IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Letter from the Acting NCSER Commissioner: Providing Clarity on NCSER Fiscal Year 2023 Funding and Fiscal Year 2024 Competitions

The IES director recently posted a blog indicating that IES had to return approximately $44 million in unobligated funds of the $100 million total American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding IES received to help the nation's students recover from the learning losses of the pandemic. NCSER was hard hit by the rescission of these funds.

As transparent as we try to be, admittedly, the federal budgeting process is not always clear. Many of you have reached out with concerns about the potential impact of these ARP rescissions on your current grants and future funding opportunities. Please allow me to explain the current context of fiscal year 2023 funding and forecast for fiscal year 2024.

NCSER's Grant Funding: Where the Money Comes From and How It Is Spent

NCSER funds come from the Research in Special Education (RiSE) appropriation, which is one small part of the larger IES appropriations account. RiSE supports all of NCSER’s typical grant competitions. We also contribute money from this account to our share of other IES activities such as the grant peer review process and the PI meeting.

As those of you who have been funded by NSCER know, we provide grant funding on an annual basis. Even though we fund projects annually, once we make an award, we are committed to providing annual costs for a continuing project through the duration of the designated study period. Consequently, the amount of money available to support new research and training awards each year is contingent, in part, upon the number of current awards and their outyear costs. Any time NCSER funds a high number of new awards (and thereby commits to funding every award through the duration of the designated study period), there will be less money available for new awards the following year, unless the RiSE program appropriation receives an increase from Congress.

Deciding what new grant competitions in NCSER might look like in any given year requires that we balance many factors, including: (1) the amount of funding Congress is likely to appropriate to RiSE (note that we typically have to make decisions before we know for sure how much money we will have), (2) projected continuation costs for existing awards and commitments, (3) estimates of total funding available for new awards based on 1 and 2 above, and (4) a best guess prediction of the percent of applicants that will be successful, based on trends over time, in any single NCSER sponsored competition. If you have been around NCSER long enough, you know our funding is typically very tight, sometimes so tight we can’t offer any competitions (FY 2014) or need to significantly limit available competitions (FY 2017).

NCSER’s ARP-funded Research Projects

In FY 2022, once again, we found ourselves with insufficient funds to hold our typical special education research grant competitions. At the same time, IES received $100 million in ARP funding. With NCSER’s share of those funds, we chose, in part, to hold a new Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education grants program to fund projects that addressed the urgent challenges faced by districts and schools in supporting learners with or at risk for disabilities, their teachers, and their families in the aftermath of the pandemic. The competition was funded solely using ARP funds. To be clear, RiSE funds were never intended to be a source of funding for these projects. 

By now you may be predicting where this blog is going…

NCSER was thrilled to be able to fund 9 research grants through this ARP-funded competition, all of which have the potential to improve outcomes significantly and rapidly for students with or at risk for disabilities. A little less than 2 months ago, NCSER was in the process of documenting annual progress and approving continuation funding for these grantees when the ARP funds were unexpectedly rescinded (returned to the U.S. Treasury as part of the debt ceiling deal). These projects were in various stages of progress, but each was just finishing the first year of the grant and it is fair to say that, overall, a significant amount of work (and grant costs) remained at the time of this rescission.

As I mentioned, NCSER has operated from the perspective that when we make a commitment to funding your grant, we prioritize your continuation costs first before funding new awards or initiatives. In other words, if we are ever in a budget crunch, we will meet our existing commitments first before using money on new activities. Although the ARP funding source was eliminated, our commitment to those FY 2022 ARP-funded grants remained. We chose to use money from our RiSE account to pay for current and future continuation costs for these grants. I hope everyone can understand that this difficult decision honors our standard practice of prioritizing existing commitments.

