IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Activities for Students and Families Stuck at Home due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

As I write this blog post, my 4-year-old is spraying me with a water sprayer while I am desperately protecting my computer from a direct hit. Earlier, while I was listening in on a meeting, she yelled out “hi!” anytime I took myself off mute. Balancing work and raising kids in this bizarre situation we find ourselves in is an overwhelming experience. When schools started closing, some parents resorted to posting suggested schedules for kids to keep up a routine and deliver academic content during the day. These were wonderful suggestions. As someone whose dissertation focused on how people learn, I should be applauding such posts, but instead, they filled me with a sense of anxiety and guilt. How am I supposed to balance getting my work done while also designing a rigorous curriculum of reading, writing, and math instruction for a kid whose attention span lasts about 10-20 minutes and who needs guidance and adult interaction to learn effectively? Let’s take a step back and recognize that this situation is not normal. We adults are filled with anxiety for the future. We are trying to manage an ever-growing list of things—do we have enough food? Do we need to restock medications? What deadlines do we need to hit at work?

So here is my message to you, parents, who are managing so much and trying desperately to keep your kids happy, healthy, and engaged: recognize that learning experiences exist in even the simplest of interactions between you and your kids. For example—

  • When doing laundry, have your child help! Have them sort the laundry into categories, find the matching socks, name colors. Create patterns with colors or clothing types (for example, red sock, then blue, then red, which comes next?).
  • Find patterns in your environment, in language (for example, nursery rhymes), and when playing with blocks or Legos. Researchers have shown that patterning is strongly related to early math skills.
  • Talk about numbers when baking. I did this with my daughter yesterday morning. We made muffins and had a blast talking about measuring cups, the number of eggs in the recipe, and even turning the dial on the oven to the correct numbers. Older kids might be interested in learning the science behind baking.
  • Take a walk down your street (practicing good social distancing of course!) and look for different things in your environment to count or talk about.
  • Bring out the scissors and paper and learn to make origami along with your kids, both for its benefits for spatial thinking and as a fun, relaxing activity! In this project, researchers developed and pilot tested Think 3d!, an origami and pop-up paper engineering curriculum designed to teach spatial skills to students. The program showed promise in improving spatial thinking skills.
  • If you choose to use screen time, choose apps that promote active, engaged, meaningful, socially interactive learning.
  • If you choose to use television programs, there is evidence showing that high quality educational programs can improve students’ vocabulary knowledge.

Hopefully these examples show that you can turn even the most mundane tasks into fun learning experiences and interactions with your kids. They may not become experts in calculus at the end of all of this, but maybe they will look back fondly on this period of their life as a time when they were able to spend more time with their parents. At the end of the day, having positive experiences with our kids is going to be valuable for us and for them. If you have time to infuse some formal learning into this time, great, but if that feels like an overwhelmingly hard thing to do, be kind to yourself and recognize the value of even the most simple, positive interaction with your kids.

Written by Erin Higgins, PhD, who oversees the National Center for Education Research (NCER)'s Cognition and Student Learning portfolio.

Building the Evidence Base for BEST in CLASS – Teacher Training to Support Young Learners with the Most Challenging Classroom Behavior

Classroom teachers of young children face a seemingly never-ending challenge – how to manage disruptive behavior while simultaneously teaching effectively and supporting the needs of every student in the classroom. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Florida have received five IES research grants over the past decade – three through the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) and two from the National Center for Education Research (NCER) – to develop and test a model of training and professional development, including coaching, for early childhood and early elementary school teachers on how best to support children who engage in disruptive and otherwise challenging classroom behaviors.

With their first IES grant in 2008, Drs. Maureen Conroy and Kevin Sutherland developed the original BEST in CLASS model for early childhood teachers. The goal of BEST in CLASS - PK is to increase the quantity and quality of specific instructional practices with young children (ages 3-5 years old) who engage in high rates of challenging behaviors with the ultimate goal of preventing and reducing problem behavior. Professional development consists of a six-hour workshop that uses didactic and interactive learning activities supported by video examples and practice opportunities. Following the workshop, teachers receive a training manual and 14 weeks of practice-based coaching in the classroom. 

The results of this promising development work led to a 2011 IES Efficacy study to test the impact of BEST in CLASS - PK on teacher practices and child outcomes. Based on positive findings from that Efficacy study the team was awarded two additional Development and Innovation grants – one in 2016 to develop a web-based version of BEST in CLASS – PK to increase accessibility and scalability and another in 2015 to adapt BEST in CLASS – PK for early elementary school classrooms (BEST in CLASS – Elementary). Drs. Sutherland and Conroy are currently in the second year of an Efficacy study to test the impact of BEST in CLASS - Elementary to determine if the positive effects of BEST in CLASS in preschool settings are replicated in early elementary classrooms.

