Bonus Post: Announcing The COVID School Data Hub

Bonus post on schools! Don’t worry: I’m back in your inbox tomorrow with our regularly scheduled programing, discussing variants.

Today’s announcement is for those who joined and follow this newsletter for its (now, occasional) focus on schools. The TL;DR is we’re building a COVID-19 School Data Hub to look back at schooling throughout the US over the last year and you can see the announcement landing page here.

The Details

School reopening has been uneven over the US in the last year. In some areas, most schools have been open in traditional full-time in-person mode for most of the year. In other areas, schools remained fully virtual for all students.  Just as opening has been uneven, so has the tracking of these schooling modes. There have been efforts from a number of research and policy groups to collect pieces of this, but systematic data on the schooling experience in the US over the 2020-2021 school year are lacking. 

As the school year is coming to an end, it is becoming clear that this information should be collated, collected, organized. It should not be lost.

Why not? Why can’t we just put this school year behind us? Schools are increasingly announcing plans to reopen in the fall, fully in person. Is there a need to revisit the past?

I argue yes, for at least two reasons.

First, this last year has been a difficult one for schools, teachers, kids and parents. We know there have been disruptions to learning, which we will need to address.  But we do not have a systematic sense of where these are largest, and what solutions might work. A coordinated data approach will make learning the answers to these questions more feasible. 

Second, data like this will allow us to grapple with longer term learnings from the pandemic, and will allow researchers an opportunity to answer broader questions about education, inequality, school entry age, and more. The lessons learned out of these future research projects can inform education policy beyond the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 School Data Hub will start, simply, by working with states to create a comprehensive record of public school openings over the 2020-2021 school year. 

Our goal is to compile data at either the school- or district-level on learning models (traditional five-day-in-person, hybrid, virtual) over the course of the school year.  We will additionally aim to collect information on enrollment counts by learning model.

We’ve already started.  You can check out our temporary landing page here, and see which data we already know are available.  Or just take a look at the map below (Green = More Data!). Rest assured, we’re working to get more data as I write. 

When we launch the full site in August, these data (and, we hope, much more) will be available for download.  We’ll also be working to post public data that can be matched up to the school data  -- information like school demographics and community COVID cases, and possibly also information about things like internet connectivity infrastructure. We’ll also be working with private companies to post information about their data, and to connect them with researchers and policy-makers who might want to access information on learning outcomes, child health or school attendance data.

The COVID-19 School Data Hub will focus, primarily, on the school part, not the COVID part. We’re looking forward to what this can help us learn about education, and how it can facilitate improving schools in the long term. 

You may be wondering why this is a private effort, why it’s not something being done in a more formal way. I do not have a great answer, other than to say we are doing it because others are not. 

This project will be a lift, and it’s already helpfully supported by a number of funders (listed on the landing page) and by many, many advisors.  If you’d like to get involved -- if you think you can help with state data, if you’re a private data holder who would like to be listed, if you just want to help in another way -- reach out to us over email: covid19schooldatahub@gmail.com.