lead targeted communication and outreach efforts to state, local and institutional leaders.

The Collaboratory, headquartered at UNC-Chapel Hill, was established by the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) in 2016 to facilitate the transformation of academic expertise into practical information for use by state and local governments. The $6 million supporting this partnership is part of a $30 million appropriation made by the NCGA to the Collaboratory in November 2021 for research and other activities that monitor, assess and address the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 across the state.

“Utilizing a large portion of our most recent funding to better quantify learning loss and develop mitigation strategies for our state’s K-12 students is of critical importance to us,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, executive director of the Collaboratory. “The OLR’s guidance on research needs within our educational landscape have helped us build a robust, multi-institution research portfolio to expedite post-pandemic learning recovery for our students and their families.”

Dr. Michael Maher, Deputy Superintendent of Standards, Accountability, & Research for NCDPI, said he’s confident that the joint effort will produce actionable research of value for schools across the state.

“Ultimately, students and teachers will benefit from this wide range of research that aims to strengthen North Carolina’s public schools,” Maher said. “This is a real opportunity to help the state learn from the disruptions of the last two years and empirically identify strategic investments in K12 after ESSER funds expire.”

Projects Funded Focusing on Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Students, Schools
Project Title – Project Summary Principal Investigator, Institution
NCDPI Focus Area Award Amount
Enrollment of Nontraditional Culturally and Linguistically Undergraduates for Diversity and Equity at Historically-Minority Serving institutions in School Mental Health Professions – Developing an empirically based pathway for college juniors from historically minority serving institutions in the UNC System to receive mentorship and preparation for acceptance into a school psychology program. Isaac Woods at NCSU Office of Exceptional Children $119,185
Effective World Language Teaching Strategies: Lessons from a Global Pandemic – Working with 9 school districts and NC Virtual to determine effective practices that emerged from the collaboration between NCDPI and NC Virtual Language educators, with the goal of providing districts and teachers with data on effective online teaching strategies to recover from and mitigate further learning loss. Scott Kissau, Kristin Davin at UNCC Office of Academic Standards; Digital Teaching and Learning $148,492
Assessing the Impact of COVID on the Applications to and Enrollment in UNC System Institutions – Investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on first-time undergraduate enrollment in postsecondary institutions in NC to examine the extent to which college enrollment decisions are associated with individual and familial factors, school experiences, as well as experiences with college admission, and how such associations vary as a function of the timing of COVID-related experiences. Yudan Wang, Maylee Vazquez, Shirlene Coopwood at    NCA&TSU   (Subawards: UNC-Chapel Hill, UNCG, UNCC, WSSU, Guilford College) Advanced Learning & Gifted Education $148,833
Leading Workforce Effectiveness: Inhibiting and Supporting Factors – Identifying the supporting and inhibiting factors influencing teacher retention in the five LEAs with the highest and the lowest teacher attrition in North Carolina (10 total) Laura Lunsford, Terrie Hampton-Jones, Kathleen Castillo-Clark at Campbell University Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation $149,717
The Impact of COVID on North Carolina Students’ Postsecondary Trajectories – Exploring postsecondary experiences of high school students graduating in 2020 and 2021, including enrollment patterns, selection of majors, performance in college classes, and completion of FAFSA for all students in the state. Julie Edmunds, Dora Gicheva at UNCG Advanced Learning & Gifted Education $149,973
The COVID-19 Pandemic and Patterns of Post-Secondary Enrollment in NC – Producing a description of the changes in pathways to college or secondary education for all NC high school students to help the UNC System, NC DPI and other state and local leaders target research-driven policies and resources to students. Daniel Klasik, Matthew Springer, Steven Hemelt, Sarah Fuller at UNC-Chapel Hill Advanced Learning & Gifted Education $227,677
Factors Driving School Choice in North Carolina During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Analyzing statewide changes in characteristics of applicants and families’ motivations for leaving the public school system during the pandemic system via the NC Opportunity Scholarship Program in partnership with NC State Education Assistance Authority. Anna Egalite at NCSU (Subawards: Texas A&M, University of Missouri) Office of Innovation $244,542
Teacher Attrition, Health and Well-Being: Exploring the mismatch between teacher preparation (and teacher expectations) and district realities in the midst of COVID-19 – In partnership with NC Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU), this study will focus on exploring how the pandemic has impacted the educator workforce and determining which interventions – such as Educator Preparedness Programs – are helping districts retain existing teachers and recruit new hires. Lorrie Schmid, Kristen Stephens, T. Scott Holcomb, Jessica Sperling, Jan Riggsbee at Duke University (Subawards: NCICU, Lenoir Rhyne University) Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation, NCDPI $249,450
