Research on Education Strategies to
Advance Recovery and Turnaround

Looking beyond “Back to Normal” in education recovery

Susan Therriault
5 min read
Elementary School Girl Raising her hand

Figuring out how to use our time to support recovery efforts is challenging. We want to invest in evidence-based strategies, but we do not yet have enough information to make these decisions.  

Lately, it seems like schools are trying to move back to how they used to operate, or as some say, “back to normal.” I have been grappling with the question of whether this is actually possible, or desirable. Recent NAEP results show that the trends for 13-year-olds in mathematics and reading declined compared to pre-pandemic results. Interestingly, while this is a steeper decline since the onset of the pandemic, it follows on the heels of a trending decline even before the pandemic. Additionally,  a recent report and subsequent New York Times op-ed clearly cautions that the kids are not ok. In the op-ed, Dr. Reardon and Dr. Tom Kane mentioned that while parents may feel like students have recovered academically, academic measures tell a different story. They also suggest the implications for unfinished learning are likely going to be following us, our children, our schools, and our policies for some time.  

Policymakers, leaders and educators in the nation’s schools, districts and states feel a sense of urgency prompted by these studies and are actively seeking and implementing strategies that support students. And these policymakers, leaders and practitioners need evidence-based strategies and clear information about how to implement the strategies, to address unfinished learning. Which brings me back to the question of what we have learned from the massive investment in education and pandemic recovery, what we want to take with us from before the pandemic, and what we want to leave behind. One thing is clear. We have the opportunity to understand the needs of students and look directly at the inequity that predated the pandemic and that grew because of the pandemic.  

The RESTART Network, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, seeks to address the need for evidence-based strategies to support recovery. The RESTART Network is focusing on gathering, synthesizing, and translating education research into practice so that leaders and practitioners in states, districts, and schools can readily access evidence-based strategies to meet the needs of students.

At the RESTART Network, we are: 
  • Focusing on collaboration between policymakers, leaders, educators, and researchers. The Network connects policymakers, leaders, and educators with researchers to ensure studies are examining strategies that address the prevalent needs of students.  

  • Sharing and amplifying evidence-based strategies that respond to the needs of the field. The Network is exploring existing and emerging research to identify evidence-based strategies and interventions that align evidence syntheses with the needs of the field. By providing actionable guidance and recommendations that can be easily implemented across different schools and customized based on need, we can support educators and school leaders in their efforts to engage students and accelerate learning.  

  • Building a coherent and coordinated research community focused on pandemic recovery research improves the ability of practitioners and policymakers to connect and use research findings. Connecting and building consensus among researchers focusing on measurement strategies and solutions creates consistency in measurement of in the pandemic context and makes it easier for end-users to understand findings. Further, purposefully engaging policymakers and practitioners from the start empowers research teams to build studies that align with urgent needs in the field. 

  • Engaging and building the capacity of emerging and new voices in the research community, to improve diversity and equity in the design, implementation, analysis, and reporting of research findings. We aim to accomplish this through direct engagement and preparation of early career researchers through trainings and networking opportunities. 

The RESTART Network aims to improve connection and engagement among policymakers. We know the need is now. We know that high-quality studies take time. The Network’s core research teams’ studies are underway, and some have early findings (Metro Atlanta, North Carolina). The teams are partnered with policymakers and leaders in Illinois, Georgia, California, and North Carolina and they are focusing on high-interest, relevant strategies including social-emotional learning, expanded learning time, high-dosage tutoring, literacy, and other recovery strategies. 

The RESTART Network needs your help. If you are interested in engaging in the Network activities, here are some opportunities. 
  • Sign up for our newsletter and to receive notifications about events.

  • Share your research for inclusion in the syntheses and resources. 

  • Participate and contribute to Network events. 

  • Engage in our community through participation in our national forums where policymakers, leaders, educators and researchers come together for meaningful dialogue. 

  • Encourage early career researchers to participate in the Network’s trainings (sign up for our newsletter to be notified of opportunities). 

We look forward to amplifying these strategies and findings and continuing to share evidence-based strategies with the field through rapid, clear and concise dissemination of evidence. 

Thank you for supporting the RESTART Network!