Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

What We are Learning from NAEP Data About Use of Extended Time Accommodations

For students with learning disabilities, many of whom may take more time to read and process information than non-disabled peers, an extended time accommodation (ETA) is often used on standardized assessments. In 2021, IES awarded a grant for researchers to explore the test-taking behavior, including use of accommodations such as ETA, of students with disabilities in middle school using response process data from the NAEP mathematics assessment. In this blog, we interview Dr. Xin Wei from Digital Promise to see what she and Dr. Susu Zhang from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are learning from their study.

The researchers have delved into the performance, process, and survey data of the eighth graders who took the digital NAEP mathematics test in 2017. Their recent article presents a quasi-experimental study examining the differences in these data across three distinct profiles of students with learning disabilities (LDs)—students with LD who received and utilized ETAs, students with LD who were granted ETAs but did not use them, and students with LD who did not receive ETAs.

The key findings from their study are as follows:

  • Students with LDs who used their ETAs performed statistically significantly better than their peers with LDs who were not granted ETA and those who received ETA but did not use it. They also engaged more with the test, as demonstrated by more frequent actions, revisits to items, and greater use of universal design features like drawing tool and text-to-speech functionalities on most of the math items compared to students who were not granted extended time.
  • Students with LDs who had ETAs but chose not to use them performed significantly worse than their peers with LDs who were not granted extended time.
  • Students with LDs who were granted ETAs saw the best performance with an additional 50% time (45 minutes compared to the usual 30 minutes provided to students without ETA).
  • Students who were given extra time, regardless of whether they used it, reported feeling less time pressure, higher math interest, and enjoying math more.
  • There were certain item types for which students who used ETAs performed more favorably.

We recently discussed the results of the study with Dr. Wei to learn more.


Which types of items on the test favored students who used extended time and why do you think they benefited?

Headshot of Xin Wei

The assessment items that particularly benefited from ETAs were not only complex but also inherently time-consuming. For example, students need to complete four sub-questions for item 5, drag six numbers to the correct places for item 6, type answers into four places to complete an equation for item 9, type in a constructive response answer for item 11, and complete a multiple-choice question and type answers in eight places to complete item 13.

For students with LDs, who often have slower processing speeds, these tasks become even more time-intensive. The additional time allows students to engage with each element of the question thoroughly, ensuring they have the opportunity to fully understand and respond to each part. This extended time is not just about accommodating different processing speeds; it's about providing the necessary space for these students to engage with and complete tasks that are intricate and time-consuming by design.

Why did you decide to look at the additional survey data NAEP collects on math interest and enjoyment in your study of extended time?

These affective factors are pivotal to academic success, particularly in STEM fields. Students who enjoy the subject matter tend to perform better, pursue related fields, and continue learning throughout their lives. This is especially relevant for students with LDs, who often face heightened test anxiety and lower interest in math, which can be exacerbated by the pressure of timed assessments. Our study's focus on these affective components revealed that students granted extra time reported a higher level of math interest and enjoyment even if they did not use the extra time. ETAs appear to alleviate the stress tied to time limits, offering dual advantages by not only aiding in academic achievement but also by improving attitudes toward math. ETAs could be a low-cost, high-impact accommodation that not only addresses academic needs but also contributes to emotional health.

What recommendations do you have based on your findings for classroom instruction?

First, it is crucial to prioritize extra time for students with LDs to enhance their academic performance and engagement. This involves offering flexible timing for assignments and assessments to reduce anxiety and foster a greater interest in learning. Teachers should be encouraged to integrate Universal Design for Learning principles into their instructional methods, emphasizing the effective use of technology, such as text-to-speech tools and embedded digital highlighters and pencils for doing scratchwork. Professional development for educators is essential to deepen their proficiency in using digital learning tools. Additionally, teachers should motivate students to use the extra time for thorough problem-solving and to revisit math tasks for accuracy. Regularly adjusting accommodations to meet the evolving needs of students with LDs is vital in creating an inclusive learning environment where every student can achieve success.

What is the implication of the study findings on education equity? 

Our study demonstrates that ETAs offer more than just a performance boost: they provide psychological benefits, reducing stress and enhancing interest and enjoyment with the subject matter. This is vital for students with LDs, who often face heightened anxiety and performance pressure. To make the system more equitable, we need a standardized policy for accommodations that ensures all students who require ETAs receive them. We must consider the variable needs of all students and question the current practices and policies that create inconsistencies in granting accommodations. If the true aim of assessments is to gauge student abilities, time is a factor that should not become a barrier.


