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Home / Blog / CRUNCHED: Part I: The Need for Data During Remote Learning

CRUNCHED: Part I: The Need for Data During Remote Learning

CRUNCHED!, OUSD      October, 2020     

It’s October already! There are many things that are challenging right now, but as a data nerd, I will confess that one thing that is throwing me off is not having usual SBAC results to crunch and share with y’all. (Though I have been working on a citywide synchronous/asynchronous instruction time analysis that I’ll hopefully share out via Crunched in upcoming weeks.) I’ve been thinking a lot about how COVID-19 has impacted our existing K-12 data systems. All schools in Oakland are still in 100% remote learning mode. The state is using public health data to decide when schools can reopen, but how are schools getting data to decide what to do for students?

Why this matters:

  • Teachers need new, real-time sources of information: In traditional in-person classrooms, teachers get a lot of observational feedback: who keeps making a certain common error, who is disengaged, who is crushing it. With remote learning, teachers have less time and the constraints of Zoom opportunities to monitor their students’ progress and socioemotional well-being directly. Technology challenges and disengagement from many students result in even less data about some of our most vulnerable students
  • Families need to be kept in the loop: With student learning physically shifted into homes, families and schools must work together closely to ensure smooth at-home remote learning. OUSD and GO’s joint #SchoolAfterCOVID survey last spring shows that though families value highly frequent communications from their school, families of color were less likely to receive daily communication. And only 44% of families received communications on their child’s academic progress. Now more than ever, families are critical and necessary partners, and schools need to share important info with them in a timely, efficient manner. Parents want to know about their students’ participation rates, progress towards academic mastery, and areas/ways they can support their children.

Figure 1. Graph from OUSD/GO’s #SchoolAfterCOVID survey showing daily communication families received, disaggregated by ethnicity. (​#SchoolAfterCOVID Survey Results)

  • The community needs to know how to help: We have a lot of community organizations here in Oakland that want to support our students. TechExchange is getting families devices and hotspots as part of the #OaklandUndivided campaign. The Oakland REACH, Girls Inc, and other community groups are delivering supplemental learning programs remotely. The City of Oakland’s Parks and Recreation is launching in-person learning hubs. All this great work can’t happen in a vacuum. Community organizations need input from OUSD and school leaders to help identify solutions for the challenges facing students, so they are poised to lend their support.
  • Everyone needs to see (and try to fix) the inequities: We know that there is a myriad of inequities in our education system – and it’s no secret that these inequities are based on race. From LAUSD’s report, we saw last spring that Hispanic and Black students were less engaged overall than other racial groups (the majority have low/moderate participation) — which is a huge difference in distribution of disengagement compared to other racial groups. For people who want to close those opportunity gaps (like me), we need data to shine a light on these issues. By doing so, we can ensure that the resources and support our schools and community organizations can provide are going to serve our most vulnerable students.

Figure 2. Table from LAUSD’s student engagement report showing weekly participation rate breakdowns across different races. (LAUSD Student Engagement Online During School Facilities Closures)

Since many of our traditional measures are no longer available to us, we need new forms of disaggregated data. For example, say a school does wellness calls to all students and tracked the amount of time spent on each student. They can then disaggregate this data to see if the most vulnerable students are getting more or less time than their peers and adjust their programs accordingly. In fact, we could do this for everything, from academic reading interventions to number of 1:1 interactions.

With the current lack of publicly available data, I’m struggling to get a data pulse-check on how students are doing citywide, and I’m sure others in the Oakland community (think of the busy parent!) are left searching and wondering, too. As our schools work to innovate and redesign their systems for a school year with remote and (maybe) hybrid learning, I hope we build in and/or tweak existing data systems to better serve students, educators, parents, and the community. In my next blog, I’ll offer some more specific ideas on how we can get there.


My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s data analyst (aka resident data nerd and cruncher). As a former OUSD student, I care a lot about Oakland public schools. This blog series, “Crunched!”, takes a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools, sharing out easily digestible data takeaways. Please email me with ideas, requests, or feedback.


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