IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Jumpstarting Innovation in Education Technology through SBIR

By Edward Metz, ED/IES SBIR Program Manager

Did you know that IES provides funding to develop computer games and other applications to support teaching and learning?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research program, operated out of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), funds projects to develop education technology products designed to support student learning and teacher practice in general or special education. The program emphasizes rigorous and relevant research, used both to inform iterative development and to evaluate whether fully developed products show promise for leading to the intended outcomes. The program also focuses on the commercialization once the award period ends so that products can reach students and teachers, and be sustained over time.

Recently, ED/IES SBIR announced its 2015 awards. There are 21 awards in all, covering a range of topics and forms of technology. For example, Zaption is designing a mobile app to help teachers integrate video into science instruction; Speak Agent is building an app to help students with speech disabilities to communicate; and Lingo Jingo is developing a platform to help teachers guide English learners. (To view short video demos of the eight new Phase II projects, see this playlist.)

The 2015 awards highlight two trends that have emerged in the ED/IES SBIR portfolio in recent years –games for learning and bridging the research-to-practice gap in education.

Trend #1: Games for Learning

For the fourth straight year, about half of the new 2015 ED/IES SBIR awards focus on the development of game-based learning products. New projects include awards to:

  • Strange Loop Games to build a virtual world to engage students in learning about ecosystems,
  • Kiko Labs to develop mini games to strengthen young children’s thinking and memory skills, and
  • Schell Games to create a futuristic “ball and stick” molecular modeling kit and app to augment chemistry learning.

For a playlist including videos of these games and 19 others out of the ED/IES SBIR program, see here.

The games for learning trend echoes the movement surrounding games in the field, and is highlighted by recent ED sponsored events including ED Games Week in Washington, DC, last September and the Games for Learning Summit in New York City, in April. Both events convened stakeholders to showcase games and discuss the potential barriers and opportunities for collaboration necessary to accelerate the creation of highly effective games for learning. Stay tuned for more information and initiatives on games for learning out of ED’s Office of Technology.

Trend #2: Bridging the Research-to-Practice Gap

While ED/IES SBIR is known for making awards to start-ups such as Filament Games, Sokikom, and Handhold Adaptive, the program has also made awards to firms best described as university spin-offs. These firms are designed to transfer findings from federally funded research into learning products that can be used at scale. University researchers often do not have viable pathways or capacity to transfer research-based interventions for real world use.

But with the support of the ED/IES SBIR program, we have firms bridging the research-to-practice gap.  Examples include:

  • Mindset Works, which built on results from prior research including a 2002 IES research grant, to successfully propose a 2010 ED/IES SBIR project to develop SchoolKit. This multimedia platform enables broad distribution of the growth mindset intervention which teaches students to understand that intelligence can be developed through effort and learning. SchoolKit is now in use in more than 500 schools across the country, including half the middle schools in Washington, DC.
  • Teachley, which received a 2013 ED/IES SBIR award to develop math game apps and a teacher implementation dashboard building on findings from prior research including a 2010 IES research grant. The intervention is now used in hundreds of schools around the country, and the apps have been downloaded more than 500,000 times.
  • Learning Ovations is building on two prior IES research grants in their 2014 ED/IES SBIR project. The prior IES funding supported the research team as they developed and evaluated an intervention to improve children’s reading outcomes,. This award is supporting the development of an implementation platform to enable large-scale use of this evidence-based intervention across settings. The project is scheduled to end in 2016, after which the platform will be launched.

The new ED/IES SBIR 2015 awards continue the research-to-practice trend. An award to Foundations in Learning furthers basic research from a 2013 National Science Foundation grant (NSF); an award to SimInsights builds on 2005 and 2008 IES research projects and a 2011 Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) research project; and an award to Apprendris advances a prior 2012 IES research project and  prior 2010 and 2013 NSF research projects.

Stay tuned for updates on Twitter @IESResearch and @OfficeofEdTech as ED/IES SBIR projects drive innovative forms of technology, such as games for learning, and enable the scale-up of research-based interventions for wide-scale use.