U.S. Department of Education Resources

Learn more about the Department’s resources to support schools, educators, and families in making curriculum, instruction, and assessment accessible for students with disabilities.

Learn more about conducting research using response process data from the 2017 NAEP Mathematics Assessment.

 

This  interview blog was produced by Sarah Brasiel (Sarah.Brasiel@ed.gov), a program officer in the National Center for Special Education Research.

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.

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).

English Learners: Analyzing What Works, for Whom, and Under What Conditions?

April is National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month! In this guest blog, Dr. Ryan Williams, principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research, describes his IES-funded project focused on identifying factors that help explain variation in the effects programs have on English learner student outcomes using a broad systematic review and meta-analysis.  

Over the past two decades, empirical research on programs that support English language and multilingual learners has surged. Many of the programs that researchers have studied are designed to support English literacy development and are tailored to the unique needs of English learners. Other programs are more general, but researchers often study program impacts on English learners in addition to impacts on a broader population of students. Relatively few attempts have been made to identify common findings across this literature. Even fewer attempts have been made to identify meaningful sources of variation that drive program impacts for English learner students—that is, understanding what works, for whom, and under what conditions. To help provide educators and policymakers answers to those important questions, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of programs and strategies that may support English language learner students.

Our Systematic Review Process

We conducted a broad search that combed through electronic databases, unpublished ‘grey’ literature (for example, working papers, conference presentations, or research briefs), and sources that required hand-searching such as organizational websites. After documenting our primary decision-making factors within a review protocol, we applied a set of rigorous criteria to select studies for inclusion in the meta-analysis. We ultimately identified 83 studies that met our inclusion criteria. Each of these were randomized field studies that included English learner students in grades PK-12 and student academic learning outcomes such as English literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. Each of the included studies was systematically coded to capture characteristics about the research methods, students and schools, settings, programs, outcome measures, and importantly, the program impacts that the studies reported. We then conducted a meta-analysis to understand the relationships between the characteristics we coded and the program impacts.

Preliminary Findings

We are still working on finalizing our analyses; however, our initial analyses revealed several interesting findings.

  • Programs that included support for students to develop their first language skills tended to have larger improvements in student learning. This is consistent with prior research that suggests that supporting first language development can lead to improved learning in core content areas. However, the initial findings from this meta-analysis build on the prior research by providing empirical evidence across a large number of rigorous studies.
  • There are some particularly promising practices for educators serving English learner students. These promising practices include the use of content differentiation, the use of translation in a student’s first language, and a focus on writing. Content differentiation aligns with best practices for teaching English learners, which emphasize the importance of providing instruction that is tailored to language proficiency levels and academic needs. The use of first language translation can be helpful for English learner students, as it can support their ability to access and comprehend academic content while they are still building their English proficiency. Focusing on writing can also be particularly important for English learners, as writing is often the last domain of language proficiency for students to develop. Our preliminary findings that English learner writing skills are responsive when targeted by instructional programs may hold implications for how to focus support for students who are nearing but not yet reaching English proficiency.
  • The type of test used to measure program impact was related to the size of the program impact on student learning that studies found. Specifically, we found that it is reasonable to expect smaller program impacts when examining state standardized tests and larger impacts for other types of tests. This is consistent with findings from prior meta-analyses based on more general student populations, and it demonstrates the same applies when studying program impacts for English learner students. Statewide standardized tests are typically designed to cover a broad range of state content standards and thus may not reflect improvements in more specific areas of student learning targeted by a given program. On the other hand, researcher-developed tests may align too closely with a program and may not reflect broader, policy-relevant, changes in learning. Our initial evidence suggests that to understand program impacts for English learner students—or any group of students—we may want to use established, validated assessments but not only consider statewide standardized tests.

Next Steps

In terms of next steps, we will complete the meta-analysis work this summer and focus on disseminating the findings through multiple avenues, including a journal publication, review summaries on the AIR website, and future conference proceedings. In addition, we are working to deepen our understanding of the relationships identified in this study and explore promising avenues for practice and future research.

If you’d like to continue learning and see the results of this study, please continue to check back at AIR’s Methods of Synthesis and Integration Center project page, located here.


This blog was produced by Helyn Kim (Helyn.Kim@ed.gov), program officer for the English Learners portfolio, NCER.

