2021 Most Actionable Research Eddies! Nominees & Winner

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated and voted awards—feature outstanding policy and advocacy wins from the past year.

Nominations tell the story of how advocates improved policy and advanced opportunity, equity, and excellence for students, one community and campaign at a time.

This Eddies! category spotlights resources or tools that shed new light on pressing and widespread problems or solutions and that state and local advocates across the Network leveraged to make a compelling case for policy change and achieve breakthroughs.

See a complete list of 2021 nominees in all Eddies! categories.

2021 Winner

Most Actionable Research Finalists

Most Actionable Research Honorable Mentions


Center on Reinventing Public Education

Featuring work from PIE Network members and partners: CAP, CSS, DQC, EdChoice, Edunomics, ExcelinEd, FutureEd, NCLD, NCTQ, NPU, Center for Learner Equity, EdTrust, TNTP, Fordham, and more

The Evidence Project

The week after the pandemic began to close schools across the country, CRPE launched a rapid response database to track how districts were responding, and by March 10, 2020, they were sharing insights from the field. By May 2020, CRPE launched the Evidence Project, a multidisciplinary collaboration of over 150 academic researchers committed to advancing solutions-oriented analyses of the K-12 response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “CRPE’s pivot to pandemic-related research was immediate in early 2020 and they were the first to get out there with tracking what districts and states were doing,” one PIE Network member explained. “I’m not sure anyone else has been as thorough or thoughtful with similar research and tracking – they’ve been the go-to throughout the past year.”

Through the rapid response database (18,500+ unique views) and Evidence Project website (14,000+ unique views), CRPE provided access to real-world data about school districts’ responses to the pandemic. Amidst great uncertainty, advocates had real-world numbers and examples to share with policymakers and could effectively push back when the status quo argued they couldn’t offer students more. As a network advocate noted, “Their reporting on COVID responses of the nation’s largest school districts, with thoughtful and provocative commentary has been critical to our COVID understanding and responses.”

Because the federal government was not tracking the education system responses by districts, CRPE filled a critical void. CRPE’s rapid response database inspired the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education to create the School District Continuity of Learning Plan Comparison Tool, and the Evidence Project website featured work by PIE Network partners CAP, CSS, DQC, EdChoice, Edunomics, ExcelinEd, FutureEd, NCLD, NCTQ, NPU, Center for Learner Equity, EdTrust, TNTP, Fordham, and more. Another PIE Network leader summed it up, “I really don’t even know how to highlight the tremendous impact of CRPE’s work over the last 19 months. I imagine every organization across the network has used some of their reporting at least once in the last 19 months.”

Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University


Edunomics Lab launched and continues to build out NERD$: National Education Resource Database on Schools, the first-ever national set of school-by-school spending data. Our efforts will ensure year-over-year data required by ESSA are captured for research and comparisons. Being the nerds that we are, we are excited by the potential for these data to transform our understanding of education finance.

NERD$ is a publicly accessible dataset that will revolutionize education policy, evaluation, and advocacy. Edunomics Lab researchers developed this school-by-school spending database to make new per-pupil financial data more readily usable for research, policy, and practice. 

NERD$ was designed for leaders at all levels of the education system looking to track and influence the spending of our country’s annual $700B in public education spending (and now the significant federal relief dollars) and its impacts on students. This timely tool helps illuminate how resources are allocated across schools and can inform policy and practice decisions to address fundamental challenges related to equity, innovation, productivity, and school leadership.

The Edunomics Lab team aggregates the annual data from state report cards and ensures the data are comparable within and across states. The data can be easily matched with other national-scale datasets, including those with student demographics and outcomes, making it possible to explore what kinds of spending work best with different student populations and in different schooling contexts. NERD$ enables analyses of resource equity within a district, what kinds of state finance formulas yield the most equitable spending, and which interventions have the most power to impact the future of schooling nationwide. Edunomics Lab is affiliated with the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.


with Tennessee SCORE, Colorado Succeeds and New America, which were members of ExcelinEd’s advisory council for developing the Pathways Matter framework. MyFutureNC and Ohio Excels joined in the review of their respective state’s case studies.    

