AIR 2020 Year in Review: Using Evidence and Practice in Response to COVID-19

Graphic showing 2020

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has changed almost every aspect of life and work this year. The pandemic has affected how we live, work, and thrive—and reminded us of the vast inequities that persist in our culture. Research and evidence can be a path forward through these uncertain times and help us improve the lives of individuals, communities, and society.

Here are some highlights of how AIR contributed and used evidence to inform practice during this unprecedented year, from our education, health, international, and workforce projects, with a renewed focus on supporting our stakeholders and working toward equity for all.


National Survey of Public Education’s Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic forced education leaders to make major decisions about student learning in very short timeframes, and while they faced similar challenges, they applied different approaches. In late spring and summer of 2020, AIR conducted a national survey of public education’s response to COVID-19. The result is hundreds of responses from superintendents and other school leaders describing their strategies around school closures; distance learning; supporting English learners and students with disabilities; staffing and human resources; and more.
Infographic: National Survey of Public Education's Response to COVID-19

Lessons Learned: What Research Shows About Students’ Experiences with Online Learning

For many, 2020 was the year that online learning took off. However, AIR has been studying it for over a decade. Drawing on this wealth of research, our experts provide insights on how students experience online learning and the implications for education leaders and policymakers.

Image of graphic showing importance of retaining qualified teachers during the COVID pandemicWhy Retaining Deeply Experienced Teachers Is Critical During a Global Pandemic

Teacher turnover is not a new problem, but the uncertainties and stresses from COVID-19 have exacerbated this nationwide issue. AIR experts identify the specific concerns that drive teacher exodus and provide suggestions for stakeholders to promote retention.

Building Positive Conditions for Learning at Home: Strategies and Resources for Families and Caregivers

Educators are not the only ones bearing the strain of the pandemic. As students adjusted to remote learning, caregivers found their homes transformed into temporary schools, even as many of them, too, started working from home. AIR experts offer a series of strategies and resources for building a safe, supportive, and engaging learning space at home.

Changing the Trajectories of Children in Foster Care: The Safe Babies Court Team Evaluation

Children in foster care in the U.S. are at greater risk for poor developmental outcomes, and children ages 3 and younger face even greater vulnerabilities. The Safe Babies Court Team program is designed to reduce the amount of time children spend in foster homes before reaching a permanent home, as well as improving the welfare of those in the system. In an episode of our podcast, AIR Informs, Principal Researcher Ann-Maria Faria discusses the results from AIR’s evaluation of the program, as well as how COVID-19 has affected the foster care system.

Infographic: Findings from the Safe Babies Court Team (SBCT) Evaluation

COVID-19 and Whole Child Efforts: Reopening Update

Nearly every aspect of a child’s life has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including social, mental, and physical health. In this resource, AIR experts guide education leaders on how to support the whole child, including a list of resources to help integrate whole child strategies into school reopening plans.


Image ofCOVID-19 FAQs document

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions, In Plain Language

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, AIR experts created a plain-language FAQ to address common questions and topics. This easy-to-read document, available in English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese, was designed as a resource for schools, day cares, health care organizations, and other public centers to distribute freely to ensure widespread access to accurate, medically sound information.

An Emerging Narrative on Latino Health Disparities and its Implications in the COVID-19 Era

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been considerable public discourse about health outcome disparities. In this Q&A, David Hayes-Bautista, AIR Institute Fellow, discusses misconceptions around health outcomes for Latinos, the factors that increase health risks among certain communities, and why this population’s experience with COVID-19 differs from other potentially fatal illnesses.

In Conversation: What Do Rising Rates of Anxiety and Depression Mean for Families, Schools, and Communities?

Earlier this year, the federal government administered a Household Pulse Survey to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals, including their mental health. An AIR analysis of this survey showed that rates of depression and anxiety are extremely high by historical standards. AIR experts Frank Rider and Kelly Wells talk about the implications of these findings and best practices to help address community mental health needs.

Infographic: Historically High Rates of Anxiety and Depression Symptoms Report in U.S.

The Expansion and Importance of Telehealth

During the pandemic, telehealth has become a popular alternative for those reluctant to seek health care services in person. At the same time, as policymakers, providers, and payers of telehealth consider the expansion of telehealth, they should keep in mind health equity. In two resources, AIR and IMPAQ experts provide an overview of telehealth and detail equity considerations for stakeholders.

A Quick Word with Kathleen Guarino on Mental Health During a Health Crisis

In this Q&A, AIR’s Kathleen Guarino explains why mental health deserves extra attention during a global pandemic, shares stress management techniques, and forecasts some of the surprising long-term ramifications of COVID-19 on health care.

Bridging Health Care Research and Practice

COVID-19 has shown just how crucial it is to have sound evidence in decision-making, whether by individuals or organizations. Erica Shelton, an emergency medicine doctor and a principal health clinician researcher at AIR, shares in this video how she uses research-based findings and her clinical experience in her work providing technical assistance.



From East Africa to the Caribbean: Finding Solutions to Research Challenges During COVID-19

Research and technical assistance activities around the globe have been affected by COVID-19, but AIR and IMPAQ researchers have discovered creative solutions to continue important work. These experts share the key takeaways that they've learned and will apply in future projects.

