IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Recognizing Our Outstanding IES Fellows

Each year, the Institute of Education Sciences recognizes some of its fellows for their academic accomplishments and contributions to education research. This year, IES has selected Rachel Baker as the 2016 Outstanding Fellow from its Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Programs in the Education Sciences.

Dr. Baker (pictured right) received her doctorate in Higher Education Policy and the Economics of Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy at the University of California, Irvine, where she studies inequalities in postsecondary access and success using behavioral economic models of decision making and quasi-experimental and experimental methods. Dr. Baker will receive her award and present her research at the annual IES Principal Investigators meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2018.

For the first time this year, IES is also recognizing two finalists for the outstanding fellow award, Dr. Elizabeth Tighe and Dr. Karrie E. Godwin.

Dr. Tighe received her doctorate in Cognitive Psychology from Florida State University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at Georgia State University where she focuses on advancing our understanding of the literacy skills and instructional needs of struggling adult readers who attend Adult Basic and Secondary Education programs.

Dr. Godwin received her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology in the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences at Kent State University. Her research examines how cognitive and environmental factors shape children’s development and learning in the laboratory and in the classroom.

We asked all three awardees how participating in an IES predoctoral training program helped their development as researchers.  For more information about the IES predoctoral training program, visit our website.

Rachel Baker, Fellow in Stanford University Predoctoral Training Program in Quantitative Education Policy Analysis

With full acknowledgement that it is impossible to know for certain how my development as a researcher has been shaped by participating in the IES pre-doctoral fellowship (where’s the counterfactual?), I can point to three factors that I think have been critical:  (1) the community of Stanford’s IES pre-doctoral fellows and  associated faculty, (2) the tightly structured curriculum and frequent opportunities to engage with high quality research, and (3) the freedom, within this structure, to engage with my own research questions.

From my first day at the Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, I was exposed to a pervasive culture of intellectual rigor and the pursuit of high-quality research. But this culture of exactitude was paired with diversity of thought, a true investment in the ideas and work of students, and a sense of collegiality and collaboration. Every day, I felt both challenged and supported by the Stanford IES group. This professional network has been essential to my growth.

CEPA’s core curriculum prepared me well to conduct high-quality, policy-focused research. In particular, the classes on designing and implementing quasi-experimental studies has influenced my work tremendously – from the large, obvious ways, such as how I conceptualize and design research, to the small details of implementation that can make or break a study. The series of required classes was complemented by frequent, less formal engagement with the practice of research in the form of weekly seminars in which students presented work in progress and an unparalleled seminar series with speakers from other institutions.

But within this tight community and academic structure, a real benefit of the IES fellowship was my ability to engage with the research questions that I was most interested in. The financial security of the fellowship meant that I could work on projects, directed by faculty or of my own design, that I thought were timely, important, and interesting. In my five years, I worked closely with four CEPA faculty members, each of whom influenced the way I ask and answer questions in essential and unique ways.

I am grateful to the IES pre-doctoral fellowship, and especially the Stanford IES group, for the five years of opportunities, resources, and professional community.

Elizabeth Tighe, Fellow in Florida State University Program to Increase Research Capacity in Educational Science

The IES predoctoral training fellowship provided multiple avenues for me to work with interdisciplinary research teams and take courses that developed my quantitative skills within the realm of education research. Three benefits in particular were integral in shaping my development as a researcher: rigorous quantitative training; generous financial support for designing and implementing my own studies as well as providing networking opportunities at conferences; and the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the coursework and research.

For my graduate studies, I chose Florida State University for the innovative and interdisciplinary research conducted through the Florida Center for Reading Research. By assisting on various projects, I honed my quantitative skills and learned new theoretical perspectives from multiple disciplines. For example, I gained experience with eye-tracking equipment, assessment and measurement of reading-related constructs, and evaluation of classroom curricular materials. The flexibility of the fellowship allowed me to develop my own program of research, which focused on struggling adult readers enrolled in adult literacy programs. In addition, I utilized my quantitative skills on large-scale, existing datasets of students enrolled in K-12 education. These experiences provided ample opportunities to bridge my interests in adult literacy and quantitative methodology and to publish and present at different outlets.    