Pathways Matter

ExcelinEd conducted new research and published a new report, “Pathways Matters,” for parents, policy makers and educators. The research surveyed parents and older students to elevate gaps and challenges families face when identifying high-quality schooling-to-post secondary and career pathways. Pathways Matter also serves as a policy framework and tool for policymakers to understand the full ecosystem of K-12, postsecondary and workforce strategies, policies, programs, supports and data in order to prioritize actionable improvements for their state.    ExcelinEd conducted case studies for 10 states, mapping Pathways Matter’s 20 policies to provide a landscape analysis of strengths and opportunities in Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, with analysis currently underway in Rhode Island, West Virginia and Oklahoma.     Policymakers and advocacy organizations are putting the Pathways Matter framework to effective use. The Foundation for Florida’s future leveraged it when advocating for Florida’s workforce legislation package. Rhode Island, Oklahoma and West Virginia participated in cross-sector meetings to identify priorities and have used the material to inform implementation efforts and action in next year’s legislative session.  The work also engaged Tennessee SCORE, Colorado Succeeds and New America, which were members of ExcelinEd’s advisory council for developing the Pathways Matter framework. MyFutureNC and Ohio Excels joined in the review of their respective state’s case studies.   

National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

Transparency of Institutional Teacher Licensure Test Pass Rates 

A successful effort in obtaining the institutional pass rates on teacher licensing tests, dislodging data that no one had previously been able to obtain, including the U.S. Congress. For the first time, objective data examining the performance of higher education institutions and other teacher prep providers on elementary content teacher licensure tests is publicly available, providing an essential tool for improving the diversity and quality of the nation’s teacher workforce. With the cooperation of state education agencies, NCTQ published this long-sought-after data (including rarely-seen first-attempt pass rates) for 39 states. 

Preparation program leaders, policymakers, advocates, and aspiring teachers can see which institutions support test-takers to be successful on licensure tests. It offers unassailable evidence that weak K-12 education need not serve as an obstacle to becoming a teacher, provided strong teacher preparation is available. Most importantly, it proves that at many institutions, people of color outperform the state’s average pass rate, showing that racial disparities in pass rates can be closed. The remarkable variation among institutions shifts the onus of responsibility from candidate to institution. NCTQ worked to overcome stakeholders’ resistance to publishing this data by engaging them, sharing research, and illustrating the incredible utility of this comparative and objective data. This work offers a model for states considering publishing their own data and will ultimately result in better-prepared teachers for all students.

National Parents Union

National Parents Union Leads Only National Parent Poll Designed by Parents 

In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic first hit and public schools across the country closed, the National Parents Union began polling parents to ensure that their concerns and ideas were part of the policy discussions about their children’s education. In the spring of 2020, we surveyed 500 K12 public school parents in a weekly tracking poll from April thru June. In September 2020, we expanded our polling efforts to a monthly national poll of 1,000 K12 public school parents which now has been conducted 20 times. The NPU poll project is the only national poll of its kind, developed by parents to capture parent opinions and infuse them into public policy conversations and decision-making regarding public education and related matters affecting America’s families. It has been cited by the national news media more than 350 times and continues to play a powerful role in directing the national conversation around COVID-19 recovery efforts in the education space and beyond. 



with Edunomics & Collaborative for Student Success

Per Pupil Expenditure Data Explorer

In 2020, BEST NC worked with the Collaborative for Student Success to create a high-quality per pupil expenditure interactive data explorer to help education stakeholders better understand and utilize the newly released school-level per pupil expenditure data.

BEST NC communicated about this tool via a press release, social media, and in our Catalyst newsletter which is sent to business leaders across the state. In addition, key findings from the data set were highlighted in the 2020 and 2021 editions of BEST NC’s annual Facts & Figures guide which have been distributed to hundreds of policymakers and stakeholders across NC.