Written by Emily Doolittle, NCER Team Lead for Social Behavioral Research, and Jacquelyn Buckley, NCSER Team Lead for Disability Research

Working Toward a Successful National Data Collection: The ECLS Field Test

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducts some of the most complex education surveys in the world, and we work hard to make these surveys as effective and efficient as possible. One way we make sure our surveys are successful is by conducting multiple tests before we fully launch a national data collection.

Even prior to a field test, NCES develops survey materials and procedures using much smaller-scale cognitive laboratory testing and focus-group processes. These initial development procedures help ensure that materials are clear and procedures are understood before we conduct field testing with larger and more representative groups of respondents. Then, we launch the field tests to test data-collection operations and survey processes and procedures. Field tests are small-scale surveys that include a range of respondents and are designed to test the survey questionnaires and survey administration procedures in a real-world situation prior to the launch of a major study. The field test results allow us to make any necessary adjustments before starting the national data collection. Field tests also allow us to test specific survey items and ensure that they are valid and reliable. Without a field test, we could risk spending the public’s time and money on large data-collection efforts that do not produce the intended information.

NCES is about to begin the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2022–23 (ECLS-K:2023) with a field test early this year. The ECLS-K:2023 will focus on children’s early school experiences, beginning with preschool and continuing through fifth grade. From the spring of 2022 through the spring of 2028, we will collect national study data from children and their parents, teachers, and school administrators to answer questions about children’s early learning and development, transition into kindergarten and beyond, and experiences in the elementary grades. 

Although the ECLS-K:2023 will be similar in many ways to prior ECLS kindergarten studies, we are adding a round of data collection prior to the children’s kindergarten year—the national spring 2022 preschool round. For this preschool survey, we’ll send an invitation to participate to a sample of residential addresses within selected areas of the United States. Potential participants will first be asked to fill out a brief screener questionnaire. If they report that an ECLS-eligible child is in the household, they will be asked additional important questions about early childhood topics, such as their child’s literacy, language, math, and social skills; activities done with the child in the home (e.g., singing songs, playing games, reading); and characteristics of any early care and education (i.e., child care) arrangements for the child.   

Because the ECLS-K:2023 preschool data need to be comprehensive and reliable so that they can inform public discussions and policies related to early elementary education, it’s crucial that we test our procedures and questions for this new preschool round by conducting a field test in early 2020.  

If you receive a letter about participating in the 2020 ECLS field test, you’re being selected to represent thousands of households like yours and provide NCES with the data we need to make decisions about how to best conduct the ECLS-K:2023. The participation of all the selected households who receive our mailings, even those without children, is essential for a successful field test and, ultimately, a successful ECLS-K:2023.

If you are selected for the ECLS field test and have any questions about participating, please visit the participant information page

For more information on the ECLS-K:2023 or its 2020 field test, please email the ECLS study team.

For information about other ECLS program studies, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll

Cost Considered “Very Important” to Parents Who Chose Relatives as Caregivers for Young Children

When it comes to choosing a child care arrangement, cost is a big factor in the choices parents make, according to recently released data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Every 3 years, NCES conducts the Early Childhood Program Participation (ECPP) component of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) to answer questions about young children’s care and education before starting kindergarten. The ECPP survey reported that 60 percent of children under age 5 who were not yet in kindergarten participated in at least one weekly nonparental care arrangement in 2016. Of those receiving nonparental care,

  • 42 percent received only center-based care;
  • 25 percent received only relative care;
  • 20 percent received multiple types of care; and
  • 12 percent received only nonrelative care.

When asked what factors influenced their choice of child care arrangements, 51 percent of parents ranked the cost as “very important” when selecting an arrangement in 2016. This percentage was higher among parents of children in relative care (63 percent) than among parents of children in multiple types of care arrangements (50 percent) and parents of children only in center-based care (47 percent).

Overall, in 2016, some 39 percent of parents with children in nonparental care reported that they had difficulty finding child care. This rate was lowest for parents of children only in relative care (23 percent) and highest for parents of children only in nonrelative care (53 percent). However, among parents who had difficulty trying to find child care, cost was a larger concern for those with children only in relative care than it was for those with children in other arrangements (see figure 1).

 


Figure 1. Percentage of children under age 5 whose parents reported that cost was the primary reason for difficulty finding child care arrangements, by type of arrangement: 2016

NOTE: Data are for children participating in at least one weekly nonparental care arrangement. Excludes children enrolled in kindergarten.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Costs of Child Care: Results From the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (ECPP-NHES:2016).


 

In 2016, fees were less common and costs were generally lower for parents with children in relative care than for parents with children in other types of nonparental care arrangements. Thirty-two percent of parents with children in at least one care arrangement were not charged fees for care, and 58 percent of those children were in relative care. Among children in relative care, 80 percent were cared for by grandparents. When parents paid grandparents for their children’s care, they paid an average of $4.86 per hour, less than the average across all types of care arrangements ($6.93 per hour).