The financial support for conferences afforded me extensive networking opportunities with colleagues. This helped me to establish grant-writing collaborations, provide statistical consulting for projects, participate in cross-university symposia, and form professional friendships from which I continue to reap benefits today. I attended practitioner-oriented conferences in adult education and a training workshop for using a large-scale dataset on adults’ literacy, numeracy, and digital problem-solving skills. In conjunction with a colleague at the University of Iowa, my current lab received a grant to use this large-scale dataset to examine the literacy skills of United States inmates. 

My accrued training, experiences, and interdisciplinary collaborations are directly applicable to my current role as an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Assistant Director of the Adult Literacy Research Center (ALRC) at Georgia State University. I work alongside an interdisciplinary team of scholars within the Language and Literacy Initiative, which affords me the opportunity to work with professors and to mentor graduate students in multiple departments. My lab is currently is working with the ALRC and Applied Linguistics Department to investigate the comprehension monitoring skills of struggling adult readers using eye-tracking equipment. As a result of my IES training, it was imperative for me to find a position that supported my multidisciplinary research interests.

Karrie E. Godwin, Assistant Professor, Kent State University, Fellow in Carnegie Mellon Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER)

My participation as an IES predoctoral fellow in the PIER program at Carnegie Mellon University was seminal in guiding my development as a researcher. For me, there are three aspects of the program which were especially formative.

First, I was fortunate to be surrounded by thoughtful, caring, and passionate mentors who embody the goals of the PIER program. I am especially grateful to Anna Fisher, David Klahr, and Sharon Carver, who provided incredible guidance, advanced my critical thinking skills, taught me the importance of good experimental design and research hygiene, and how to effectively disseminate my work—not only to other scientists, but also to practitioners and stakeholders.

Second, PIER is committed to training scholars in rigorous research methodology that bridges theory and practice. My training has enabled me to conduct disciplined research in which I examine children’s cognitive development and the underlying mechanisms of change which inform educational practices by identifying causal and malleable factors that can be leveraged to promote better learning outcomes for children.

Lastly, PIER exposed me to a diverse set of scholars affording unique and dynamic opportunities for interdisciplinary research collaborations that would have been highly improbable in more traditional and siloed environments. For example, in addition to working with other psychologists, I formed productive collaborations with colleagues in robotics, human computer interaction, and statistics. This was a unique and powerful component of the program. Additionally, this feature of the program encouraged and developed my communication skills to groups and communities outside of my specific domain where traditional jargon is typically ineffective. This skill has been incredibly important in helping to communicate my research to other scientists from different disciplines but also to practitioners and the media.

In my new role as an assistant professor at Kent State University, I am drawing upon my experience in PIER and using the skills I gained during my fellowship to build my program of research. I am continuing to investigate children’s cognitive development in order to create more optimal learning environments and instructional materials that aim to enhance children’s learning outcomes. In addition, my new position allows me to help train students to become producers of high-quality research and to help future educational practitioners be thoughtful consumers of research. I am certain the skills I gained as an IES fellow at Carnegie Mellon will enable me to fulfill my commitment to improve children's learning outcomes through disciplined research.

Compiled by Katina Stapleton, National Center for Education Research

 

 

Updating Our Recommendations to Prevent Dropping Out

By Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES

Almost a decade ago, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released Dropout Prevention, one of its first practice guides, which offered six recommendations for keeping students in school, based on the findings from high-quality research and best practices in the field. Since its release in August 2008, the practice guide has been downloaded thousands of times by practitioners across the country. In fact, the guide was downloaded more than 1,500 times in 2016, alone.

However, over the past decade, the research and knowledge base has grown in the area of dropout prevention, which is why the WWC decided to update this guide to reflect the latest evidence and information about keeping students in school and on track toward graduation.

This updated guide, Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools, builds on the 2008 guide in two significant ways.

