IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Higher Rates of Homeschooled Students Than Enrolled Students Participated in Family Learning Activities in 2016

About 3 percent of the school-age population—around 1.7 million students—was homeschooled in 2016. We know that homeschooled students have different educational experiences than students who are enrolled in public or private schools, and recently released data explore some of those differences.

The Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) provides information on homeschooled and public and private school students based on a nationally representative sample. Parents provide information about their children’s formal education and learning activities outside of school.

The survey asks about six broad types of family learning activities that students experienced in the month prior to the survey. The 2016 results indicate that homeschooled students were more likely than their peers enrolled in public or private schools to participate in five of these six activities.

In 2016, higher percentages of homeschooled students than of students enrolled in public or private schools visited a library; a bookstore; an art gallery, museum, or historical site; and a zoo or aquarium in the month prior to completion of the survey (figure 1). A higher percentage of homeschooled students also attended an event sponsored by a community, religious, or ethnic group with their parents in the month prior to completion of the survey. The one activity for which there was no measurable difference between homeschooled and students enrolled in public or private schools was going to a play, concert, or other live show.

 


Figure 1. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-old students participating in selected family learning activities in the past month, by homeschool and enrollment status: 2016

 

NOTE: Includes 5- to 17-year-old students in grades or grade equivalents of kindergarten through grade 12. Homeschooled students are school-age children who receive instruction at home instead of at a public or private school either all or most of the time. Excludes students who were enrolled in public or private school more than 25 hours per week and students who were homeschooled only because of temporary illness. Selected activities with the child may have included any member of the household.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (PFI-NHES), 2016.


 

The NHES data do not tell us why these differences exist, but parents’ availability of time and parenting style may be a factor. However, more research is needed to understand these differences.

A recent report, Homeschooling in the United States: Results from the 2012 and 2016 Parent and Family Involvement Survey (PFI-NHES:2012 and 2016), provides the full complement of data from the NHES about homeschoolers’ experiences in 2016. In addition to family learning activities, the report provides information about the following:
 

  • Homeschooler demographics

  • Reasons for homeschooling

  • Providers of homeschool instruction

  • Amount of time homeschoolers spent attending public schools, private schools, or college

  • Participation in local homeschool group activities

  • Homeschool teaching styles

  • Sources of homeschool curriculum and books

  • Online coursetaking of homeschool students

  • Homeschool subject areas

  • Parent expectations of homeschooled students’ future education
     

For more information on the National Household Education Surveys Program, please go to https://nces.ed.gov/nhes/.

 

By Sarah Grady

An Example of the Unquantifiable Effect of Research on Practice

At IES, we continue to think about ways to positively impact education practice through research. It is relatively straightforward to count and share the publications and research outputs produced by our grants. A bigger challenge is measuring the impact IES-funded research has on implementing evidence-based practice after the research project is complete. So we were thrilled when we received the following letter from Patrice Bain—a middle school teacher, author, education specialist, speaker, and consultant—who has worked closely with IES for many years.

I used to think of government agencies as impersonal bureaucracies often hidden from the public eye. One agency, IES, not only proved me wrong, it positively changed my life.

In 2006, Drs. Henry Roediger III and Mark McDaniel from Washington University in St. Louis obtained a grant from IES to research how students learn in an authentic classroom. The classroom where this research began was mine. And this is where the life-changing impact began.

The IES grant paid for technology to be used in my school’s classrooms and research assistants to aid our teachers. Heading up the research at my school was Pooja Agarwal, and this began a collaboration lasting over a decade.

In 2007, IES invited me to be the sole K-12 educator to co-author a practice guide. The large organization, to me, now had a face: Elizabeth Albro, who warmly welcomed me. I clearly recall sitting at a large table in Washington, DC, surrounded by my cognitive science superheroes: Drs. Hal Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Brian Bottge, Art Graesser, Janet Metcalfe, and Ken Koedinger. Each talked about important research that would impact learning in classrooms, and I knew my newly-expanded teaching repertoire now would be based in the science of learning. The final result of our meetings became the highly cited practice guide Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning. In addition, information from this guide was featured on the website Doing What Works.

As Pooja and I delved into how retrieval, spacing, and metacognition played a role in student learning at my school, I was contacted by REL Mid-Atlantic, a part of IES that offers research-based professional development in Delaware, Washington, DC, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Touting the benefits of teaching using the seven recommendations in Organizing Instruction and Study, I gave professional development presentations in the Mid-Atlantic regions with Drs. Hal Pashler, Ken Koedinger, and Nate Kornell.

Pooja and I also gave several presentations that included the research happening in my classroom. With IES funding, that research became a multi-year project involving over 1500 middle and high school students. With the passing of each year and research on learning becoming more defined, I was able to develop strategies utilizing retrieval, spacing, and metacognition. Pooja and I continued our collaboration. I was seeing success in the eyes of my students: I wasn’t just teaching content, I was teaching them how to learn.

