IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Making Contributions: IES-funded Research in Mathematics

From 2002 to 2013, the Institute of Education Sciences has funded scores of research grants with a focus on improving mathematics education. Many of the outcomes of that research have been captured in a new publication, Synthesis of IES-funded Research on Mathematics.  

This Synthesis was co-authored by Bethany Rittle-Johnson, of Vanderbilt University, and Nancy C. Jordan, of University of Delaware, two nationally recognized experts in the area of mathematics education research. The co-authors reviewed published research and organized the synthesis for the public to answer the overarching question—What have we learned? The short answer: A lot!

Here’s a look at the new Synthesis by the numbers:

 

200

Between 2002 and 2013, IES has funded almost 200 grants on mathematics learning and teaching through its two research centers—the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

 

69

The co-authors synthesized what was learned from 69 IES-funded grants that had peer-reviewed publications published between January 1, 2002, and June 30, 2014. Grants that did not have peer-reviewed publications during that time frame were not included in this synthesis.

 

28

The Synthesis summarizes 28 contributions that IES grants have made in furthering our understanding of mathematics teaching and learning for students in kindergarten through high school. A summary of research findings is provided for each contribution, along with citations to the publications that will allow practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to access more information about the findings if they are interested.

 

2

The research contributions listed in the Synthesis are divided into two sections

  1. Improving Mathematics Learning in two areas: Whole numbers, operations, and word problem solving in elementary school, and fractions and algebra in the middle grades; and
  2. Development and Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development Approaches.

 

65%

The Synthesis cites research that shows that annual income is 65 percent higher among adults who have taken calculus in high school than among adults who have completed only basic mathematics. It is our hope that this Synthesis will spark efforts to improve American students’ math proficiency and increase their interest in taking higher level math.

 

So, where do we go from here? IES will continue to make significant contributions to mathematics education research and practice. In particular, the co-authors of the Synthesis recommend the following future directions for IES-funded research in mathematics:

  • Replication: Studies of promise or ones that demonstrate positive results must be replicated and extended to ensure that the findings can be reproduced in different educational settings, improve student achievement on measures used by teachers and schools, and lead to improvements that can be sustained over time;
  • Innovation: Future work should continue to innovate and test new strategies for improving mathematics achievement. Research should examine the features of interventions that most effectively build concepts and skills in mathematics topics and address whether observed gains can be transferred to other areas of mathematics learning; and
  • Context: Future research must continue to address what works for whom and under what conditions.

Although the Synthesis provides a broad overview of the contributions IES-funded research has made in mathematics education, it is not exhaustive. There are many more IES-funded studies that did not have published results by June 30, 2014. These studies are likely to produce additional findings on mathematics learning on these topics, as well as on topics not addressed in the Synthesis, such as mathematics learning in high school. Also, it should be noted that other centers and programs within IES conduct research and evaluation on mathematics that can be helpful to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

For more information, visit our website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

High Job Satisfaction Among Teachers, but Leadership Matters

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Are teachers satisfied with their jobs? Overall, the answer appears to be yes. However, a recent NCES report highlights that teacher job satisfaction differs by school characteristics.

Newly released data shows that at least 9 out of 10 teachers reported that they were satisfied with their jobs in 2003–04, 2007–08, and 2011–12. A higher percentage of private school teachers than public school teachers reported that they were satisfied with their jobs in all of these years.


Percent of teachers reporting they were satisfied in their jobs: School years 2003–04, 2007–08, and 2011–12

NOTE: “Satisfied” teachers are those who responded “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” to the statement: “I am generally satisfied with being a teacher at this school.”
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS).


Differences in teacher job satisfaction also emerged based on perceptions of administrative support.[i] In 2011–12, a higher percentage of teachers who believed that the administration in their schools was supportive were satisfied with their jobs. Among teachers who felt that the administration in their schools was supportive, 95 percent were satisfied with their jobs. This was 30 percentage points higher than the percentage of teachers did not feel the administration was supportive. This pattern was seen in private schools as well and is consistent with previous research that demonstrates the importance of schools administrators to teachers’ working conditions.[ii]   


Percent of satisfied teachers, by their perceptions of administrative support: School year 2011–12

NOTE: “Satisfied” teachers are those who responded “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” to the statement: “I am generally satisfied with being a teacher at this school.”
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS).


[i] Support was measured by teachers’ agreement or disagreement with the statement “The school administration’s behavior toward the staff is supportive and encouraging.”
[ii] Ladd, H. F. (2011). Teachers’ Perceptions of Their Working Conditions: How Predictive of Planned and Actual Teacher Movement? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(2): 235-261.

The What Works Clearinghouse Goes to College

By Vanessa Anderson, Research Scientist, NCEE

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) was founded in 2002 and, in its first decade, focused mainly on reviewing studies of programs, policies, products and practices—or interventions—for improving student outcomes in pre-K, elementary and secondary schools. But in 2012, the WWC broadened its focus and has been using rigorous standards to review studies of interventions designed to increase the success of students in postsecondary education.

This week, the WWC launches a new topic—Supporting Postsecondary Success—and it is a good time to look at the work we’re doing, and will do, in the postsecondary area. 

The WWC postsecondary topic area includes reviews of studies on a wide range of interventions, including learning communities, summer bridge programs, multi-faceted support programs, academic mentoring, and interventions that aim to reduce performance anxiety. As of today, 294 postsecondary studies have been reviewed by the WWC. Those reviews are summarized in six Intervention Reports, 25 Single Study Reviews, and four Quick Reviews. And there’s much more in the works!  For instance, a WWC Educator’s Practice Guide that includes strategies for supporting students in developmental education is planned for publication later this year. (Learn more about Practice Guides)

Identifying Studies for Review

In the postsecondary topic area, there are currently three main ways that studies are identified by the WWC for review.