NCSER’s FY 2023 Research Competition

After accounting for the cost of the continuations that would have otherwise been supported using ARP funds, NCSER’s ability to fund new awards in the FY 2023 grant competition was limited. Further exasperating our new budget shortfall was the much higher than expected (based on past application and funding trends) number of FY 2023 applications that were rated outstanding or excellent. This is a great testament to the field and the work that you all do! Unfortunately, this success came at the same time as this unexpected, very large budget rescission. Something had to give and sadly, what gave was our ability to fund many worthy new grants. It was not a decision made lightly or without thought for those grants left unfunded. I know that many of you are disappointed in this outcome.

It takes a tremendous amount of effort to produce a grant application and we recognize your continued efforts to work with NCSER staff throughout the pre-award process. It is heartbreaking to find out a grant you submitted won’t be funded, despite having such a strong score. NCSER staff were heartbroken with you.

Outlook for FY 2024

What does this all mean for NCSER moving forward? Despite the setback this year, based on available information we have now, NCSER plans to offer research competitions in FY 2024. We are committed to offering new funding opportunities whenever possible to continue the tremendous strides we have made in improving the depth, breadth, and quality of special education research in this country.

NCSER and NCER will be notifying the field very soon regarding FY 2024 competitions, so stay tuned. If you have not done so already, please sign up for our Newsflash to stay current on IES happenings, including the release of new funding opportunities.

Although the challenges we experienced this year certainly were disappointing, I want to end on what I see as the silver lining that emerged from of all of this. Namely, since NCSER’s first research competitions in 2006, the capacity in the field to conduct high-quality research and carry out excellent research training has grown tremendously. We should not forget how far we have come, and how bright NCSER’s future is. Our funding has not (yet!) kept pace with that growth, but that is a subject for another blog…

Please reach out to me at Jacquelyn.Buckley@ed.gov with questions or comments. I'm always happy to hear from you!

New Standards to Advance Equity in Education Research

One year ago, IES introduced a new equity standard and associated recommendations to its Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER). The intent of this standard, as well as the other eight SEER standards, is to complement IES’s focus on rigorous evidence building with guidance and supports for practices that have the potential to make research transformational. The addition of equity to SEER is part of IES’s ongoing mission to improve academic achievement and access to educational opportunities for all learners (see IES Diversity Statement). IES is mindful, however, that to authentically and rigorously integrate equity into research, education researchers may need additional resources and tools. To that end, IES hosted a Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting of experts to gather input for IES’s consideration regarding the existing tools and resources that the education community could use as they implement the new SEER equity standard in their research, along with identifying any notable gaps where tools and resources are needed. A summary of the TWG panel discussion and recommendations is now available.

The TWG panel recommended several relevant resources and provided concrete suggestions for ways IES can support education researchers’ learning and growth, including training centers, coaching sessions, webinars, checklists, and new resource development, acknowledging that different researchers may need different kinds of supports. The meeting summary includes both a mix of recommendations for tools and resources, along with important considerations for researchers, including recommendations for best practices, as they try to embed equity in their research. 

The new SEER equity standard and accompanying recommendations have been integrated throughout the current FY 2024 Request for Applications. By underscoring the importance of equity, the research IES supports will both be rigorous and relevant to address the needs of all learners.   


This blog was written by NCER program officer Christina Chhin. If you have questions or feedback regarding the equity TWG, please contact Christina Chhin (Christina.Chhin@ed.gov) or Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), co-chair of the IES Diversity Council. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the equity standard or associated recommendations, please email NCEE.Feedback@ed.gov.

Getting to Know ED: My Journey as a STEM Next Fellow at IES

This guest blog was contributed by Dr. Holly Miller, who currently serves as a STEM Next Opportunity Fund Fellow at the Institute of Education Science’s National Center for Education Evaluation.

Since August 2022, I’ve been serving as the STEM Next Opportunity Afterschool and Summer Learning Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). More specifically, I work within the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Upon arriving at IES, I was charged with a specific challenge: amplify how evidence-based practice in out-of-school time (OST) can support student learning and development. This mission was made all the more relevant by the need for states and districts to respond to the consequences of the COVID pandemic which, at the time, remained an official national emergency.