Mitigating Educator Workforce Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic Through Coaching – Identifying teacher coaching practices that support teacher retention and mitigate negative impacts of the pandemic in partnership with the NC New Teacher Support Program. Anna Cash, Kyle Cox, Jae Hoon Lim at UNCC (Subawards: NCSU) Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation $249,624
Preventing Teacher Burnout: Supporting Teachers to Help Students (And Teachers) Thrive During the Pandemic and Beyond – Informing interventions and supports that can protect educators during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic and help workforce recovery. Focusing particularly on retention of highly qualified educators and effects on teacher working conditions, we will examine the effect of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and support staff (counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses) on the educator workforce. Jane Fruehwirth, Shauna Cooper at UNC-Chapel Hill; Camille Goins at UNC Pembroke (Subawards: Project AWARE evaluator) Integrated Academic and Behavior Systems; Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation $249,838
Strategies and Innovations for Multilingual Learner Success – Exploring strategies and innovations that contribute to multilingual learners’ academic achievement to inform multilingual learner-focused policies across North Carolina. Ye He, UNCG Office of Academic Standards $249,924
Keeping Students Safe in the Digital World: Examining Monitoring Technologies Used by K-12 Schools During the Pandemic – Examining the effectiveness and impact of software applications to monitor student internet activity in NC districts and charter schools, with the goal of protecting young children from related threats. Florence Martin, Callie Edwards, Rebekah Davis at NCSU; Sejal Foxx, Chao Wang at UNCC Digital Teaching and Learning $297,953
Implementation and Impact Evaluation of ESSER III funded supports for educators in North Carolina’s recurring low-performing schools and districts – Providing a deeper understanding of implementation decisions, challenges, and impacts of ESSER III funded supports to recurring low-performing schools and districts, including hiring district and school leadership coaches and providing professional development for teachers. Julie Marks at UNC-Chapel Hill (Subawards: NCCU) Office of District & Regional Support $499,232
EC Collaboratory: Collaborating with School Partners to Identify Evidence-based Practices for Learners with Extensive Support Needs during School Closures – Addressing academic learning needs for students with extensive support needs (significant cognitive disabilities) by studying the effect of a Unique Learning System and the provision of coaching to special educators in Hyde, Jones, Wayne, Duplin, Greene county schools. Melissa Hudson, Sandra Warren, Tosha Owens, Kristen Burnette at ECU Office of Exceptional Children $499,668
A Comprehensive Evaluation of North Carolina’s Supplemental Salary Fund – Examining how PSUs statewide used strategic compensation funds received through SB 105 as part of NC’s response to the pandemic, and determining effects on student outcomes and educator turnover, mobility, and quality. Matthew Springer at UNC-Chapel Hill; Lam Pham at NCSU Finance and Business Services, Federal Programs $499,870
High Dosage Tutoring to Support Pandemic Learning Recovery and School Improvement in Union County – Implementing and evaluating high dosage tutoring to address pandemic learning loss in a year-long math program for 4th graders in Union County. Douglas Lauen, Helen Rose Miesner, Eric Houck at UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Innovation $499,936
Mitigating COVID-19 Impact: Implementing Community School Framework in Rural Schools – Over the two year period, ECU Rural Education Institute (REI) will engage in a research-practice partnership with Elizabeth City Pasquotank Public Schools to closely examine the Community School framework in rural settings, intentionally plan implementation of the framework in selected school(s)and engage in evaluative activities to determine impact of initial implementation on the critical outcomes of student learning, school engagement, and community involvement. Amy Swain, Kristen Cuthrell, Jerry Johnson at ECU Office of Innovation $499,989
Project READS NC (Reading Evaluation Across Diverse Stakeholders in North Carolina) – Understanding the impact of LETRS training on teacher and administrator knowledge of effective literacy instruction and implementation of LETRS instructional practices in North Carolina schools. Paola Pilonieta, Alicia Stewart, Erin Washburn, Michael Putman at UNCC (Subawards: UNC-Chapel Hill) Office of Early Learning $500,000
Fayetteville State University (UNCFSU) Bronco Explosion – Implement and study new enrichment program at Walker Spivey Elementary School to support parents and teachers and foster student academic success while promoting social and emotional learning in partnership with Cumberland County Schools. Tanya Hudson, Chandrika Johnson, Jocelyn Smith-Gray, Jesse Baker at FSU Integrated Academic and Behavior Systems $500,000
Pandemic Priorities: An Analysis of ESSER Budgeting Across North Carolina – This Project will support the Collaboratory’s goal of monitoring, assessing, and addressing the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19, as mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly (“NCGA”) in Section 8.12 of Session Law 2021-180, as amended by Section 2.4 of Session Law 2021-189. Ethan Hutt, Matthew Springer, Thad Domina at UNC-Chapel Hill Finance and Business Services, Federal Programs $754,925
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