IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

A New Research Spotlight on Educating Highly Mobile Students

Across America, schools struggle with addressing the academic and social needs of students who are homeless, in foster care, from migrant backgrounds, or military-dependent. These students typically change residences and/or schools frequently (often multiple times within a given school year) making it difficult for them to succeed academically.  

This year, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is shining a research spotlight on improving the education outcomes of highly mobile K-12 students through a new special topic within its Education Research grants program. The new Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students special topic invites research on:

  • support services that reduce barriers that highly mobile students typically face;
  • policies that allow highly mobile students to receive credit for full or partial coursework completed while attending their previous schools;
  • policies that facilitate the transfer of student records across jurisdictions, and help highly mobile students navigate standards, course, and graduation requirements that change from state to state;
  • policies and programs that address the academic, physical, psychological, and social needs of highly mobile students who may have experienced deprivation or trauma; and
  • state and local implementation of services for highly mobile students that are required by federal law or are provided through federally funded programs or interstate agreements.  

Through this special topic, IES also encourages studies that create or utilize shared/integrated data systems (such as records exchanges) to identify and track highly mobile students and pinpoint factors that could potentially be used to improve these students' outcomes. 

(Dr. Jill Biden, pictured above, mentioned this new special topic area in her remarks at the American Educational Research Association's annual conference as part of her focus on military families.)

Additional Opportunities for Research on Highly Mobile Students

Researchers who are interested in studying highly mobile pre-K students are invited to apply through to the Early Learning Programs and Policies topic. Similarly, researchers who are interested increasing highly mobile students’ access to, persistence in, progress through, and completion of postsecondary education are invited to apply through the Postsecondary and Adult Education Research topic. 

IES also encourages researchers to partner with local school districts or state education agencies to carry out initial research on highly mobile students and develop a plan for future research. This can be done through the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research topic.

For more information about funding opportunities for research on highly mobile students, please visit the IES website or contact Katina Stapleton.

For examples of previously funded research on highly mobile students, see  Promoting Executive Function to Enhance Learning in Homeless/Highly Mobile Children, Developing a Model for Delivering School-Based Mentoring to Students in Military Families, and Students in Foster Care: The Relationship between Mobility and Educational Outcomes.

Written by Katina Stapleton, Education Research Analyst, NCER; Program Officer, Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students

Photo of Dr. Biden courtesy of AERA

Renovating Our Home: The New IES Website

By Ruth Curran Neild, delegated director, IES

When you invite people into your home, you want everything to look nice. You clean up, organize, and do anything you can to make sure everyone has a pleasant experience. Now, imagine inviting millions of people into your home.

That is essentially what IES does every year with its website—we welcome millions of people to our online home so they can find the information, tools, and resources they want and need. A few years ago, we recognized that our home wasn’t the most welcoming place – and we decided to do something about it. Our users said the website was very text heavy and almost impossible to use on a mobile device, which is how an increasing number of users are visiting. And they said the way our site was organized made it hard for users to find what they were looking for and see the connections among our work.

Today, I am proud to announce that our home renovation has begun as we launch the first phase of a major website redesign that uses a more attractive, contemporary design, is mobile-friendly, and is better organized, including a new drop down navigation menu that makes it easier for our users to find what they are looking for.

The first phase updates our five top-level pages—the IES home page (pictured) and the landing pages for our four centers: the National Center for Education Research (NCER), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE); and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). For a comparison, here's a screenshot of the old website.

To develop the design of the new website, we spoke to focus groups of users, looked at data and analytics, and studied trends in web design. We think the result is a vast improvement over the previous site, and it will only get better over time. In the coming weeks and months we will update other pages, such as our Standards and Review Office, research programs, evaluation studies, the National Library of Education, and more.

To improve the user experience, we also will develop some new pages and content demonstrating the connection and continuity of the work that IES is doing. These include:

  • Topic pages: These pages will bring together a broad array of research, evaluation, and statistics around a specific topic, such as early childhood education and high school graduation;
  • A communications hub: A site where all of the latest IES news, press releases, and blogs will be hosted and easy to find; and
  • An improved training site and events calendar: Information that better displays and tracks training opportunities and events.