Perhaps naively, I hoped to walk in on Day One and find “The Official Compendium of Evidence-based Practices in Global Pandemics and Related Crises” that I could pull off the shelf and hand to educators. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered no such tome existed. And I began to realize that one of the biggest challenges I’d face in my new role was getting to know ED itself! To an outsider, the Department can seem like a huge machine. Getting to know it, though, can pay incredible dividends. As I came to learn, there are tons of great resources—if only you know where to look.

One of OST educators’ first stops in getting to know ED should be IES. For the uninitiated, IES is the Department’s statistics, research, and evaluation arm. The mission of IES is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public. It is independent and non-partisan.

Across its four centers—the National Centers for Education Statistics, Education Evaluation, Education Research, and Special Education Research—IES conducts six broad types of work (http://ies.ed.gov):

1. Providing data to describe the “condition of education,” including students’ academic proficiency.

2. Conducting surveys and sponsoring research projects to understand where education needs improvement and how these improvements might be made.

3. Funding development and rigorous testing of new approaches for improving education outcomes for all students.

4. Conducting large-scale evaluations of federal education programs and policies.

5. Providing resources to increase the use of data and research in education decision-making, including independent reviews of research on “what works” in education through the What Works Clearinghouse.

6. Supporting the advancement of statistics and research through specialized training and development of methods and measures.

I could see that this work had the potential to benefit a variety of stakeholders—teachers, administrators, students, researchers, and policymakers. Still, I had so many unanswered questions. As a middle school teacher, I frequently told students, “The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.” Therefore, as I surveyed the education research landscape at IES, I asked lots and lots of questions. My presence at IES was akin to a toddler at the zoo for the first time: “What are those? Why is that so big? Why don’t we have more of these? When do we eat?” Months of asking and I find my queries have been distilled into two essential questions:

  1. What has been the impact of the COVID pandemic on students and educators; and

 

  1. How can education research, like that conducted or sponsored by IES, help us understand—and address—those impacts?

What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life in the United States, including the education system. One of the most alarming impacts of the pandemic on education has been the widening of pre-existing gaps in student achievement and the resources that students need to be successful.

We all know the statistics … students have lost tons of learning. The "Report on the Condition of Education" is a congressionally mandated annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Using the most recent data available from NCES and other sources, the report contains key indicators on the condition of education in the United States at all levels, from prekindergarten through postsecondary, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. For example, the report on the condition of education 2023 recently released shares that on both the 4th- and 8th-grade NAEP mathematics assessments, higher percentages of students performed below NAEP Basic in 2022 than in 2019 (Irwin et al., 2023).  This has been particularly bad among students who have historically been underserved. The average NAEP mathematics scores in 2022 were generally lower for English Learners (EL) students than for non-EL students; lower for those identified as students with disabilities than for their peers without disabilities; and higher for students in low-poverty schools than for students in high-poverty schools. These patterns were similar to those observed for reading (Irwin et al., 2023).

This is surely due, at least in part, to differences in the resources students have access to. Even before the pandemic, huge gaps in resources existed. The pandemic only made matters worse. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) (2021), low-income students and students of color have been disproportionately negatively impacted by school shutdowns and remote learning practices. These students often lack access to reliable technology and internet resources, making it difficult for them to participate fully in online classes and complete assignments. Additionally, many students rely on meals provided by schools, so the closure of physical school buildings has led to food insecurity for some.

Also of note: the dramatic effect on student wellbeing. During the pandemic, mental health concerns such as fear, anxiety, and depression were common among the general public, especially children and older adults (Brooks et al., 2020; Pfefferbaum & North, 2020).  Research on the pandemic’s impact on mental health among students finds that “they showed increased fear, stress, and decreased happiness, and these were associated with their learning quality change.” (Hu et al., 2022).