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Welcome to Inside IES Research!

By Tom Brock, Commissioner, NCER and 
Joan McLaughlin, Commissioner, NCSER


Welcome to Inside IES Research, the official blog for the Institute’s two research centers: the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER)!

We are launching the blog to open up a less formal means of communication with the education researcher, policymaker, and practitioner communities.  All NCER and NCSER employees will contribute to the blog, and we will have new postings every week.  Our goals are to share new research findings, explain our programs and services, and offer researcher perspectives on issues of importance to the education sciences.  Among the topics we will address in the near future are the following:

  • What we are learning from some of our major research investments on supporting youth with autism, and on improving reading comprehension among students in elementary, middle, and high school.

  • Profiles of early career researchers supported by NCER and NCSER, and the contributions they are making to the education sciences.

  • How the application review process works and how funding decisions are made.

  • What we learned from surveys of NCER and NCSER applicants and grantees, and how we are using this information to make improvements.

We are introducing the blog at a time of peak activity for NCER and NCSER.  We are in the final stages of making grant awards from the FY 2015 research and training grants competitions – roughly 150 grants in total – and recently announced our FY 2016 competitions. Future blogs will spotlight some of these new awards and highlight current funding opportunities.

We invite you to check in regularly, and to send your comments to


Measuring student safety: Bullying rates at school

By Lauren Musu-Gillette, Rachel Hansen, Kathryn Chandler, and Tom Snyder

Bullying remains a serious issue for students and their families, and efforts to reduce bullying concern policy makers, administrators, and educators. Measuring the extent of the problem, as well as tracking any progress towards reducing the prevalence of bullying, is of utmost importance and why NCES is committed to providing reliable and timely data on important topics such as bullying. NCES provides additional context for understanding this issue in our schools by publishing comparative data on different student groups, as well as data on changes over time in students’ reports of being bulled at school.

The School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on bullying by asking a nationally representative sample of students ages 12–18 if they had been bullied at school. In 2013, about 22 percent of students reported being bullied at school during the school year. This percentage was lower than the percentage reported in every prior survey year in which these data were collected (28 percent each in 2005, 2009, and 2011 and 32 percent in 2007).

Similarly, lower percentages of students reporting being bullied in 2013 were observed across some student characteristics. For example, in 2013 about 24 percent of female students reported being bullied at school, compared with 29 to 33 percent in prior survey years. The pattern for males was similar. The percentage of students who reported being bullied in 2013 was also lower than the percentages in all prior survey years for White and Black students. For Hispanic and Asian students, the percentage of students who reported being bullied in 2013 was lower than the percentages in both 2007 and 2009.

Percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, by gender: Selected years, 2005 through 2013

This graph shows three lines representing the total percentage of students bullied at school in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013, as well as the percentage of males and females who report being bullied at school. The percentage goes up between 2005 and 2007 for all groups, it goes down between 2007 and 2009 for all groups, it goes up between 2009 and 2011 for all groups and it goes down between 2011 and 2013 for all groups. The line for females is higher than the total line and the line for males for all points in time. The line for males is lower than the other lines at all points in time.

NOTE: "At school" includes the school building, on school property, on a school bus, or going to and from school.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005 through 2013.

In 2013, a higher percentage of females than of males ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year (24 vs. 19 percent). A higher percentage of White students (24 percent) than of Hispanic students (19 percent) and Asian students (9 percent) reported being bullied at school. In addition, higher percentages of Black students (20 percent) and Hispanic students than of Asian students reported being bullied at school. Higher percentages of students in grades 6 through 11 than of students in grade 12 reported being bullied at school during the school year. In 2013, about 14 percent of 12th-graders reported being bullied at school, compared with 28 percent of 6th-graders, 26 percent of 7th-graders, 22 percent of 8th-graders, 23 percent of 9th-graders, 19 percent of 10th-graders, and 20 percent of 11th-graders.

Additional data from the 2013 School Crime Supplement are available in the Student Reports of Bullying and Cyberbullying: Results from the 2013 School Crime Supplement to the National Victimization Survey. Tables in this report contain further information on bullying-related topics such as frequency and types of bullying, cyber-bullying, and fear and avoidance behaviors at school.