BEST NC also hosted two webinars in partnership with the Edunomics Lab to help school leaders, parents, and other stakeholders learn how to better leverage the data while challenging the commonly accepted narratives around education funding. The first webinar was co-hosted by the NC Principal Fellows Program (>40 principals attended) and the second webinar was co-hosted by the NC PTA (>100 parents attended). Both webinars were recorded and distributed widely. The tool will also be highlighted this month by the Education Trust as an example of how advocates can elevate this new data when the state agency fails to do so.

Data Quality Campaign

Consumer Guide to Data

Data reflects a series of decisions made by people—and those decisions affect the story that data tells, what it captures, and how it can and should be used to inform decision making. As advocates, we want data to be used for accountability and transparency, to tell stories, and to inform impactful, equitable policies. But without context, clarity, and transparency, the stories data could tell about school, student, and teacher experiences can be lost to misinformation and distrust. DQC’s Consumer’s Guide to Data breaks down what it means to build trust in data for both those who share it and those who consume it—providing tips to make meaning from the numbers that you see so you can demand clarity, uncover biases, understand how to foster trust in data, and take action armed with full information. The Consumer’s Guide to Data is valuable for advocates who are looking to support good decision making and storytelling at every level, as well as advocates who want to practice and promote clear, inclusive communications that inspire action.


Closing the Rigorous Coursework Gap: Supporting College & Career Readiness for Minnesota’s Students of Color

While graduation rates in Minnesota continue to rise, other measures of student outcomes have long been stagnant. This year, EdAllies pushed Minnesota to get serious about strategies that can help students get ready for college and career. In November 2020, they released a report on access to  rigorous coursework for students of color and Indgenous students, with a series of actionable recommendations that gained quick traction with policymakers and district leaders.

The report does a deep dive on data, showing that gaps in rigorous outcomes start early with gifted and talented programming and grow as students move through the K-12 system, into rigorous math, AP, and dual enrollment. It also reviews best practices from around the country, weaving with insights from dozens of local stakeholders, to conclude with 12 policy recommendations.

EdAllies shared the report with the Commissioner of Education, legislators, local administrators, educators, and parents, and within months, had built momentum for automatic enrollment policies and better college and career readiness measures in Minnesota’s state accountability system. EdAllies hopes to make these a reality in the coming year, but in the meantime, influenced the Commissioner of Education to allocate $4 million from ARP to expand access to rigorous coursework.


Public Opinion Tracker

EdChoice, in partnership with Morning Consult, launched a monthly public opinion tracker on K-12 schooling issues in January 2020. In addition to the monthly survey, which includes the general public, parents and, in recent months, a Black parent oversample, EdChoice also conducts quarterly surveys to find out more about how educators feel about K-12 education.

These results are valuable from a national perspective, but EdChoice also breaks down results on a state-by-state basis, which provides for free a service that typically costs state partners thousands of dollars. These data have been used in legislative testimony, trainings and the media both at the state level and nationally.

GO Public Schools

with GO Public Schools West Contra Costa, GO Public Schools Oakland, GO Public Schools Fresno 

A Parent’s Guide to Financial Aid

A Parent’s Guide to Financial Aid is a comprehensive tool that walks families through the financial aid application process from start to finish: defining terms, clarifying questions, and offering tips for varying family structures, citizenship status, and financial situations. It is also one of the first tools to provide in-depth support for completing the California Dream Act application, and is fully available in both English and Spanish. GO published this guide in West Contra Costa, Oakland, and Fresno, and contextualized the report’s examples and case studies to reflect the landscape and costs of the varying regions and to increase relatability for families. Additionally, the California Student Aid Commission saw this tool as an opportunity to engage more families throughout California and provided GO with language and links to include in the resource section of the report.

The template for this guide can easily be replicated by other organizations and contextualized to help their respective local families complete financial aid applications — especially after the dramatic decrease in application completion rates we saw last year.  