First, it reflects improvements in practices related to monitoring at-risk students, including advances in using early warning indicators to identify students at risk for dropping out. Secondly, it covers an additional nine years of research that were not a part of the previous guide. In fact, 15 of the 25 studies used to support the recommendations in this updated guide were published after the first guide was published. In addition, studies from the previous guide were reviewed again against current, more rigorous WWC evidence standards.

Preventing Dropout in Secondary Schools offers four evidence-based recommendations that can be used by schools and districts:

  • Monitor the progress of all students, and proactively intervene when students show early signs of attendance, behavior, or academic problems;
  • Provide intensive, individualized support to students who have fallen off track and face significant challenges to success;
  • Engage students by offering curricula and programs that connect schoolwork with college and career success and that improve students’ capacity to manage challenges in and out of school; and
  • For schools with many at-risk students, create small, personalized communities to facilitate monitoring and support.

Each of these recommendations includes specific strategies for implementation and examples of how this work is being done around the country (see one such example in the image to the right).

Like all of our practice guides, the recommendations were developed with a panel of educators, academics, and experts who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the process. Two of the panelists on this updated guide were also involved in the development of the first dropout prevention guide—Russell Rumberger, from University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mark Dynarksi, of Pemberton Research LLC. The other panelists for the new guide were Howard (Sandy) Addis, of the National Dropout Prevention Center and Network; Elaine Allensworth, from the University of Chicago; Robert Balfanz, from The Johns Hopkins University; and Debra Duardo, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Please download this free guide today and let us know what you think. We would especially love to hear from people who are using the recommended strategies in schools. You can reach us through the WWC Help Desk or email us at Contact.IES@ed.gov

A Fresh Look at Homeschooling in the U.S.

By Sarah Grady

From 1999 to 2012, the percentage of students who were homeschooled doubled, from an estimated 1.7 percent to 3.4 percent. But that increase appears to have leveled off, according to newly released data. In 2016, about 1.7 million students (ages 5-17) were estimated to be homeschoolers, which translates to about 3.3 percent of all K-12 students. This rate is not statistically different from the percentage in 2012.


* Statistically adjusted
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), 1999; Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the NHES, 2003, 2007, 2012, and 2016.


These data come from the recently released First Look report on the Parent and Family Involvement in Education (PFI) survey from the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES). In this survey, parents were asked a number of questions about their child’s education. Using these data, NCES is able to identify students who are schooled at home instead of school for some or all classes.[1]

So, why did parents say they homeschooled their kids? The most important reason for homeschooling in 2016 was “concern about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure,” reported by 34 percent of parents of homeschooled students. (This was also the most commonly reported reason selected by parents in 2012.)  Other reasons cited as most important by families of homeschooled students in 2016 were dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (17 percent of homeschooled students’ parents) and a desire to provide religious instruction (16 percent).

The PFI survey is uniquely suited to collect data about homeschooled students because it collects data from households rather than schools or other institutions. It includes a suite of surveys designed to capture data related to learning at all ages and is ideal for trend analyses because of the repeated measures over time. The NHES:2016 First Look report for the PFI data also provides key estimates related to school communication with parents, homework, parents’ involvement in their students’ education, and homeschooling. The data will be available to researchers in the coming months. Check the NHES website for updates.

 

[1]Students who are homeschooled primarily because of a temporary illness and students who attend school for more than 25 hours per week are not counted in NCES’s estimate of homeschooling.  

New Data Explore Adults’ Nondegree Credentials

By Lisa Hudson

Despite a national interest in nondegree credentials—such as postsecondary certificates, occupational certifications, and occupational licenses—there hasn’t been comprehensive, national data on these programs. However, a new report from NCES fills this gap using data from our new Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES).

These data show that 27 percent of adults have a nondegree credential and that 21 percent have completed a work experience program (such as an apprenticeship or internship). The ATES data also show that the completion of degree programs and nondegree programs are related. For example, having a certification or license is more common among adults who have a college degree than among adults with lower levels of education.  