Furthermore, the impact of COVID on educators is increasingly well-known. Educators had to make changes in short order, often with limited resources. This had consequences. Educators faced increased stress levels due to the shift to remote instruction, and many reported struggling to maintain a work-life balance while working from home. Findings indicate teachers reported greater mental health concerns than those in many other professions, and that remote teachers reported significantly higher levels of distress than those teaching in person (Kush et al., 2021). For some, it was too much, and they made the decision to leave the profession. Forty percent of public schools hiring for open teaching positions in special education in 2020–21 reported having difficulties filling the opening, compared with 17 percent in 2011–12 (Irwin et al., 2023) Not only were teachers leaving the workforce, but potential teachers were second-guessing their career choice. The number of persons enrolled in traditional teacher preparation programs decreased by 30 percent between 2012–13 and 2019–20, and the number of persons completing such programs decreased by 28 percent between 2012–13 and 2019–20 (Irwin et al., 2023).  

All of us are looking for solutions to all these problems. Given that I entered IES during the pandemic, I wanted to know how I could leverage its resources to help.

How can education research help?

First, I had to understand how IES, as a science agency, was structured to do the work of education research. My college textbook on education research (Newby, 2010) asserted that it should have three objectives: to explore issues and find answers to questions, to collect and disseminate information that shapes policy and decision-making, and to improve practice for practitioners.

It’s easy to see how the six broad areas of work at IES I listed above fit within those three objectives. For example, in normal (that is, pre-COVID) times, it’s the job of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to collect and disseminate education-related statistics and information about student achievement to inform the work of researchers, policymakers, and other education decision-makers. IES’ two research Centers, the National Centers for Education Research (NCER) and Special Education Research (NCSER) support researchers’ exploration of a wide range of education topics and their use of high-quality methods to answer important questions of policy and practice. Finally, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) conducts its own rigorous evaluations of federal policies and programs; supports states and districts in the use of data, evidence, and applied research to improve local practice; and disseminates information about “what works” through its What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). In the wake of the pandemic, IES had to quickly focus its activities and resources to meet new demands across the education system. Here are just a few of the new questions that IES had to address amid the pandemic.

  • What’s happening in schools, and who is learning in-person versus virtually or in hybrid settings? In late 2021, NCES leveraged work being done as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to meet an immediate need to better understand schools’ policies about learning mode, masking, and social distancing. In the weeks that followed, the School Pulse Panel was created (https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/spp/). Initially, the School Pulse focused on collecting monthly information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from a national sample of elementary, middle, high, and combined-grade public schools. Over time, its focus has broadened. While some survey questions are asked repeatedly to observe trends over time, others are unique each month. IES is now able to provide regular and near-real-time snapshots into “what’s happening” in the nation’s schools on a wide range of topics that matter to educators, policymakers, and families.

 

 

  • How can educators and caregivers support student learning in online, hybrid, and at-home settings? With schools closed and remote learning becoming the norm, educators and caregivers had to adapt their teaching methods and find new ways to engage students. As part of a mandate to provide assistance about “what works” in education, NCEE supported a series of efforts to bring together information for teachers navigating online and hybrid teaching environments and for caregivers who were providing instruction at home. NCEE commissioned work leading to the development of the “Best Practice in K-12 Online Teaching” minicourse (here), freely available from North Carolina State University, to support teachers new to online education in their transition to the medium. (The literature review on which the mini-course is based can be found here). NCEE’s Regional Educational Laboratories developed nearly 200 pandemic-related resources. Notable examples include “Supporting Your Child’s Reading at Home” (https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/rel/Products/Region/southeast/Resource/100679), which focuses on the development of early literacy skills, and “Teaching Math to Young Children for Families and Caregivers” (https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/rel/Products/Region/central/Resource/100652).

   

Since its inception in 2002, IES and its Centers have supported decision-makers—be they federal, state, or local—and educators in making use of high-quality evidence in their practice. The pandemic showed just important IES, its resources, and its infrastructure, can be.