GO Public Schools Fresno

A Special Report on English Learners

GO Fresno’s special report on English Learners aims to be transparent about some of the challenges English Learners experience in Fresno’s public schools and highlight where there is success, while also calling attention to the need for parents and educators to work together toward achieving reclassification goals. The report was built to be both accessible and actionable: it offers definitions for commonly-used terms and phrases, provides information and resources parents can use to learn more about supporting English Learners, includes a universal tool to help parents and caregivers struggling to have the right conversations with teachers about the status and progression of their English Learners, and is fully available in three languages (English, Spanish, and Hmong).

Mississippi First

Nothing in the Pipes: Educator Crisis in Mississippi 

Nothing in the Pipes: Educator Crisis in Mississippi examines the state of Mississippi’s educator pipeline, specifically how the number and diversity of candidates completing educator preparation programs has changed. Mississippi First provides evidence showing how the rising cost of college attendance and the declining value of teacher salaries may be squeezing aspiring new teachers out of the profession. Lastly, they include recommendations for policymakers to address these interrelated financial barriers and reverse the alarming downturn in new teachers. There recommendations include:

  1. Raise teachers’ standards of living and the overall prestige of the teaching profession in Mississippi by providing for an across-the-board raise in teacher salaries of at least $3,000. 
  2. Incentivize current and aspiring teachers to teach where they are most needed by establishing a $3,000 stipend for all teachers in critical shortage areas. 
  3. Attract undergraduates into the educator pipeline by establishing an undergraduate grant program for juniors and seniors in educator preparation programs. Incentivize these individuals to teach in critical shortage areas by offering loan repayment assistance. 

In 2021, with their new research in hand, Mississippi First successfully worked with the legislature to pass a teacher pay raise bill, the Mississippi Critical Teacher Shortage Act extension, and a license reciprocity bill. They still have work to do this upcoming session to hit all the recommendations outlined in the report, but 2021 was a good start.

Teach Plus New Mexico

Transparency and Trends: Teach Plus Teacher Leaders on Creating Opportunities for Students and Teachers of Color

The New Mexico Public Education Department included teacher demographic data in a new statewide online data system, NMVistas, to better compare and understand gaps and disparities in racial and ethnic diversity among educators in the state following the release of a Teach Plus report, “Transparency and Trends: Teach Plus Teacher Leaders on Creating Opportunities for Students and Teachers of Color.” This will serve as a data point and a first step in supporting a diverse teaching population. The report included updated findings, district spotlights, and quotes from a variety of educational leaders.     

Teach Plus New Mexico

Preparing for Back to School During COVID-19

The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) took immediate action to provide clearer communication to support teachers entering their classrooms to obtain needed supplies and resources in a manner that followed the Governor’s orders as a response to teacher voice.  Teach Plus connected over 100 teacher leaders with NMPED leadership in a virtual session to help inform the state’s response to the pandemic. Teacher leaders also reached out to thousands of teachers across the state to learn more about teacher perspectives and identify necessary improvements in distance learning. They published their findings in a memo for state leaders, Teacher and Student Engagement During COVID-19: Recommendations from Teach Plus.    In the fall, our teachers partnered directly with NMPED for another statewide survey on school re-entry. The data and recommendations from over 3,000 NM teachers were published in their report, Preparing for Back to School During COVID-19, and were used as part of a Legislative Education Study Committee report, which was presented to state legislators that serve on the state education committee. Teachers led virtual training sessions for their peers on the top priorities identified by the survey, including training on online platforms, and engaging students in a virtual setting. This work gathered voice from thousands of teachers across the state to impact immediate change in state guidance and was used as part of state level reports for legislators as COVID in the educational setting was being evaluated. 