A wealth of information on the science of learning seemed to be making a mark. Yet learning myths—those based on anecdotes and fads—were still circulating. To combat this, IES and NCER invited me to be on a working task group to tackle Neuromyths vs. Neurotruths. Once again, as I sat around a table in Washington, DC with learning superheroes, we explored how to begin to dispel prevalent myths of learning.

Because of IES and the opportunities I was given, I wanted to shout from a mountaintop that we can transform teaching. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it in my classroom. I realized a book started to brew within me. I’m not sure how the decision occurred, but I knew my collaboration with Pooja Agarwal was worthy of documenting. And so it began. We wanted to write a practical, evidence- and research-based book. Books had been written by cognitive scientists; books had been written by teachers. However, our book would be the first written by a cognitive scientist and an educator.

Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning was released in June 2019. The ideas have resonated with educators across the globe. We are transforming education.

And it all started with IES approving a grant.

 

IES Celebrates Computer Science Education Week and Prepares for the 2020 ED Games Expo at the Kennedy Center

This week is Computer Science Education Week! The annual event encourages students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to explore coding, with a focus on increasing representation among girls, women, and minorities. The event honors the life of computer scientist Grace Hopper, who broke the mold in the 1940s as a programming pioneer. Coding and computer science events are occurring in schools and communities around the country to celebrate the week.

This week is also a great time to highlight the computer science and engineering projects that are coming to Washington, DC for the 2020 ED Games Expo at the Kennedy Center on the evening of January 9, 2020. Developed with the support of the Institute of Education Sciences and other federal government offices, the projects provide different types of opportunities for students to learn and practice computer science and engineering skills with an eye toward examining complex real-world problems.

At the Expo, expect to explore the projects listed below.

  1. In CodeSpark Academy’s Story Mode, children learn the ABCs of computer science with a word-free approach by programming characters called The Foos to create their own interactive stories. In development with a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. In VidCode, students manipulate digital media assets such as photos, audio, and graphics to create special effects in videos to learn about the coding. A teacher dashboard is being developed through a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  3. Future Engineers uses its platform to conduct STEM challenges for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students. Developed with a 2017 ED/IES SBIR award.
  4. Fab@School Maker Studio allows students to design and build geometric constructions, pop-ups, and working machines using low-cost materials and tools from scissors to inexpensive 3-D printers and laser cutters. Developed with initial funding in 2010 by ED/IES SBIR.
  5. In DESCARTES, students use engineering design and then create 3-D print prototypes of boats, gliders, and other machines. Developed through a 2017 ED/IES SBIR award.
  6. In Ghost School, students learn programming and software development skills by creating games. In development with a 2018 Education Innovation and Research grant at ED.
  7. In Tami’s Tower, children practice basic engineering to help Tami, a golden lion tamarin, reach fruit on an overhanging branch by building a tower with blocks of geometric shapes. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution.
  8. In the Wright’s First Flight, students learn the basics of engineering a plane through hands-on and online activities, then get a firsthand look at what it looked (and felt) like to fly it through a virtual reality simulation. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution.
  9. In EDISON, students solve  engineering problems with gamified design software and simulate designs in virtual and augmented reality. In development with support from the National Science Foundation. 
  10. May’s Journey is a narrative puzzle game world where players use beginning programming skills to solve puzzles and help May find her friend and discover what is happening to her world. Developed with support from the National Science Foundation. 
  11. In FLEET, students engineer ships for a variety of naval missions, test their designs, gather data, and compete in nationwide naval engineering challenges. Developed with support from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
  12. Muzzy Lane Author is a platform for authoring learning games and simulations without requiring any programming skills. Developed in part with a Department of Defense award.

About the ED Games Expo: The ED Games Expo is the Institute’s and the Department of Education's annual public showcase and celebration of educational learning games as well as innovative forms of learning technologies for children and students in education and special education. At the Expo, attendees walk around the Terrace Level Galleries at the Kennedy Center to discover and demo more than 150 learning games and technologies, while meeting face-to-face with the developers. The Expo is free and open to the public. Attendees must RSVP online to gain entry. For more information, please email Edward.Metz@ed.gov.

Edward Metz is the program manager for the ED/IES Small Business Innovation Research program.

Christina Chhin is the program officer for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education research program.

Measuring Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

Social and emotional learning (SEL) has been embraced by many schools and districts around the country. Yet in the rush to adopt SEL practices and support student SEL competencies, educators often lack assessment tools that are valid, reliable, and easy to use.

 

Washoe County School District in Nevada has moved the needle on SEL assessment with support from an IES Researcher-Practitioner Partnership grant. The district partnered with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to develop the Social and Emotional Competency Assessments (WCSD-SECAs)—free, open-source instruments that schools can use to measure SEL competencies of students in 5th through 12th grade.