In the pandemic’s wake, though, it seems to me that building even more evidence about “what works” is vital. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided historic levels of resources to expand educational opportunities and to ensure that education is better able to address the wide-ranging needs of students and their families – especially those who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Many ARP investments, including those related to OST, have the requirement that programs be rooted in evidence-based practices. Because there are still things to learn about what makes strong programs, we can strengthen the field by building evidence that can address key problems of practice.

Conclusion

When I came to ED and IES, searching for information on how to use evidence-based practices to support COVID recovery within the context of OST, I was lost. As I’ve come to better understand the organization, I’ve learned that vast resources are available. Half of the battle was just figuring out “what lives where” within the Department! I hope this blog has given OST practitioners a bit of a roadmap to make their own process of discovery easier.

In Part Two of this series, I will explore how OST learning fits into ED, education research, and the post-pandemic education system. The latter has been profoundly affected, creating an opportunity for innovation and transformation in the delivery of education. The value of research cannot be underestimated in this context. As a result, my next blog will pose two questions. First, I’ll ask what the role of OST in learning recovery can be in the years ahead.  Then I’ll consider what evidence needs to be built to make the most of what OST can offer. I hope you’ll read it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog. Send them my way at holly.miller@ed.gov.

 

Citations

Brooks S.K., Webster R.K., Smith L.E., Woodland L., Wessely S., Greenberg N., Rubin G.J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet North Am. Ed. 395(10227):912–920.

Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America's Students 2021 U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Hu K, Godfrey K, Ren Q, Wang S, Yang X, Li Q. (2022). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on college students in USA: Two years later. Psychiatry Res. Sep; 315:114685.

Huck, C., & Zhang, J. (2021). Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on K-12 Education: A Systematic Literature Review. New Waves-Educational Research and Development Journal, 24(1), 53-84.

Irwin, V., Wang, K., Tezil, T., Zhang, J., Filbey, A., Jung, J., ... & Parker, S. (2023). Report on the Condition of Education 2023. NCES 2023-144. National Center for Education Statistics.

Kush, J. M., Badillo-Goicoechea, E., Musci, R. J., & Stuart, E. A. (2021). Teacher mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: informing policies to support teacher well-being and effective teaching practices.

Newby, P. (2010). Research Methods for Education. Pearson Education.

Pfefferbaum B., North C.S. (2020). Mental health and the Covid-19 pandemic. N. Engl. J. Med.;383(6):510–512.

The Regional Educational Lab Program: Making a Difference in Literacy and Math Outcomes

by Chris Boccanfuso, REL Program Branch Chief

REL Midwest ENACT Coach, Katie Rich, works with Milwaukee Public Schools’ grade 6 teachers and math coaches during the ENACT Summer Institute.
REL Midwest ENACT Coach, Katie Rich, works with Milwaukee Public Schools’ grade 6 teachers and math coaches during the ENACT Summer Institute.

When educators at Harts PreK-8 and Omar Elementary School in southwestern West Virginia wanted to pioneer a new approach that supported families to engage in their child's math learning, they turned to a partner who had supported their State for more than 50 years: Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia. The resulting program, known in the Appalachian region and elsewhere as community math nights, has now served hundreds of families in West Virginia and Kentucky. And thanks in part to the attention of education writers and the national media, it is poised to help even more.

The Regional Educational Labs program, operated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), supports state education agencies, schools and school districts, and institutions of higher education nationwide in using data and evidence-based practice to improve opportunities and outcome for learners. Operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States of the Pacific region, the REL program brings together the expertise of local communities, top-tier education researchers, and education scientists at the IES National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) to address the most vexing problems of education policy and practice in states and regions—on demand and free of charge.

In this first of a four-part blog series, we highlight four REL research and development projects focused on strengthening math and literacy outcomes. Each demonstrates how RELs have leveraged their distinct capacity for innovation, rigorous research, and authentic partnership to deliver locally-focused and evidence-based supports to the regions, states, and communities they serve.

