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REACH to study how coronavirus has impacted schools nationwide

We are excited to announce an ambitious and fast-moving project that aims to study how schools nationwide, including traditional public, charter, and private schools, are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using a combination of human analysis and artificial intelligence (AI), REACH will collect data from approximately 150,000 school websites across the country to see how they have responded to the coronavirus pandemic. This analysis is funded by a $100,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

The goal of this research is to quickly answer questions that are critical to understand how students are learning when school buildings are closed. For example, how many schools are offering remote learning online? Of those, how many offer laptops or WiFi hotspots to families who lack those resources? How are schools reaching out to students with disabilities?

These data will also help answer important questions about equity in the school system, showing how responses differ according to characteristics like spending levels, student demographics, internet access, and school type (i.e. private, charter, or traditional public school).

REACH will work in cooperation with Tulane University’s Department of Computer Science to create a program that will collect data from every school and district website in the country. Due to the large volume and variety of data across the thousands of sites, the data will be analyzed using techniques from AI and machine learning.

In addition, REACH is hiring over a dozen Tulane students to manually collect data from a random sample of around 3,600 school websites, in order to inform the AI work with a more in-depth, human analysis.

Because of the urgency of the project, our aim is to release an initial summary of the results in early summer, in time to inform actions for the coming school year.

Once the initial analysis is complete, the data will be released to the public so that researchers, policymakers, and journalists can study the different approaches that schools are taking and see which are more effective in helping students.

The research project is fully funded by IES. It is an extension of a $10 million grant awarded to REACH in 2018 for research on school choice nationally.

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