Tennessee SCORE

Going Higher & Higher Ed By the Numbers

Supporting college completion: SCORE advanced policies for improving college persistence and completion with a pair of research reports: Going Higher, which laid out how to build on existing groundbreaking policy, and Higher Ed By The Numbers, the first report to present postsecondary success metrics for each public institution disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and eligibility for the Pell Grant. Together, these reports are sharpening the focus and changing policies in Tennessee. To prepare Going Higher, SCORE conducted an in-depth review of legislative discussions to zero in on the policymaking intent behind existing laws and pinpoint where the intent had not yet been realized. Going Higher offers strategies to close completion gaps; align K-12, higher education, and workforce opportunities; and support students to overcome completion hurdles. The two reports helped produce policy wins for students this year in data transparency and usage, college and career readiness efforts, expansion of college completion grants, and higher education funding.

The Education Trust

Inequities in Access to Advanced Coursework 

In January 2020, the Education Trust released Inequities in Access to Advanced Coursework (https://edtrust.org/resource/inequities-in-advanced-coursework/), which showed that while Black and Latino students are often successful in advanced courses when given the opportunities, they are not fairly represented in those courses. To allow advocates and state leaders to explore how well their state’s schools are serving Black and Latino students in advanced courses, we created a state-by-state data tool (https://edtrust.org/resource/advanced-coursework-tool/). We also offered actionable solutions for state, district, and school leaders.    Due in part to this analysis and our ongoing technical assistance, Senators Booker and Castro introduced the Advanced Coursework in Equity Act, a bill aimed at increasing enrollment of underrepresented students in advanced courses. We also leveraged our report to provide technical assistance to state partners who championed the adoption of policies to increase access to advanced coursework in Maryland, Tennessee, Illinois, and Connecticut. Our report has inspired other national organizations to continue to tackle this important issue. For example, the Center for American Progress credited our work as providing the background context for their recent publication (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2021/06/30/500759/closing-advanced-coursework-equity-gaps-students/). Our report is cited in several books and research handbooks, reports and white papers (e.g., https://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_College-Career-Readiness_JCC_Final.pdf and https://edworkingpapers.org/sites/default/files/ai21-403.pdf), and peer-reviewed journal articles.   

The Education Trust

Strategies to Solve Unfinished Learning

With MDRC, The Education Trust released three research briefs (https://edtrust.org/strategies-to-solve-unfinished-learning/)  to change the narrative and affect important policy changes around unfinished learning. The briefs are intended to help districts and schools identify and implement evidence-based strategies to get students to grade level.     The briefs guide our conversations with various stakeholders to help them identify and advocate for evidence-based solutions to address unfinished learning. This included partnering with FutureEd and ERN to publish state guidance for high-impact tutoring, and presentations and conversations about unfinished learning with state and local partners, including ALLin Education (AZ), the Colorado Education Initiative, and many others.     National organizations, including FutureEd and the Fordham Institute, have referenced the briefs in their recent publications. Our work has also been immensely helpful to our Ed Trust colleagues on the ground in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Texas, and other state and local organizations, including JerseyCAN, use our work in their advocacy.     Advocates and policymakers have made clear the briefs have been a helpful way to identify research-based strategies and to engage in critical conversations about the strategies for supporting underserved students. Our briefs on addressing unfinished learning are cited in state guidance, including in California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Montana, Maine, Georgia, and Michigan.  

Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Robbers or Victims: Charter Schools and District Finances

Opponents of charters contend that they drain district coffers, while proponents argue that it is charters that are denied essential funding. Yet too often, the claims made by both sides of this debate have been based on assumptions rather than hard evidence. This past spring, we at Fordham released a first-of-its-kind study (using data from 21 states over a period of 17 years) that provided evidence debunking this pervasive but false anti-charter criticism that charters financially harm traditional school districts. The report, Robbers or Victims: Charter Schools and District Finances, found that in most states, an increase in the percentage of students attending charter schools was actually associated with a significant increase in their host districts’ total revenue per pupil and total spending per pupil. The study was used in several states to counter anti-charter legislation and sentiment, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Missouri, and Michigan.  

See a complete list of 2021 nominees in all Eddies! categories.

PIE Network

PIE Network

The PIE Network connects, strengthens, and catalyzes the work of education advocates across communities, states, and ideological lines to transform education so that every student, in every community can achieve a future with no limits.