The ATES is one component of the NCES National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), which collects information on education-related topics that cannot be addressed through school-based surveys. It includes a suite of surveys designed to capture data related to learning at all ages. This most recent NHES administration, conducted from January to September 2016, was the first administration of the ATES. This survey was completed by a national sample of about 47,700 adults between the ages of 16 and 65.

The data show that nondegree credentialing and work experience programs are particularly common in the health care field. In fact, health care was the most common field in which both certifications and licenses were held, and the most common field for which adults had completed a work experience program.

The ATES also found that adults perceive nondegree credentials to be useful for many labor market outcomes. For example, 82 percent of adults who have a certification or license reported that it was very useful for “getting a job”, 81 percent reported that it was very useful for “keeping you marketable to employers or clients”, and 66 percent reported it that was very useful for “improving your work skills” (see figure). 

The ATES data will be available to researchers in the coming months. Check the NHES website for updates.

Getting to Know and Use the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System

By Sarah Souders

More than 3,915,918 individuals were employed by degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 2015. These employees provided services and support to the 19,977,270 students attending the nation’s 4,562 degree-granting institutions.

We know this information—and much more—because of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a program in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In fact, these data points only scratch the surface of information collected and updated annually by IPEDS. Each year, IPEDS issues 12 surveys to all postsecondary institutions receiving Title IV Federal Aid[1] and some institutions that participate by choice. The surveys provide data on a broad range of topics, from enrollment, admissions, and cost to grad rates, faculty, and human resources.  These data are reported by gender, race/ethnicity, institution type, and more.

But we don’t just want people to know about the data – we want them to use it!

The “Use the Data” landing page (see image below) provides many options for analysis. Users can look up and compare institutions, view trends and statistical tables for specific data points, download a complete survey file, customize a data file, or download a report summarizing the data for specific institutions.

Screen shot of IPEDS Use the Data website

There are many options for analysis given the extensive data collection and number of tools. One tool, the IPEDS Trend Generator, allows users to select a subject and question to observe trends over time. The trend generator allows users to explore enrollment trends, among many other topics.

Below is an example of a bar graph that can be generated using this tool. With the click of a couple of buttons, you can quickly learn that the number of students attending postsecondary institutions (as measured by 12-month enrollment) has been declining in recent years, after peaking in 2010-11 at 29,522,688 students. By 2014-15, enrollment decreased to 27,386,275 students, a decline of more than 2 million students.  

In addition to producing graphical displays, data from the Trend Generator can quickly be exported to an Excel file.

Chart showing trend data on postsecondary enrollment

Users also have the option to create custom data files which can be exported to Excel, SAS, STATA, or SPSS files. Users can choose individual or specific institutions using their own criteria, or groups of similar institutions can be selected at once by using predetermined categorizations. Some pre-set groupings include whether the institution is the state’s land grant institution, a Historically Black College and University, or a tribal college. Institutional groupings can also be selected by geographic characteristics and other groupings, such as highest degree offered, availability of distance education, and Carnegie classification. The full list of institutional groupings can be found on the IPEDS website

After selecting the institutions, users can choose the variables to be analyzed. In the screenshot below, you can see that the variable “number and salaries of non-medical full-time staff” allows users to select breakouts by academic rank, such as professor, associate professor, lecturer, etc. These breakouts can provide greater detail with regard to current and average salary. Once the variables are selected, the desired data file is complete and can be exported into one of the available formats.

Screenshot of IPEDS categories

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System contains a multitude of data which can be accessed for all levels of analysis, whether you are an experienced statistician or just a casual user. If you are using the data and have questions or comments, contact the IPEDS Help Desk by phone at 1-877-225-2568 or by email: ipedshelp@rti.org .

Sarah Souders was a 2017 summer intern for NCES. She is a student at The Ohio State University. 

[1] Title IV of the HEA authorizes the federal government’s primary student aid programs, which are the major source of federal support to postsecondary students. Title IV aid includes programs like Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work Study. If an institution accepts aid from programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (20 USC 1094, Section 487(a)(17) and 34 CFR 668.14(b)(19)), then they are required to complete all IPEDS surveys.