IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Gathering Public Input to Help IES Improve

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 5, 2017 

The Institute of Education Sciences is committed to continuous improvement and this includes gathering public input on our work and our resources. Right now, we are seeking feedback on two important aspects of our work:

  • Two of our research goals, Efficacy and Replication and Effectiveness; and
  • Revisions to the What Works Clearinghouse Standards and Procedures handbooks.

Brief overviews of these opportunities are below, with links to where you can get more information and how to submit input. And, as always, if you have thoughts or ideas on how IES can better serve the field, please email us at Contact.IES@ed.gov.

IES Research Goals

IES is seeking input on how we can improve our education and special education research programs, specifically around two of our five research goals—Efficacy and Replication (Goal 3), and Effectiveness (Goal 4). We want to know if these goals, as currently configured, are meeting the needs of the field and whether we should consider changes that would support more replication and effectiveness studies.

The request for feedback comes after IES convened a group of experts to discuss what should come after an efficacy study. This Technical Working Group met last fall and looked at the replication and effectiveness studies that IES has funded over the years and made suggestions on actions IES could take to increase the visibility and support of replication studies, encourage more effectiveness research, and further our understanding of causal mechanisms, variability in impacts, and implementation factors. We shared some of the findings and suggestions in a blog post earlier this year and posted a summary of the working group’s discussion on the IES website (PDF).

Please take a few moments to read the Invitation for Public Comment letter to see the specific questions we are seeking to answer, and send your input and ideas to Comments.Research@ed.gov. We ask that you respond by Monday, October 2, 2017.

What Works Clearinghouse Handbooks

IES is also seeking feedback on revisions to the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Procedures and Standards Handbooks. The handbooks describe how the WWC reviews effectiveness research to determine what works in public education.

The proposed Handbooks (WWC Standards and WWC Procedures will now have separate handbooks) have been developed by the WWC in consultation with experts and are made available to users in draft form as part of the process for updating WWC standards. The handbooks can be reviewed on the WWC website and any comments can be sent to contact.wwc@ed.gov. Feedback is requested by August 30. (SEPT. 5 UPDATE: The deadline for submitting feedback has passed although questions and ideas are welcome at the same address.) 

The revisions to WWC handbooks are part of the WWC's ongoing work to increase transparency, refine its processes, develop new standards, and create new products. In fact, the WWC recently launched a new product that was developed based on public input.

For the latest IES, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and receive email updates through the IES News Flash.

Compiled by Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES

STATS-DC 2017: Sharing, Learning, and Tweeting

More than 900 people attended the 2017 STATS-DC Data Conference, August 1-3, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), STATS-DC is an annual, free conference designed to provide the latest information, resources and training on accessing and using federal education data.

Educators, statisticians, and researchers from around the country attended the conference and many of them took to Twitter to share what they were learning and seeing. Below is a collection of those Tweets that used the #STATSDC2017 hashtag.

You can view the conference agenda and get more information about STATS-DC on the NCES website. Information about the 2018 conference should be available next spring. 

 

 

Compiled by Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES

 

Putting Your Ideas into Action: Instructional Tips for Educators

By Christopher Weiss, Program Manager, What Works Clearinghouse

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is always looking for ways to improve. We want it to be as easy as possible for our users to connect with the evidence they need, so they can make informed educational decisions.

Last year, we undertook a comprehensive, multi-faceted self-study. Through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, we asked a variety of different WWC users to tell us what we were doing well and, more importantly, what we could do better. (Click here if you’re interested in all the results.)

Some of the specific suggestions we received focused on the WWC Educator’s Practice Guides, which combine the best available research evidence and practitioner expertise on a topic to provide educators with strategies to use in their school or classroom. Based upon a review of the research literature and the guidance of a panel of nationally recognized experts, practice guides synthesize evidence and the wisdom of practitioners.

One particular suggestion that came from the self-study was to create a separate, stand-alone document with concise and specific information that a teacher or school would need to carry out some of a practice guide’s recommendations. It was a great suggestion – and we put it into action.

On July 25, we released our first Instructional Tips publication (PDF), which was created to help educators carry out the recommendations in the Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 through 8 practice guide. We provide tips for three of the Practice Guide’s five recommendations:

  • Assisting Students in Monitoring and Reflecting on the Problem-Solving Process;
  • Teaching Students to Use Visual Representations to Solve Problems; and
  • Helping Students Make Sense of Algebraic Notation.

As an example, for the recommendation on visual representations, we offer two instructional tips. First, we suggest that teachers demonstrate how to select the appropriate visual representation for the problem they are solving and we provide specific steps and examples for implementing this tip. Second, we suggest teachers use think-alouds and discussions to teach students how to represent problems visually and, again, provide specific steps and work examples. Here's one of the examples from the publication:

An accompanying document (PDF) to the Instructional Tips describes the evidence base that supports these recommended practices.

We are planning additional Instructional Tips publications down the road, but we want to hear from you first. If you have questions or ideas for how we can improve this resource, we’d love to hear them. Please send them through an email to the WWC Help Desk.

The Instructional Tips are just one of several ways we are working to improve the WWC. Over the past two years, we have redesigned our website and created a new Find What Works tool to make it easier for users to find the evidence they need. We have also increased our use of Facebook and Twitter to help us better connect with new audiences; published new briefs and held several webinars to explain WWC processes and resources; and have launched a new Reviews of Individual Studies database to give the field quicker access to the research we have reviewed. And all of this has been done while we continue to identify interventions, practices and programs that show evidence of improving student outcomes across a wide array of educational topics.

