As the education landscape continues to evolve in the United States, data-driven decision-making has emerged as a powerful force in education reform. This makes the National Assessment Governing Board’s work to provide an accurate, independent measurement of student progress — using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — more valuable to the public, educators, and policymakers than ever before. Yet the complex nature of NAEP data, coupled with growing anti-testing sentiment around the country, has created hurdles for the Governing Board.
Through our collaboration over the past six years, Reingold has assisted the Governing Board in paring down assessment data into bite-size pieces, making NAEP — also known as The Nation’s Report Card — more meaningful to a larger, more diverse group of stakeholders.
By developing and implementing targeted outreach strategies and leveraging the expertise and networks of the Governing Board members to engage key audiences — via in-person and online events, attractive data graphics and materials, and robust traditional and social media outreach — we were able to promote NAEP in a way that was more consumable, relevant, and actionable. As a result, our client's messages reached and resonated with far more stakeholders and media, cementing NAEP as "the gold standard" in educational assessment.
What the Governing Board staff lacks in size it makes up for in skill, dedication, and enthusiasm. Our role was to build on the staff's strengths as the trusted source of guidance, policy, and oversight for NAEP by providing ongoing strategy and execution at greater capacity than it could have achieved on their own. Below is the story of how we did it.
Our work with the Governing Board began in 2009, when the board hired us to develop a communications plan to effectively disseminate The Nation’s Report Card in a way that would foster conversations and drive action at home, in the classroom, at the Capitol, and in boardrooms.
We hit the ground running from Day One, researching how the Governing Board had communicated report card results in the past, which approaches had worked, which hadn't, and why. We also monitored both online and print media conversations to determine how the Governing Board and NAEP data were interpreted by and reflected in the media. We then identified thought leaders in the field of educational assessment who could help us increase the understanding and use of the NAEP results.
Our mission: Make the data come to life by connecting with target audiences, engaging with stakeholders between report card releases, and maximizing the impact of the data through innovation.
We worked with the Governing Board to create tailored messages with distinct calls to action that communicated “Why should we care?” and “Now what?” to their four key stakeholders: parents, educators, policymakers, and business leaders.
To keep the Governing Board’s key stakeholders and members of the media abreast of the latest report card results, we hosted 24 live-streamed or in-person release events and webinars. We identified engaging, relevant panelists to explain their views on the importance of the data and how they use it; developed slide presentations, event scripts, and talking points; and coordinated all logistics for the events.
Since the Governing Board’s inception in 1988, the Internet has made print reports nearly extinct, online events are replacing in-person press conferences, media outlets have multiplied, and social media has accelerated the news cycle and dispersed publishing power. The Governing Board was familiar and comfortable with using traditional media to promote NAEP, but had yet to explore ways to improve reporting and disseminating the results given the current media landscape. Reingold helped the Governing Board explore and incorporate new technologies and develop stakeholder partnerships to broaden the reach and impact of NAEP data.
But NAEP events are so much more than reporting data; they're a combination of conscientious scene-setting, thought-provoking testimonials, influential panelists and speakers, and real-life applications that show why the report cards matter.
In 2011, the Governing Board partnered with social science thought leaders for the NAEP Civics Report Card release event at the Library of Congress, where retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave opening remarks on the importance of teaching civic responsibility in elementary and high schools. Representatives from Rock the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to getting young people to vote, also participated — driving home the notion that informed citizens make better citizens.
ENGAGING AUDIENCES BETWEEN REPORT CARD RELEASES
Reingold also planned and executed supplemental events for individual stakeholder groups, such as the regional symposia on 12th-grade academic preparedness for thought leaders in K-12, higher education, and the business community, and the Education Summit for Parent Leaders. The events explored the value of using Report Card results.
For The Nation's Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading, Grade 12, Reingold worked with the Governing Board to plan a live-streamed report card release at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Atendees included journalists, policymakers, teachers, parents, and students from the school. The diverse audience had dynamic conversations about their perspectives on the 12th-grade reading and math scores and their implications.
Reingold took a “show and tell” approach in 2012 while planning The Nation’s Report Card Science in Action: Hands-On and Interactive Computer Tasks From the 2009 Science Assessment release, which highlighted how well students understand and can apply science in real life. Held in a warehouse in Washington, D.C., the event featured the same interactive science games and tools that were used during the actual assessment — and showed how understanding NAEP data can inform school investments and teaching practices. During the event, former Governing Board member and panelist Alan Friedman circled a remote-control helicopter over the audience as he talked about technology in the classroom.
We continue to refine our approach and customize every event to maximize the immediate impact, compel people to attend and tune in, and create a sustained conversation that continues to reach and engage the Governing Board’s key audiences all yearlong.
Data accessibility is also important to the Governing Board, so we helped design a dedicated website called the NAEP Data Backpack for parents and educators. It’s a one-stop shop that features the latest report card findings and user-friendly tools and materials about topics such as technology in assessment, student achievement, education standards, and college preparedness.
The Governing Board is dedicated to keeping NAEP relevant. Recognizing the importance of understanding students' proficiency in key 21st century skills, the Governing Board developed the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) Assessment. This digital assessment measured eighth graders’ knowledge of the “T” and “E” in STEM, a supplement to NAEP’s science and mathematics assessments — mirroring the emergence of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields as a national priority.
To increase the conversation about Governing Board events and inform the national dialogue on education reform, we regularly develop timely, creative content for the Governing Board’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. We sparked interest in briefings, webinars, student achievement data, and trends, and seeded discussion topics and provocative questions on Facebook to directly engage with parents, educators, policymakers, and business leaders nationwide.
Integrating social media into a communications strategy was a somewhat new concept for the Governing Board, but the bigger adjustment came when we revamped their traditional media plan to accommodate the major shift in the way journalists are reporting information.
Through Reingold’s continual media outreach, the Governing Board has identified and engaged more than 4,000 relevant national, local, and industry-trade reporters at more than 150 newspapers and magazines; 75 national and regional broadcast stations; 135 online news services and websites; and more than 80 multicultural print and radio outlets. We have established quality relationships with top-tier journalists, leading to impressive media coverage of the Governing Board.
Reingold’s media relations campaigns for the National Assessment Governing Board and key policy issues have earned over 7,000 media placements, including media placements in broadcast, print and online outlets and national, local and trade news coverage.
Our media approach has increased the Governing Board’s focus on messaging and using thoughtful media monitoring and analysis to identify timely ways to earn news coverage. In addition to ongoing op-ed and feature story pitching, Reingold has promoted a number of data release events by developing media outreach materials such as email pitches, media advisories, news releases and talking points. Reingold also manages the embargo processes to give reporters early access to new data, which allows the National Assessment Governing Board to guide messaging and give spokespeople opportunities to speak with reporters before the data is made public. Relationships with reporters are key — and Reingold has built successful relationships with reporters through email, phone calls, in person meetings, and Twitter to promote the Board's work.
By sharing NAEP data year-round in engaging multimedia formats customized to target audiences and taking part in dynamic on- and off-line events, the Governing Board has been able to more effectively reach its audiences, shape the conversation surrounding assessment, and, ultimately, make data matter.