Recommendations for Using Social Media for Effective Dissemination of Education Research

When it comes to using research to inform practice, teachers tend to want succinct tips and strategies that can work in their own classrooms. Researchers can use social media channels to tailor their messages from their research findings and disseminate where teachers are already active. In this guest blog, Dr. Sam Van Horne, University of Delaware, describes the work that researchers conducted as part of the originally IES-funded Center for Research Use in Education. The goal of the center was to understand the gaps between researcher and practitioner perspectives on the usefulness of research in practice so that the center can address issues around how researcher communicate about their research, how practitioners can use research more effectively in their classrooms, and how to build stronger connections between the two communities.

Using a large cross-sectional survey of school-based practitioners, we found that practitioners report consuming research through multiple channels, and more than half of reported using social media in the last year with the goal of improving their practice. Social media channels, therefore, provide education researchers with an opportunity to connect with practitioners, but where are researchers likely to find teachers on social media? And how can researchers distill their findings for sharing in mediums that are vastly different than traditional academic forms? Here are some recommendations based on our research.

  • Finding and Connecting with Educators on Social Media: One review of research about social media use among teachers found that Facebook and Twitter are some of the main sites that teachers use. But teachers also use Pinterest and Instagram as methods for learning from other teachers about teaching strategies. Posting in multiple channels may make it more likely that a message can reach educators. To find educators, researchers can search for public lists on education-focused topics or see who is using hashtags like #edtwitter, #TeachersofInstagram, or #EduTooters. By following lists, researchers can efficiently find educators to follow and tag (i.e., add the educator’s username to a social media message) with their messages about research-informed practice. This can aid with directly engaging practitioners and beginning conversations about applying research to practice.
  • Using Hashtags or Tagging Specific People on Social Media: Social media networks like Twitter can overwhelm users with the volume of content being shared, so it’s critical to use tools like hashtags to find a practice-focused community who may be interested in applying research findings. Users search for content with hashtags that are discipline specific or likely to reach educators, such as #edutooters on Mastodon, #edutwitter on Twitter, or #teachersofinstagram or #teachersfollowteachers on Instagram. The key is identifying teachers or knowledge brokers (i.e., people or organizations who support practitioners in applying research evidence to teaching practice) that may be interested in the message and who may retweet or boost the message to their own followers.
  • Tailoring Messages to Focus on What Practitioners Can Do: When the audience is identified, researchers can ask themselves, “What do I want this group to consider doing based on these research findings?” Then, social media messages can incorporate those ideas rather than just summarizing research findings. Social media messages describing how research can inform education practice should be economical and capture interest. Links to the original paper can be appended to a post for those who want to read more.
  •  When possible, include links to publications or resources in publicly available repositories and not to versions in subscription-based journals. IES grantees can increase the visibility of their research by submitting their publications as grantee submissions in ERIC. This not only fulfills public-access requirements but also gives practitioners access to important information for improving teaching practice.  
  • Incorporating Visual Elements to Attract Attention to Education Research Findings: Messages that incorporate visual elements or video are better suited for sharing on social media. The visual abstract is a succinct summary of research findings that is well-suited for sharing in social media platforms, and researchers have found that visual abstracts are more often shared on social media platforms than plain text about research. You can find guidance on creating visual abstracts here, though the authors suggest collaborating with a designer. These visual abstracts are suited for visual platforms like Pinterest or Instagram. Some journals make a regular practice of posting brief video messages from authors who explain their research study and the significance of the findings. Animations can also attract more attention to messages about research.

Disseminating education research on social media is not a “one-and-done” practice but should be part of a professional social media presence. Many guides exist for developing a professional social media presence, such as these for Twitter and LinkedIn. In addition to posting about research and its implications for practice, researchers can post about research or general issues in the field. This helps with building a following that will be more likely to see posts about research. There are other benefits to disseminating research on social media channels, including providing researchers with metrics about how many times their messages are shared or retweeted (or boosted, on Mastodon), as well as enabling research about optimal ways to share research to reach the broadest audience. In fact, Dr. Farley-Ripple, a leader of CRUE, and colleagues have received funding from the National Science Foundation for a research study to investigate the effectiveness of different dissemination strategies on social media, including the effectiveness of the translational visual abstract.

Connecting with educators on social media is a process. Researchers can begin by creating a presence on social media networks where educators are found and then post often about education and use hashtags to help make messages visible to educators. Messages can be succinct posts that include recommendations or strategies that are feasible for educators to adopt or include multimedia messages like the translational visual abstract to attract attention in a medium that is suited to visuals. Over time, it’s possible to learn what works and what doesn’t and adapt strategies for reaching educators, while keeping in mind that the tools and networks available now will undoubtedly adapt and change themselves.


Sam Van Horne is a Data Scientist at the Center for Research Use in Education and the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy at the University of Delaware.

This blog was produced by Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov), program officer, NCER.