Long and short versions of the SECA are available to download from the school district’s website, along with a bank of 138 items across 8 SEL domains that schools around the country can use to modify SECA assessments for their local context. The long-form version has been validated and aligned to the CASEL 5 SEL competency clusters and WCSD SEL standards (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making). The assessment is also available in Spanish, and the Metro Nashville Public schools offer the assessment in 8 additional languages.  

Students complete the long-form SECA as part of Washoe’s Annual Student Climate Survey by rating how easy or difficult SEL skills are for them. Under the Social Awareness domain, students respond to items such as “Knowing what people may be feeling by the look on their face” or “Learning from people with different opinions than me.” Under the Responsible Decision Making domain, students rate themselves on skills such as “Saying ‘no’ to a friend who wants to break the rules” and “Thinking of different ways to solve a problem.”

The SECA is one component of Washoe County’s larger School Climate Survey Project that is marking its 10th anniversary this year. Washoe provides district-level and school-level reports on school climate to support the district’s commitment to providing safe, caring, and engaging school environments for all of Washoe’s students and families.  

Written by Emily Doolittle, NCER’s Team Lead for Social Behavioral Research

IES Honors Dominic Gibson as Outstanding Predoctoral Fellow

Each year, IES recognizes an outstanding fellow from its Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Programs in the Education Sciences for academic accomplishments and contributions to education research. The 2018 winner, Dr. Dominic Gibson completed his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Chicago. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Washington where he specializes in understanding how children learn words and mathematical concepts. In this blog, Dominic discusses his research and his experience as an IES fellow.  

What inspired you to focus your research on early mathematics?

So many everyday activities as well as many of humanity’s greatest achievements rely on math. Simple math becomes so second nature to us that it is often difficult for older students to conceptualize what it would be like to not have a basic understanding of numbers. But children take months and often years to learn the meanings of just the first few number words (one, two, three) and to learn how the counting procedure really works. Children’s acquisition of other math terms (angle, proportion, unit of measurement) is similarly marked by misconceptions and slow, difficult learning.  

Overcoming these learning challenges relies on an interesting mixture of uniquely human abilities (like language) and skills we share with other animals. Moreover, children’s ability to master early math concepts predicts their future academic success. Therefore, by studying how children learn about math, we can better understand the sources of humanity’s unique achievements and apply this knowledge to reducing early achievement gaps and maximizing our potential.

Based on your research, what advice would you give parents of pre-kindergartners on how to help their children develop math skills?

My biggest piece of advice is to talk to children about numbers and other basic math concepts. Children benefit from abundant language input in general, and “math talk” is no different. Even simply talking about different numbers of things seems to be particularly important for acquiring early math concepts. Numbers can be easily incorporated into a variety of activities, like taking a walk (“let’s count the birds we see”) or going to the grocery store (“how many oranges should we buy?”). Likewise, good jumping off points for using other types of early math talk such as relational language are activities like puzzles (“this one is too curvy to fit here—we need to find a piece with a flat edge”) and block building (“can you put this small block on top of the bigger one?”).

It also may be useful to note that even when a child can say a word, they may not fully understand what it means. For instance, two- to four-year-old children can often recite a portion of the count list (for example, the numbers one through ten) but if you ask them to find a certain number of items (“can you give me three blocks?”) they may struggle when asked for sets greater than two or three. Therefore, in addition to counting, it is important to connect number words to specific quantities (“look there are three ducks”). It may be especially helpful to connect counting to the value of a set (“let’s count the ducks—one, two, three—there are three!”).

My last piece of advice is to be careful about the types of messages we send our children about math. Many people experience “math anxiety,” and if we are not careful, children can pick up on these signals and become anxious about math themselves or internalize negative stereotypes about the types of people who are and are not good at math. Ensuring that children feel empowered to excel in math is an important ingredient for their success.

How has being an IES predoctoral fellow helped your development as a researcher?

The diverse group of people and perspectives I encountered as an IES predoctoral fellow made a huge impact on my development as a researcher. As an IES predoctoral fellow pursuing a degree in psychology, I met many students and faculty members who were interested in the same questions that interest me but who approached these questions from a variety of other disciplines, such as economics, public policy, and sociology. I also connected with networks of educators and policymakers outside of academia who alerted me to important issues that I may have missed if I had only worked within my own discipline. Through these experiences, I gained new tools for conducting my research and learned to avoid the types of blind spots that often develop when approaching a problem from a single perspective. In particular, I gained an appreciation for the challenges of translating basic science to educational practice and the number of interesting research questions that emerge when attempting to do this work.

Compiled by Katina Rae Stapleton, Education Research Analyst and Program Officer for the Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Programs in the Education Sciences, National Center for Education Research