Anyone who has been involved in a website redesign knows it is not easy. While only a handful of pages have launched today, it took a long time and a lot of effort to get to this point. I want to thank the many IES staff members and contractors who have developed and built our new site and congratulate them on a job well done. It will take us a while to fully update the website since it contains thousands and thousands of pages.

And, as with any new website, there may be some hiccups that will require further tweaking. If you see anything on our site that needs attention, please email us at Contact.IES@ed.gov and include a link to the content.

The new website is an important part of our overall efforts to improve our dissemination of the research, resources, and tools we support and develop. As I wrote in a recent piece on the Evidence Speaks website, progress is being made in this area, but we still have a lot of work to do before research is used on an everyday basis in the classroom and on campuses. In the coming months, IES will continue to make improvements to our online presences and outreach:

  • In May, we will launch an IES Facebook page to better engage our community and share the work of IES on social media (UPDATE: The Facebook page has launched). We have already made improvements to our social media outreach on Twitter, and have added about 1,000 followers to the @IESResearch twitter feed this year, alone;
  • In the fall, we will unveil a major redesign of the What Works Clearinghouse website and significant improvements to the Find What Works tool so it is easier to locate interventions and programs that make a difference; and
  • Early next year, we expect to launch a major overhaul of the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) websites to align with the start of the new REL contracts. The RELs are our primary dissemination network, and over the past five years have undertaken many new strategies for connecting research to policy and practice. The new REL contracts and website will further advance that work.

If you have other ideas for dissemination or outreach, please share them with us. We are always trying to improve. You can email our Communications Director, Dana Tofig, at dana.tofig@ed.gov

UPDATED May 13, 2016 to reflect the launch of the IES Facebook page. 

A Milestone for Education Statistics: The 50th edition of the Digest of Education Statistics

By Tom Snyder

For more than five decades, the Digest of Education Statistics has been addressing the data needs of a wide array of people, from policymakers who require a reliable, unbiased foundation for decision-making to researchers who seek to unravel the complex facts underlying key issues of the day; from reporters who need in-depth information for education-related news stories to organizational leaders who rely on annually updated data to steer their course. The Digest also serves the needs of everyday citizens who may be curious about such things as the number of high school graduates in the United States, the latest trends in postsecondary costs and financial assistance, or the earnings of employees with various types of degrees.

Released on April 28, Digest of Education Statistics 2014 is the 50th in a series of reports that has been issued annually since 1962, except for combined editions for the years 1977-78, 1983-84, and 1985-86. The Digest provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from prekindergarten through graduate school. Subject matter includes the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to data on educational attainment, finances, federal funds for education, libraries, and international education.

The Digest continues a long tradition of recurring statistical reports issued by NCES and its predecessor agencies. From 1869-70 to 1916-17, statistical data were included in the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Education. A similar report, the Biennial Survey of Education in the United States, was issued every other year from 1917-18 to 1957-58.

By the summer of 1962, the need for an annual statistical summary report had become obvious to agency staff, and the first edition of the Digest was published. Dr. Vance Grant, who played a leading role in developing the first edition of the Digest, continued to direct the project until the 1985-86 edition. During these years, the Digest responded to the growing data needs of policymakers by adding new information on children with disabilities, preprimary education, career and technical education, educational attainment, and salary data. In 1987, I took over the responsibility of publishing the Digest, and we have continued to make changes that meet the needs of the policy community. This includes expanding the quantity of state-level tables, constructing tables to show institution-level data for large school districts and colleges, and adding more racial/ethnic data.

Beginning with the 1995 edition, a strong web presence was developed for the Digest, reflecting increased needs for digital access to education data. The full tabular content of the report is presented on the NCES website in HTML format, and a spreadsheet version of each statistical table is also available for users to download. The 2013 edition introduced a revamped web structure and table-numbering system that makes it easier for users to quickly find the latest version of a specific table, as well as to explore all the tables that are currently available on a specific topic. Rather than numbering the entire set of tables sequentially, the latest editions of the Digest use a subject-matter numbering sequence that will remain the same year after year. The most current versions of Digest tables are posted to the website on a rolling basis, before the entire edition of the report has been completed.

Over the years, the Digest has evolved as an education data resource that continues to support the information needs of our modern society. The newly released 2014 edition provides convenient online access to 594 tables covering the full range of education topics.

