IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

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.

 

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.

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Compiled by Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES