IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

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.

Sustaining School Improvement

By Thomas Wei, Evaluation Team Leader, NCEE

NOTE: In an effort to turn around the nation’s chronically low-performing schools, the Department of Education injected more than $6 billion into the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program over the past several years. SIG schools received a lot of money for a short period of time—up to $6 million over three years—to implement a number of prescribed improvement practices.

What is the prognosis for low-performing schools now that many federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) are winding down? This is an important question that the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) addressed through its Study of School Turnaround

The second and final report from this study was released on April 14 and describes the experiences of 12 low-performing schools as they implemented SIG from 2010 to 2013 (Read a blog post on the first report). Findings are based on analyses of teacher surveys and numerous interviews with other school stakeholders, such as district administrators, principals, assistant principals, members of the school improvement team, instructional coaches, and parents.

After three years trying a diverse array of improvement activities ranging from replacing teachers to extending learning time to installing behavioral support systems, most of the 12 schools felt they had changed in primarily positive ways (see chart below from report).

The report also found that schools with lower organizational capacity in the first year of SIG appeared to boost their capacity by the final year of SIG. At the same time, schools with higher capacity appeared generally able to maintain that capacity.

Many experts believe that organizational capacity is an important indicator of whether a low-performing school can improve (see chart below showing schools with higher organizational capacity also appeared more likely to sustain improvements). Organizational capacity is indicated by for example, how strong a leader the principal is, how consistent school policies are with school goals, how much school leaders and staff share clear goals, how much collaboration and trust there is among teachers, and how safe and orderly the school climate is.

Despite these promising results, the report found that the overall prospects for sustaining any improvements appeared to be fragile in most of these 12 schools. The report identified four major risk factors, including (1) anticipated turnover or loss of staff; (2) leadership instability; (3) lack of district support, particularly with regard to retaining principals and teachers; and (4) loss of specific interventions such as professional learning or extended day programs. Most of the case study schools had at least one of these major risk factors, and a number of schools had multiple risk factors.

It is important to note that this study cannot draw any causal conclusions and that it is based on surveys and interviews at a small number of schools that do not necessarily reflect the experiences of all low-performing schools. Still, it raises interesting questions for policymakers as they consider how best to deploy limited public resources in support of future school improvement efforts that will hopefully be long-lasting.

NCEE has a larger-scale study of SIG underway that is using rigorous methods to estimate the impact of SIG on student outcomes. The findings from the case studies report released last week may yield important contextual insights for interpreting the overall impact findings. These impact findings are due out later this year, so stay tuned.

IES Funded Researchers Receive Awards at AERA

The annual American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference is a great opportunity for thousands of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to learn from one another and make connections that will help improve education. It is also a chance to celebrate and honor those who are doing outstanding work in the education research field. This year’s conference, held April 8-12, was no exception.

Among the AERA award winners who were honored this week are five people who have received funding from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)—Michelene Chi, Douglas and Lynn Fuchs, Andrew Porter, and Daniel Schwartz.

Douglas and Lynn Fuchs received the 2014 “Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award,” which AERA describes as the premier acknowledgment of outstanding achievement and success in education research. The winner of this award gives a presentation at the annual conference. The Fuchs’ (pictured right) gave their presentation this year, which was entitled “The Changing Counterfactual in Schools and Classrooms: Implications for Educational Research. They are currently leading an IES research initiative, Improving Reading and Mathematics Outcomes for Students with Learning Disabilities: Next Generation Intensive Interventions.

The 2015 Distinguished Contributions winner, Andrew Porter (pictured left), also gave his address this week, entitled Standards-Based Reforms: Its Implementation and Effects. His most recent IES funding is to stand up a new Research and Development Center, the Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction and Learning (C-SAIL).

In a recent post on the Inside IES Research blog, Dr. Porter discussed the work of C-SAIL , which seeks to deepen the understanding of the impact that college- and career-readiness standards are having on student outcomes. 

The 2016 winner of the Distinguished Contribution to Research in Education Award is Michelene Chi, who is also an IES-funded principal investigator (PI). She will give her award address at next spring’s AERA conference in San Antonio.

Through an IES-funded grant, Dr. Chi (pictured right) is actively seeking to bring principles of learning from cognitive science into the hands of teachers so that their instruction can transform student learning.

Daniel Schwartz, who has spent his career bringing principles of learning from cognitive science into the classroom, received the 2015 Sylvia Scribner Award, which honors current research that represents a significant advancement in our understanding of learning and instruction. Dr. Schwartz (pictured left) delivered his award address at this week’s AERA meeting. His current IES project is seeking to create a set of principles to select problem sets for students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) domains.

You can learn more about the AERA awards on their website. Congratulations to all the winners! 

Photo Credits: Douglas and Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University; Andrew Porter, University of Pennsylvania; Michelene Chi, Arizona State University; Daniel Schwartz, Stanford University

By Elizabeth Albro, Associate Commissioner, NCER