A New Focus on Arts Education Research

(UPDATED) The arts are a topic of much discussion and debate among education practitioners and policymakers as school districts work to help students meet high standards with limited resources.  

Certainly, advocates point to many benefits for students who participate in the arts, such as improved creativity, communication, and innovation; higher engagement in school; and a positive effect on academic outcomes, including reading and math achievement, high school completion, and college enrollment.

While there is generally broad support for the arts, there is a lack of rigorous, independent research that can identify and develop promising programs and rigorously assess the effect of arts participation on education outcomes. For example, research is needed to:

  • Explore how factors such as type, duration, intensity, and quality of arts programming affect student education outcomes;
  • Identify the most effective ways to incorporate the arts to ensure the broadest impact on student achievement in other academic areas (i.e., math, science, reading, and writing); and
  • Rigorously test the effects of existing arts programs on a variety of student education outcomes, identify factors that influence these effects, and assess how these effects compare for diverse groups of students. 

To begin answering these, and other important questions about the arts in schools, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is competing grants in a special topic, Arts in Education. We are encouraging applications that address important research questions and provide evidence and resources on which to base decisions about arts education.

On May 4, 2016, the IES program officers, Dr. James Benson and Dr. Erin Higgins, participated in a webinar on the grant competition, which was offered by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development. A video of the webinar is available on the NEA website or can be viewed on NEA's YouTube site.

For more information about the Arts in Education topic, visit the IES website.  

Written by Erin Higgins and James Benson, Education Research Analysts, NCER

UPDATED MAY 6: Updated to reflect that the webinar has already been held and provide link to video.

Celebrate National Library Month: The Future of Libraries

By Christopher Cody and Bao Le

April is National Library Month! Did you know that NCES collects data on libraries?

While libraries have traditionally provided the public with a physical space for learning and accessing resources and information, the role of the library has expanded with advances in technology. With the dawn of the digital age, libraries have been working to meet the challenges of expanding access, learning opportunities, and overall public connection.[i] Academic libraries in particular, which are libraries located within postsecondary institutions, have embraced technological improvements, as shown in data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The Academic Libraries (AL) Survey has a rich history at NCES, starting in 1966 when we began conducting the surveys on a three-year cycle as part of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The survey moved around a bit, but is now fully housed in IPEDS and is currently administered on a yearly cycle.

IPEDS’s AL Survey offers an abundance of data to track the advancement of libraries, including data on topics such as collections/circulations, expenses, and interlibrary services. These data show a clear progression of libraries into the digital age. Here are some highlights:

  • In 1996, “80 percent of institutions with an academic library had access from within the library to an electronic catalog of the library’s holdings, 81 percent had internet access within the library.”[ii]
  • In 1996, about 40 percent had library reference service by e-mail. Just 10 years later, 72 percent of academic libraries provided library reference service by e-mail or the internet.[iii]
  • In 2006, only 6 percent of all academic library collections were e-books. By 2014-15, about 23 percent of all collections were e-books and 31 percent of the total library collections were from electronic and digital sources (e-books, e-media, and databases) as shown in Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2014; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2014: First Look (Provisional Data).
  • In 2014-15, postsecondary institutions housed approximately 1.1 billion items in physical library collections (books and media) and about 521 million items in electronic library collections (digital/electronic books, databases, and digital electronic media).

 

Over the past 20 years, libraries have evolved to ensure information is accessible to the public through the latest mediums of technology.


So in honor of National Library Month, take advantage of the abundant historical academic and school library data available through NCES located on the Library Statistics Program page. More recent academic library data can be accessed by visiting the Use the Data portal on the IPEDS website.

 

[i] Clark, L., Levien, R. E., Garmer, A. K., and Figueroa, M. (2015). Re-Thinking the Roles of U.S. Libraries. In D. Bogart and A. Inouye (Eds.), Library and Book Trade Almanac: formerly The Bowker Annual 2015, 60th Edition (pg. 3-22). Medford, NJ: Information Today Inc.

[ii] Cahalan, M. W., Justh, N. M., and Williams, J. W. (1999). Academic Libraries: 1996 (NCES 2000-326). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

[iii] Holton, B., Hardesty, L., and O’Shea, P. (2008). Academic Libraries: 2006 (NCES 2008-337). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.