In Conversation: How an International Survey Can Help Us Understand the Challenges the Coronavirus Poses for Educators

Many of the stresses and challenges that teachers faced in 2020 were new, but lessons from the past can still offer insight into solving them. AIR experts Matthew Clifford, Ebru Erberber and Lisa Lachlan discuss Volume 2 of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (released in spring of 2020), the largest international survey of teachers and principals.

Tablet Didis of the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS), women trained to use tablets to record financial data for their village self help groups participate in an interactive session in Hutar, Jharkhand, India

Women’s Groups and COVID-19: Challenges, Engagement, and Opportunities

Women and girls in low-and middle-income countries face societal and structural barriers related to education, employment, and health status that limit their opportunities and well-being, and the pandemic has added to these barriers to success. AIR and its partners in the Evidence Consortium on Women’s Groups explored these challenges in two briefs: Women’s Groups and COVID-19: Challenges, Engagement, and Opportunities, presents the implications of the pandemic and lockdown for women’s groups. The Impact of COVID-19 on Opportunities for Adolescent Girls and the Role of Girls' Groups offers insight into how group-based programs for girls in low- and middle-income countries are responding to the pandemic.


Occupational Licensing: Balancing Public Safety and Work Opportunities

Twenty-five percent of employed adults in the U.S. have jobs that require occupational licenses. AIR’s Christina Curnow explains how changing the occupational licensing process—while balancing public safety needs—could make a big difference in getting people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic back to work.


New Tool Maps Literacy and Numeracy Skills Across U.S. States and Counties

The National Center for Education Statistics, with technical assistance and support from AIR, released an interactive map that displays adult literacy and numeracy patterns across the U.S. In this Q&A, AIR Principal Researcher Jaleh Soroui explains how the map works; its value to local policymakers, administrators, educators, and researchers; and its implications in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Economics of the Coronavirus for People with Disabilities

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone around the world and hitting specific populations of people in different ways. In this podcast, AIR’s Michelle Yin discusses how COVID-19 has affected people with disabilities in the workforce.

Millions More People Were Jobless Due to COVID-19 Than Indicated by Official Statistics

COVID-19 created massive shifts in employment in the United States in 2020, but official U.S. Department of Labor statistics may not tell the full story. In this brief, AIR experts demonstrated how official statistics may have undercounted the unemployment numbers by as many as 8 million individuals. And as AIR Vice President Irma Perez-Johnson explains in an episode of the AIR Informs podcast, an accurate unemployment count is essentials for policymakers to make informed decisions around economic relief.

Infographic: COVID-19 Effects on U.S. Labor Force

Recommendations to Address the Nursing Shortage

The United States has been experiencing a nursing shortage for many years, but 2020 showcased the essential role of nurses in our strained health care system. In a white paper, AIR experts Gee Rege and Christina Curnow share six major recommendations to make nursing a more accessible and enticing career.

Focusing on Equity and Supporting Stakeholders During COVID-19

This was a year of change for the world, and also for AIR. In support of AIR’s mission, vision, and goals, we acquired IMPAQ, LLC and Kimetrica, two companies similarly mission-focused and values-driven that share a commitment to using evidence to create a more equitable world. Equity remains at the heart of AIR’s mission-focused work and is called out, by name, in our new mission and vision statements, introduced this year to reflect who we are now and where we want to be in the future. This came into sharper focus against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic because COVID-19 amplified the inequities in education, health, and the workforce.

We are proud of how our staff have given back to meet the challenge head on—through their expertise, or their time. Here are a few examples of how we supported our stakeholders through evidence, practice, and action during challenging times:

Investing Resources to Improve Lives

In addition to serving our mission through client-driven work, AIR invests its own talent and resources in equity initiatives to tackle seemingly intractable, long-standing problems that prevent citizens from having access to good health care, education, and pathways to employment.

Image of colorful masks

AIR’s Megan Eccleston Launches Find the Helpers and Builds a “Mask Empire” for COVID-19 Response

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, AIR’s Megan Eccleston plunged unexpectedly into a once-in-a-lifetime extracurricular challenge: organizing a grassroots volunteer initiative to help hospitals desperate for face masks and other supplies. With her professional expertise—and a can-do spirit—she built a multistate coalition of thousands of volunteers that delivered nearly 1 million masks to hospitals in just three months.

Standing for Healing and Justice

Shortly after the killing of George Floyd, David Myers, AIR President and CEO, and Karen Francis, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, sent a message to staff highlighting AIR’s commitment to those standing for justice, equality, and healing.

AIR: Using Evidence to Improve Lives

To support the launch of our new mission statement—and acknowledge the challenges of COVID-19—AIR produced a new video that highlights our work and our commitment to equity.

Graphic: Juneteenth quote

AIR Recognizes Juneteenth

To recognize Juneteenth (June 19), an important day in U.S. history that commemorates the emancipation of slavery, AIR’s BLAAC (Black, Latino, African American, and Caribbean) Diaspora Network (BDN) employee resource group hosted an internal virtual celebration to honor the holiday and discuss its history and significance. They also solicited responses from staff on the question, “What does an equitable world look like to you?” Read some of our colleagues’ responses and reflections, as they imagined a more equitable world.