Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

A New Research Spotlight on Educating Highly Mobile Students

Across America, schools struggle with addressing the academic and social needs of students who are homeless, in foster care, from migrant backgrounds, or military-dependent. These students typically change residences and/or schools frequently (often multiple times within a given school year) making it difficult for them to succeed academically.  

This year, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is shining a research spotlight on improving the education outcomes of highly mobile K-12 students through a new special topic within its Education Research grants program. The new Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students special topic invites research on:

  • support services that reduce barriers that highly mobile students typically face;
  • policies that allow highly mobile students to receive credit for full or partial coursework completed while attending their previous schools;
  • policies that facilitate the transfer of student records across jurisdictions, and help highly mobile students navigate standards, course, and graduation requirements that change from state to state;
  • policies and programs that address the academic, physical, psychological, and social needs of highly mobile students who may have experienced deprivation or trauma; and
  • state and local implementation of services for highly mobile students that are required by federal law or are provided through federally funded programs or interstate agreements.  

Through this special topic, IES also encourages studies that create or utilize shared/integrated data systems (such as records exchanges) to identify and track highly mobile students and pinpoint factors that could potentially be used to improve these students' outcomes. 

(Dr. Jill Biden, pictured above, mentioned this new special topic area in her remarks at the American Educational Research Association's annual conference as part of her focus on military families.)

Additional Opportunities for Research on Highly Mobile Students

Researchers who are interested in studying highly mobile pre-K students are invited to apply through to the Early Learning Programs and Policies topic. Similarly, researchers who are interested increasing highly mobile students’ access to, persistence in, progress through, and completion of postsecondary education are invited to apply through the Postsecondary and Adult Education Research topic. 

IES also encourages researchers to partner with local school districts or state education agencies to carry out initial research on highly mobile students and develop a plan for future research. This can be done through the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research topic.

For more information about funding opportunities for research on highly mobile students, please visit the IES website or contact Katina Stapleton.

For examples of previously funded research on highly mobile students, see  Promoting Executive Function to Enhance Learning in Homeless/Highly Mobile Children, Developing a Model for Delivering School-Based Mentoring to Students in Military Families, and Students in Foster Care: The Relationship between Mobility and Educational Outcomes.

Written by Katina Stapleton, Education Research Analyst, NCER; Program Officer, Systemic Approaches to Educating Highly Mobile Students

Photo of Dr. Biden courtesy of AERA

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.

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

The Institute of Education Sciences at AERA

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) will hold its annual meeting April 8 through April 12 in Washington, D.C.—the largest educational research gathering in the nation. This will be a special meeting for AERA, as it is celebrating 100 years of advocating for the development and use of research in education. The program includes hundreds of sessions, including opportunities to learn about cutting edge education research and opportunities to broaden and deepen the field. 

About 30 sessions will feature staff from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) discussing IES-funded research, evaluation, and statistics, as well as training and funding opportunities.

On Saturday, April 9, at 10:35 a.m., attendees will have a chance to meet the Institute’s leadership and hear about the areas of work that IES will be focusing on in the coming year. Speakers include Ruth Curran Neild, IES’ delegated director, and the leaders of the four centers in IES: Thomas Brock, commissioner of the National Center for Education Research (NCER); Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES); Joy Lesnick, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), and Joan McLaughlin, commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

On Monday, April 11, at 9:45 a.m., attendees can speak to one of several IES staffers who will be available at the Research Funding Opportunities—Meet Your Program Officers session. Program officers from NCER, NCSER, and NCEE will be on hand to answer questions about programs and grant funding opportunities. Several IES representatives will also be on hand Monday afternoon, at 4:15 p.m. for the Federally Funded Data Resources: Opportunities for Research session to discuss the myriad datasets and resources that are available to researchers.

NCES staff will lead sessions and present on a variety of topics, from The Role of School Finance in the Pursuit of Equity (Saturday, 12:25 p.m.) to Understanding Federal Education Policies and Data about English Learners (Sunday, April 10, 8:15 a.m.) and what we can learn from the results of PIAAC, a survey of adult skills (also Sunday, 8:15 a.m.). Dr. Carr will be a part of several sessions, including one on Sunday morning (10:35 a.m.) about future directions for NCES longitudinal studies and another on Monday morning (10 a.m.) entitled Issues and Challenges in the Fair and Valid Assessment of Diverse Populations in the 21st Century

On Monday, at 11:45 a.m., you can also learn about an IES-supported tool, called RCT-YES, that is designed to reduce barriers to rigorous impact studies by simplifying estimation and reporting of study results (Dr. Lesnick will be among those presenting). And a team from the IES research centers (NCER/NCSER) will present Sunday morning (10:35 a.m.) on communication strategies for disseminating education research (which includes this blog!).

IES staff will also participate in a number of other roundtables and poster sessions. For instance, on Tuesday, April 12, at 8:15 a.m., grab a cup of coffee and attend the structured poster session with the Institute’s 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs). This session will focus on building partnerships to improve data use in education.  REL work will also be featured at several other AERA sessions.  