For more detailed information about costs of child care, see The Costs of Child Care: Results From the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (ECPP-NHES:2016).

 

By Tracae McClure and Sarah Grady

Education at a Glance 2019: Putting U.S. Data in a Global Context

International comparisons provide reference points for researchers and policy analysts to understand trends and patterns in national education data and are important as U.S. students compete in an increasingly global economy.

Education at a Glance, an annual publication produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances, and progress of education systems in 36 OECD countries, including the United States, as well as a number of OECD partner countries. The report also includes state-level information on key benchmarks to inform state and local policies on global competitiveness. 

The recently released 2019 edition of the report shows that the United States is above the international average on some measures, such as participation in and funding of higher education, but lags behind in others, such as participation in early childhood education programs.

 

Distribution of 25- to 34-Year-Olds With a College Education, by Level of Education

The percentage of U.S. 25- to 34-year-olds with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree increased by 8 percentage points between 2008 and 2018, reaching 49 percent, compared with the OECD average of 44 percent. However, the attainment rates varied widely across the United States in 2017, from 32 percent for those living in Louisiana and West Virginia to 58 percent for those living in Massachusetts and 73 percent for those living in the District of Columbia.

The percentage of U.S. students completing a bachelor’s degree within 4 years was 38 percent in 2018, about the same as the average among OECD countries with available data (39 percent); however, after an additional 2 years, the U.S. graduation rate (69 percent) was slightly above the OECD average of 67 percent (achieved after 3 years). While a higher percentage of U.S. young adults had completed a bachelor’s degree compared with young adults in other OECD countries, a lower percentage had completed a master’s or doctoral degree. Eleven percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the United States had completed a master’s or doctoral degree, compared with an average of 15 percent across OECD countries.

 

Higher Education Spending

U.S. spending on higher education is also relatively high compared with the OECD average, in both absolute and relative terms. The United States spent $30,165 per higher education student in 2017, the second-highest amount after Luxembourg and nearly double the OECD average ($15,556). Also, U.S. spending on higher education as a percentage of GDP (2.5 percent) was substantially higher than the OECD average (1.5 percent). These total expenditures include amounts received from governments, students, and all other sources. 

 

Early Childhood Education

Contrasting with enrollment patterns at the higher education level, the level of participation in early childhood education programs in the United States is below the OECD average and falling further behind. Between 2005 and 2017, average enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds across OECD countries increased from 76 to 86 percent. In contrast, the rate in the United States remained stable at 66 percent during this time period. Among U.S. states, the 2017 enrollment rates for 3- to 5-year-olds ranged from less than 50 percent in Idaho, North Dakota, and Wyoming to more than 70 percent in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and New Jersey.

Going deeper into the data, on average, 88 percent of 4-year-olds in OECD countries were enrolled in education programs in 2017, compared with 66 percent in the United States. The enrollment rate for 3-year-olds in the United States was 42 percent, compared with the OECD average of 77 percent.

 

Gender Gaps in Employment

Education at a Glance also looks at employment and other outcomes from education. The report found that the 2017 gender gap in employment rates was lower for those who had completed higher levels of education. This pattern holds in the United States, where the gender gap in the employment rate was particularly high among 25- to 34-year-olds who had not completed high school. For this age group, the employment rate was 73 percent for men and 41 percent for women, a difference of 32 percentage points, compared with the average difference of 28 percentage points across OECD countries. The gender gap in the employment rate was 14 percentage points among U.S. adults with only a high school education and 7 percentage points among those who had completed college.

In 2017, the gender differences in average earnings were also wider in the United States than in the OECD averages. These gender gaps in earnings between male and female full-time workers existed across all levels of education. In the United States, college-educated 25- to 64-year-old women earned 71 percent of what their male peers earned. This gender gap was wider than for all other OECD countries except for Chile, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Poland, and the Slovak Republic.

This is just a sample of the information that can be found in Education at a Glance 2019. You can also find information on the working conditions of teachers, including time spent in the classroom and salary data; student/teacher ratios; college tuitions and loans; and education finance and per student expenditures. Education at a Glance also contains data on the international United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to education.

Browse the full report to see how the United States compares with other countries on these important education-related topics.

 


Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college education, by level of education: 2018

1 Year of reference differs from 2018 (see NOTE).                                                                                                                                       

NOTE: Reporting of some countries is not consistent with international categories. Please refer to Education at a Glance Database, http://stats.oecd.org. for details. Comparisons follow International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011 education levels: “Associate’s or similar degrees” refers to ISCED 2011 level 5, “Bachelor’s or equivalent” refers to level 6, “Master’s or equivalent” refers to level 7, and “Doctoral or equivalent” refers to level 8. Countries are ranked in descending order of the total percentage of tertiary-educated 25- to 34-year-olds. See Annex 3 for additional notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

SOURCE: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2019), Education at a Glance Database, http://stats.oecd.org


 

By Thomas Snyder