REL Appalachia: Engaging families for math success in Kentucky and West Virginia

A community math night (CMN) brings together educators, students, family members, and other caring adults to learn about, talk about, and have fun with math. CMNs are designed to reinforce positive math mindsets, help family members participate in their child's learning, and build a sense of community and partnership around a subject that many caregivers find daunting. As part of its support for a series of CMNs across Kentucky and West Virginia, REL Appalachia published materials and a facilitators guide so that any school can host their own event.

True to the program’s emphasis on continuous improvement and innovation, REL Appalachia has begun a new partnership with Logan County (WV) schools that builds from the foundations of the existing CMN approach as a jumping-off point to further accelerate improvement in middle school math achievement using a more comprehensive, year-round set of supports. This new effort involves coaching school-based teams to build their capacity to promote positive math attitudes with students and families, implement research-based instructional practices in the classroom, and employ inclusive family engagement strategies. Materials used to coach school teams will be pulled together into a single resource when the project is complete, but you can begin to use early content now! (See, for example, resources for “Promoting Positive Mathematics Attitudes.”)  

REL Midwest: Inspiring Milwaukee students to be lifelong STEM learners

What if some of the principles powering today’s most innovative technologies—such as artificial intelligence—could be taught to elementary students to encourage lifelong learning and success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? The ENgagement and Achievement through Computational Thinking (ENACT) partnership, which includes Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and REL Midwest, is working with teachers to do just that.

Together, MPS and REL Midwest are developing, evaluating, and refining an approach for integrating computational thinking—a set of skills related to problem solving and explaining one’s reasoning—into MPS’ 6th grade math curriculum.

Laura Maly, an MPS mathematics teacher-leader, shared how integrating computational thinking strategies has influenced her work this year. "The [ENACT] computational thinking strategies are very prevalent throughout all strands of mathematics and across all of the grade levels that I work with," she said. "It is easy to bring the CT [computational thinking] strategies to life when working in mathematics classrooms."

REL Southeast: Improving Literacy in Mississippi –The Journey Continues

After many years at the bottom in student performance when compared with other states, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) made a concerted effort to improve the foundational literacy skills of students in kindergarten through grade 3. The results of that effort speak for themselves, with many referring to the state’s transformation as the “Mississippi Miracle.” Now the state is turning its attention to the next leg of its journey: improving the literacy skills of all students, focusing on grade 4 and beyond.

MDE and four school districts in the state–Canton, Columbus, Laurel, and George counties–formed the Mississippi Improving Adolescent Literacy Partnership with REL Southeast to ensure educators can integrate literacy strategies into a wide range of academic courses, from social studies to the sciences. To do so, partners are relying on research conducted elsewhere within NCEE: its What Works Clearinghouse. (Check out the WWC’s Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices and Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively practice guides to learn more!)

After completing a REL Southeast training session, one teacher wrote a message to her principal saying the training gave her tips on how to improve student literacy in her social studies class.  “The training helped prepare me to serve my students in the classroom better and has opened my eyes to a broader range of techniques and skills. The training was so informational and engaging that it gave me the confidence level needed to help my students." Two months after the last session, a follow-up survey of participants showed that over half of the teachers reported changing (or being in the process of changing) their approach to supporting based on the training.

Now, REL Southeast is developing tools that will allow districts across Mississippi—and across the country—to replicate these early successes.

REL Southwest: Studying an enhanced approach to literacy instruction for English learner students in New Mexico

Supporting English learner students is a priority in New Mexico and for the state’s Public Education Department (NMPED). Two recent studies from REL Southwest found that significant numbers of both American Indian and Spanish-speaking English learners in New Mexico are struggling to meet grade-level standards and be reclassified as “Fluent English Proficient.” NMPED has developed a strategic plan designed to strengthen equitable educational opportunities and achievement for English learner students. To do so, the plan emphasizes supporting the whole child through evidence-based literacy instruction that is culturally and linguistically responsive (CLRI).

