Emily Oster, Brown’s economist, is launching a new schools and pandemic data hub.


Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of centralized national data on schooling has made it difficult for parents, educators, policy makers and researchers to make decisions and analyze trends.

On Wednesday, a team from Brown University led by economist and author Emily Oster launched the Covid-19 School Data Hub, a site that includes data from about 56,000 schools in 31 states. It is one of the most comprehensive efforts to date to document how schools operate during the pandemic and ultimately, researchers hope, will measure the impact on children and the education system itself.

Site data will show when school buildings were open, closed, or were operating in hybrid mode. In 11 states, the hub can count the number of students who participated in each learning mode. It also includes the number of coronavirus cases discovered in schools in 30 states.

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Over the next few months, Professor Oster said, his team hopes to add data on student performance and school enrollments to the site, checking whether students who left local schools last year have returned. In the future, researchers may be able to determine if and how school closures have affected high school graduation rates, crime, obesity and mental health needs, has t she noted.

Professor Oster emerged early in the pandemic as a well-known voice for in-person learning. In addition to her academic research on economics and public health, she is the author of a series of popular books on parents.

In an initial analysis using the new data center, released Wednesday, Professor Oster showed that grades three to eight test scores in Virginia fell the most in schools that operated primarily online last year, and that the impact was greater in mathematics than in reading. .

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These findings are part of a larger emerging body of research showing that millions of students have experienced academic setbacks during the pandemic, with black and Latino students, as well as students from low-income families, being hit hardest. . These groups also had the least access to open classes.

The data center will fill an important information gap. There is no federal database of coronavirus cases discovered inside school buildings or during extracurricular activities such as sports.

The federal government conducted a limited survey of when various schools were operating in person or online and how many students participated in each setting. But the survey focuses only on the fourth and eighth grades in 4,000 schools.

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The hub is funded by several leading philanthropic organizations: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan; Emergent Ventures, a George Mason University program backed by tech venture capitalist Peter Thiel; and Arnold Ventures, founded by hedge fund billionaire John D. Arnold and his wife Laura.

While the effort is vast, some pressing questions can be difficult to answer, Professor Oster said. States are not collecting data on school quarantine policies or closures related to the virus this school year, for example. And there isn’t much concrete information yet on how individual schools plan to help students recover from the pandemic academically.

“When the children are far behind, how do you get them to catch up? Asked Professor Oster. “It’s not just a pandemic problem.”


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