The first is studies that are reviewed for WWC Intervention Reports. All WWC Intervention Reports use a systematic review process to summarize evidence from all available studies on a given intervention. The WWC conducts a broad search for all publicly available studies of interventions that are related to the topic. This process often identifies hundreds of studies for review. The effectiveness studies are then reviewed against WWC standards. Only the highest quality studies are summarized in an Intervention Report.

We released two new intervention reports this week as part of our new Supporting Postsecondary Success topic. You can view the new Intervention Reports on Summer Bridge programs and first-year experience courses on the WWC website.

The second way that studies are reviewed by the WWC is through Quick Reviews, which are performed on studies that have received a great deal of media attention. In these reports, the WWC provides a brief description of the study, the author-reported results, and a study rating. We like to think of Quick Reviews as a way to help people decide whether to fully believe the results of a study, based on the research design and how the study was conducted. For example, we released a quick review earlier this month that focused on a study of computer usage and student outcomes for a class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Finally, the WWC reviews postsecondary studies submitted as supporting evidence for discretionary grant competitions funded by the U.S. Department of Education, such as the Strengthening Institutions Program, First in the World and TRIO Student Support Services. These grant competitions require applicants to submit studies as evidence of the effectiveness of the interventions they propose to implement. The WWC reviews these studies and includes the results of those reviews in our database.

If you want to see all the studies on postsecondary interventions that have been reviewed by WWC you can check out—and download—the Reviewed Studies Database. In the “Topic Areas” dropdown menu, just select “Postsecondary,” and then easily customize the search by rating, publication type, and/or reasons for the review (such as a grant competition).  

For more information, visit the WWC postsecondary topic area on the website. To stay up-to-date on WWC news, information, and products, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for the WWC newsflash!

Five ED/IES SBIR Companies Win National Industry Awards for Innovation

The U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at the Institute of Education Sciences (ED/IES SBIR) has served as a catalyst for the research and development of innovative technology that seeks to transform how and where students learn.

In 2016, the program continues to be recognized for spurring innovation, with five companies winning national awards and recognition for their ED/IES SBIR-developed technologies.

In June, Strange Loop Games’ Eco won the Climate Change Challenge at the Games for Change Festival in New York City. Eco is a multi-player environment where students collectively work to build a virtual ecosystem. The game provides students the opportunity to see how individual and collective decisions and actions affect their environment and climate.

In May, mtelegence’s Readorium won the Best Reading/English/Language Arts Solution through the Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) CODiE program. Readorium is a web-based intervention that provides engaging content and games to middle school students to improve reading comprehension of science content.

Science4us, in May, won the best Science Instructional Solution through the SIIA CODiE program, and won THE Best Science Program through the BESSIE awards in April. Science4Us is a web-based game and simulation platform that provides foundational science learning opportunities for students in Kindergarten through Grade 2.

Also in May, Electric Funstuff’s Mission US won the Website Gold from the Parents' Choice Awards. In 2016, Mission US was a finalist for three other awards, including Best Learning Game at Games For Change, Outstanding Interactive Series through the Daytime Emmy Awards, and Best Web Game through the Webby Awards.  Mission US, which is partially funded by ED/IES SBIR, is a series of tablet-based interactive role-playing game that immerses 5th through 9th grade students in history.

In February, Querium was recognized as one of the 10 Most Innovative Education Technology Companies of 2016 by Fast Company Magazine. Querium is developing the Stepwise Virtual Tutor, which is a mobile and desktop virtual tutor that provides real-time assessments and support to middle and high school students in Algebra.

For information on more ED/IES SBIR supported companies that have won awards and been recognized for innovation in technology, check out the program’s News Archive. Stay tuned for updates on ED/IES SBIR on Twitter and Facebook.

About ED/IES SBIR: The Small Business Innovation Research program at the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences funds firms and partners to develop commercially viable technology products to improve student learning or teacher practice in regular and special education.  ED/IES SBIR emphasizes rigorous research to inform the development process and to evaluate whether products show promise for delivering on the intended outcomes.

Spend Five Minutes Getting to Know IES

By Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES
 
At the Institute of Education Sciences, we sometimes describe ourselves as the country’s “engine” that powers high-quality education statistics, research, and evaluation, or as the “infrastructure” that supports a steady supply of scientific evidence in education.  
 
But many users of IES resources are familiar with just a small slice of what we sponsor to provide quality evidence in education and support for its use across the country. While they may have heard of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the What Works Clearinghouse, or the ERIC database of research, studies, and periodicals, they may not know that all those programs, and many more, are housed under one roof at IES. 
 
To help people better understand our work and see how it is connected, we have developed a new video that gives an overview of IES and the six broad types of work that we do.  The video runs just under five minutes, so it doesn’t touch on everything, but it does give a good introduction to IES and our work to connect research to practice. 
 

Please share the video with friends and colleagues who might be interested in the work of IES. In the coming months, we will release additional videos that delve further into each of our focus areas.
 
This video is part of our ongoing efforts to ramp up our communication and dissemination efforts, including the launch of a new, mobile friendly website design and an IES Facebook page where you can get information about the latest reports, resources, and grant opportunities. In the fall, IES will also launch a new What Works Clearinghouse website, which will include an improved "Find What Works" tool. This will make it easier for educators to search for and compare the research about the effectiveness of interventions in education.
 
We are here to serve the public – and we always want to get better at what we do! If you have thoughts or ideas for how we can improve our communication and dissemination efforts, please send an email to dana.tofig@ed.gov.