Additional information on the definition of bullying, risk factors for bullying, and bullying prevention can be found on The Department of Education, along with other federal agencies, sponsored to provide resources on bullying to school administrators, teachers, parents, and children. 

Does the Department of Education collect information on young children’s social and emotional development?

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Gail M. Mulligan

Yes, we do! During their early years, children are developing socially and emotionally. This includes the development of social skills, relationships, and regulation of emotions. Children’s socioemotional development can affect school experiences and outcomes, so it makes sense that the Department of Education is interested in this topic.

Researchers are using NCES’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) to examine questions about socioemotional development, for instance, how children’s growth in this area is related to background characteristics such as race/ethnicity and parents’ educational attainment, as well as home and school experiences. The ECLS studies collect information from the children themselves, as well as from their parents, their care providers, and their teachers. Being longitudinal, the ECLS data allow researchers to study how children’s socioemotional skills develop over time. Additionally, these surveys are some of the only nationally representative studies with data on children in these age groups.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) followed a group of children born in 2001 until they entered kindergarten. The ECLS-B was designed to describe children’s earliest experiences and relationships, and the first home visit data collection occurred when the children were only 9 months old. Socioemotional development was measured in several ways in this study. During home visits, researchers observed the children’s interactions with a parent during specific tasks, such as while the parent was reading a book aloud to the child, and reported on the children’s attentiveness, interest, affect, and social engagement. The quality of the children’s attachment relationship to their parent was also measured at age 2. When the children were in kindergarten, their teachers provided information about the children’s socioemotional skills. 

Socioemotional development has also been measured in ECLS studies that have followed groups of kindergartners over time: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011). Teachers provided information about children’s social skills, problem behaviors, learning behaviors, and their own closeness and conflict with the students. Parents provided their own reports on much of the same information. One analysis of data from the teacher reports shows that children who enter kindergarten on time and those who had a delayed entry show positive “approaches to learning” (for example, eagerness to learn, self-direction, and attentiveness) more often than children who repeat kindergarten.

In later rounds of the ECLS-K and ECLS-K:2011, when the children were older, they were asked to provide information about themselves. In the ongoing ECLS-K:2011, children are reporting on aspects of socioemotional development such as their relationships with peers, social distress, peer victimization, and their satisfaction with different aspects of their lives.

For more information on the measures of socioemotional development included in the ECLS studies, please see our homepage, review our online training modules for the ECLS-B and ECLS-K, or email the ECLS study team.

Welcome to the NCES blog

Peggy G. Carr, Ph.D.By Peggy Carr, Acting Commissioner of NCES

I want to welcome you to the debut of the NCES blog. I am very excited by this new opportunity to reach out to you informally and tell you about the many exciting new projects and products we have at the agency. While my role as Acting Commissioner is new, I am proud of my many years at NCES working in other management and staff roles. One of the most rewarding aspects of our work at NCES is being able to talk to users about the data we have and hear how we can make our products even better. Through this new blog, we look forward to spreading the word about the important and interesting data that we collect and analyze here at the Center.

NCES has strong commitment to open communications with the public, which we have encouraged since the early years of the Internet by posting all staff contact information, and publicly identifying experts for all our surveys.  I am looking forward to this blog being an extension of that tradition, offering an opportunity for you to hear from NCES experts on a variety of topics. The blog will provide a forum for news about the latest developments in NCES surveys, exciting new research opportunities, commonly misunderstood education measures, important new findings, and our innovative data tools.

In addition to covering a wide range of topics, the future blogs will cover the full range of NCES activity areas, including:

  • Early childhood education

  • Elementary and secondary education

  • Student performance on assessments

  • Postsecondary education

  • Adult education and literacy

  • International education comparisons

This blog will allow us to share information in an informal and engaging way, and enable us to build an even stronger communication network. We believe that the launch of this blog is an important milestone in our continuing commitment to the education community.

We hope you find these posts useful and informative!