REL Southwest, NMPED, and several regional education cooperatives and school districts in New Mexico formed the Southwest English Learner Literacy (SWELL) partnership to help turn the State’s new plan into a reality. Over the next two school years, partners will enhance, implement, refine, and test Write to Succeed, a research-based professional learning program to help grades 4–8 teachers implement high-quality literacy instruction that includes appropriate supports for English learner students. After working with school and district coaches and NMPED staff to refine and deliver the Write to Succeed program to teachers statewide, REL Southwest will rigorously evaluate the impact of the program on teacher practice and student outcomes. What is learned will help to inform NMPED’s further adoption—or modification—of this program.

Looking Ahead

These four projects demonstrate RELs working in partnership with educators and policymakers to improve opportunities and outcomes for students in mathematics and literacy. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs about REL work on other important topics such as teacher mentorship and induction, accountability, and trauma-informed supports!

Have questions about anything you read here, or other work within the REL Program? Just email me at chris.boccanfuso@ed.gov.

Encouraging the Use of LGBTQI+ Education Research Data

Until recently, limited data existed in education research focused on the LGBTQI+ community and their experiences. As this area of interest continues to grow, education researchers are learning how to effectively collect these data, interpret their implications, and use them to help improve the educational outcomes of LGBTQI+ identifying students. In this blog post, we review current federal recommendations for data collection and encourage researchers to submit FY 2024 applications focused on the educational experiences and outcomes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) identifying students.

Collecting Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities

In January 2023, the Office of the Chief Statistician of the United States released a report with recommendations on how to effectively design federal statistics surveys to account for sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI). While this report is for a federal audience, the recommendations are relevant and useful for education researchers who wish to measure the identities and experiences of those in the LGBTQI+ community. Some suggestions include—

  • Provide multiple options for sexual orientation identification (for example, gay/lesbian, straight, bisexual, use other term)
  • Provide a two-question set in order to measure gender identity—one asking for sex assigned at birth, and one for current self-identification
  • Provide write-in response and multiple-response options for SOGI-related questions
  • Allow respondents to proceed through the survey if they choose not to answer unless answers to any of these items are critical for data collection

Education researchers looking to incorporate SOGI data into their studies can also use existing SOGI data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to support their research. A new NCES blog outlines the studies that collect SOGI information and outlines some initial findings from that data.

Funding Opportunities for Research to Improve Outcomes of LGBTQI+ students

In alignment with the SEER Equity Standard, IES encourages researchers to submit applications to the FY 2024 research grant competitions that support the academic and social behavioral outcomes of students who identify as LGBTQI+. IES is especially interested in research proposals that involve—

  • Describing the educational experiences and outcomes of LGBTQI+ students
  • Creating safe and inclusive learning environments that support the needs of all LGBTQI+ students.
  • Identifying promising practices for school-based health services and supports, especially mental health services, that are accessible to and supportive of LGBTQI+ students
  • Identifying systems-level approaches that reduce barriers to accessing and participating in high quality learning environments for LGBTQI+ students

Check out our funding opportunities page for more information about our FY 2024 requests for applications. If you have specific questions about the appropriateness of your research for a specific FY 2024 research competition, please contact the relevant program officer listed in the request for applications.


This blog is part of a 3-part Inside IES Research blog series on sexual orientation and gender identity in education research in observance of Pride month. The other posts discuss the feedback from the IES LGBTQI+ Listening and Learning session and the first ever learning game featuring a canonically nonbinary character.

This blog was produced by Virtual Student Federal Service intern Audrey Im with feedback from IES program officers Katina Stapleton (NCER - Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) and Katherine Taylor (NCSER - Katherine.Taylor@ed.gov) and NCES project officers Elise Christopher (Elise.Christopher@ed.gov) and Maura Spiegelman (Maura.Spiegelman@ed.gov).