Stay up to date on new WWC products, events, and resources by signing up for the IES News Flash (under NCEE) and following us on Facebook and Twitter

Isn’t that Special? IES Funds New Research in Career and Technical Education

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funds research in a broad array of education topics. In fact, the Education Research Grants Program alone funds research in 11 specific topics, such as early learning, reading and writing, STEM, postsecondary and adult education, English learners, social behavioral contexts for learning and others.

In 2017, the National Center for Education Research (NCER) introduced a twelfth area, Special Topics, to address important areas in education that are of high interest to policy makers and practitioners where there is a research gap.

As we noted in a previous blog, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is one such area. Across the country, CTE programs and policies are growing, creating a greater need for high-quality, independent research in this area. The Career and Technical Education (CTE) special topic seeks to fill this research gap by funding projects that study the implementation of CTE programs and policies and how they impact student outcomes in K-12 education. In 2017, IES has funded its first three special topic research grants on CTE:

  • New York University will study the impact of New York City's Career Technical Education programs on students' career and work-related learning experiences, social and behavioral competencies, high school completion, and transitions to college and the work place;
  • The Education Development Center will lead a study that compares three different ways that CTE is delivered in California—career academies, career pathways, and elective CTE courses. The researchers will examine relationships between CTE delivery mode and student outcomes; and
  • A study of Florida’s CTE certification program will be conducted by Research Triangle Institute (RTI). The study will identify which high school certifications are associated with a higher likelihood of passing certification exams and whether obtaining a certification leads to better attendance, graduation rates, and postsecondary enrollment and persistence.

For its 2018 grant competition, IES is again accepting applications for CTE research grants, as well as two other special topics.

The Arts in Education special topic funds research to better understand how arts programs and policies are implemented and the impact they have on student outcomes. The research coming out of this program can help inform policy debates regarding the benefits of arts programming in schools. (Read a recent blog post on this topic.)

The Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students special topic seeks to fund research aimed at improving the education and outcomes for students who frequently move schools because of changes in residence and/or unstable living arrangements. This includes students who are homeless, in foster care, from migrant backgrounds or are a part of military families. (Read a recent blog post on this topic.)

You can learn more about these and other funding opportunities on the IES website, and on Facebook and Twitter

Written by Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES

Student homelessness in urban, suburban, town, and rural districts

Data from two recent NCES reports—the Condition of Education and the Digest of Education Statistics—show that student homelessness is a challenge in many different types of communities.

In 2014-15, the rate of homelessness among U.S. public school students was highest in city school districts at 3.7 percent, but was also 2.0 percent or higher in suburban, town, and rural districts. While suburban districts had the lowest rate of student homelessness, they still enrolled 422,000 homeless students, second only to the 578,000 homeless students enrolled in city districts. Smaller numbers of homeless students were enrolled in rural (149,000) and town (139,000) districts.


Figure 1. Percentage of public school students who were identified as homeless, by school district locale: School year 2014–15

NOTE: Homeless students are defined as children/youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. For more information, see "C118 - Homeless Students Enrolled" at https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/edfacts/sy-14-15-nonxml.html. Data include all homeless students enrolled at any time during the school year. Data exclude Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 118, Data Group 655, extracted January 23, 2017, from the EDFacts Data Warehouse (internal U.S. Department of Education source). Common Core of Data (CCD), "Local Education Agency Universe Survey," 2014–15. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 204.75b.


The majority of students experiencing homelessness (76 percent) were doubled up or sharing housing with other families due to loss of their own housing, economic hardship, or other reasons such as domestic violence. Seven percent were in hotels or motels; 14 percent were in shelters, transitional housing or awaiting foster care placement; and 3 percent were unsheltered.

The percentage of homeless students who were doubled up with other families ranged from 70 percent in city districts to 81 percent in rural districts. The percentage of homeless students who were housed in shelters was higher in city districts than in suburban, town, and rural districts. The percentages of homeless students who were unsheltered or living in hotels and motels varied less widely across district locale categories.


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of public school students who were identified as homeless, by primary nighttime residence and school district locale: School year 2014–15

1Refers to temporarily sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or other reasons (such as domestic violence).
2Includes living in cars, parks, campgrounds, temporary trailers—including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers—or abandoned buildings.
NOTE: Homeless students are defined as children/youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. For more information, see "C118 - Homeless Students Enrolled" at https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/edfacts/sy-14-15-nonxml.html. Data include all homeless students enrolled at any time during the school year. Data exclude Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education. This figure is based on state-level data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 118, Data Group 655, extracted January 23, 2017, from the EDFacts Data Warehouse (internal U.S. Department of Education source). Common Core of Data (CCD), "Local Education Agency Universe Survey," 2014–15. See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 204.75b.


The percentage of homeless students who were unaccompanied youth–meaning that they were not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian—was   highest in rural districts (9.3 percent) and lowest in suburban districts (6.9 percent). The percentage of homeless students who were English language learners was highest in urban districts (16.8 percent) and lowest in rural districts (5.9 percent), and the percentage who were migrant students was highest in town districts (3.4 percent) and lowest in urban districts (1.0 percent).

Data used in this analysis were collected under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. This legislation requires that school districts identify students experiencing homelessness and guarantees students’ right to enroll in public schools and access educational and transportation services. More information on this legislation and the U.S. Department of Education’s programs and resources focused on student homelessness can be found on the National Center for Homeless Education’s website.

States report aggregated data on homeless students to the U.S. Department of Education through the EDFacts collection. EDFacts covers all public school districts and provides a uniquely detailed view of student homelessness. The full data on student homelessness by school district locale is available in the Digest of Education Statistics. A broader analysis in the Condition of Education describes how student homelessness has changed over time and how it varies among states. You can view homeless student data for the 120 largest school districts here and download a dataset with information on all public school districts here.