Did you know that the National Library of Education (NLE) is a component of IES? On Friday and Monday afternoon, attendees will have a unique opportunity to go on a site visit to the library. You’ll learn about the library’s current and historical resources – including its collection of more than 20,000 textbooks dating from the mid-19th century. The Library offers information, statistical, and referral services to the Department of Education and other government agencies and institutions, and to the public.

If you are going to AERA, follow us on Twitter to learn more about our sessions and our work.  And if you are tweeting during one of our sessions, please include @IESResearch in your tweet. 

By Dana Tofig, Communications Director, IES

C-SAIL: Studying the Impact of College- and Career-Readiness Standards

The nationwide effort to implement college- and career-ready standards is designed to better prepare students for success after high school, whether that means attending a postsecondary institution, entering the work force, or some combination of both. But there is little understanding about how these standards have been implemented across the country or the full impact they are having on student outcomes.  

To fill that void, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funded a new five-year research center, the Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning (C-SAIL). The center is studying the implementation of college- and career-ready standards and assessing how the standards are related to student outcomes. The center is also developing and testing an intervention that supports standards-aligned instruction.

Andy Porter (pictured right), of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, is the director of C-SAIL and recently spoke with James Benson, the IES project officer for the center. Here is an edited version of that conversation.

You have been studying education standards for over 30 years. What motivated you to assemble a team of researchers and state partners to college- and career-readiness standards?

Standards-based reform is in a new and promising place with standards that might be rigorous enough to close achievement gaps that advocates have been fighting to narrow for the last 30 years. And with so many states implementing new standards, researchers have an unprecedented opportunity to learn about how standards-based reform is best done. We hypothesize that the only modest effects of standards-based reform thus far are largely due to the fact that those reforms stalled at the classroom door, so a focus of the Center will be how implementation is achieved and supported among teachers.

What are the main projects within the Center, and what are a few of the key questions that they are currently addressing?

We have four main projects. The first, an implementation study, asks, “How are state, district, and school-level educators making sense of the new standards, and what kinds of guidance and support is available to them?” We’re comparing and contrasting implementation approaches in four states—Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio and Texas. In addition to reviewing state policy documents, we’re surveying approximately 280 district administrators, 1,120 principals, and 6,720 teachers across (the same) four states, giving special attention to the experiences of English language learners and students with disabilities.

The second project is a longitudinal study that asks, “How are college- and career-readiness standards impacting student outcomes across all 50 states?” and “How are English language learners and students with disabilities affected by the new standards?” We’re analyzing data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and other sources to estimate the effects of college- and career-readiness standards on student achievement, high school completion, and college enrollment. Specifically, we’re examining whether implementing challenging state academic standards led to larger improvements in student outcomes in states with lower prior standards than in states with higher prior standards.

The third project is the Feedback on Alignment and Support for Teachers (FAST) intervention study, in which we are building an original intervention designed to assist teachers in providing instruction aligned to their state’s standards. FAST features real-time, online, personalized feedback for teachers, an off-site coach to assist teachers in understanding and applying aligned materials, and school-level collaborative academic study teams in each school.

The fourth project is a measurement study to determine the extent to which instruction aligns with college- and career-readiness standards. C-SAIL is developing new tools to assess alignment between teachers' instruction and state standards in English language arts and math.

How do you envision working with your partner states in the next few years? How do you plan to communicate with states beyond those partnering with the Center?

We’ve already collaborated with our partner states–Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas–on our research agenda, and the chief state school officer from each state, plus a designee of their choice, sits on our advisory board. Additionally, we’re currently working with our partner states on our implementation study and plan to make our first findings this summer on effective implementation strategies immediately available to them.

All states, however, will be able to follow our research progress and access our findings in myriad ways, including through our website (pictured left). Our Fact Center features downloadable information sheets and the C-SAIL blog offers insights from our researchers and network of experts. We also invite practitioners, policymakers, parents and teachers to stay up-to-date on C-SAIL activities by subscribing to our newsletter, following us on Twitter, or liking us on Facebook.

Looking five years into the future, when the Center is finishing its work, what do you hope to understand about college- and career-readiness standards that we do not know now?

Through our implementation study, we will have documented how states are implementing new, challenging state academic standards; how the standards affect teacher instruction; what supports are most valuable for states, districts, and schools; and, how the new standards impact English language learners and students with disabilities.

Through our longitudinal study, we will have combined 50-state NAEP data with high school graduation rates, and college enrollment in order to understand how new standards impact student learning and college- and career-readiness.

Through our FAST Intervention, we will have created and made available new tools for teachers to monitor in real-time how well-aligned the content of their enacted curriculum is to their states’ college- and career-readiness standards in ELA and math.

Finally, but not least, we will have led policymakers, practitioners and researchers in a national discussion of our findings and their implications for realizing the full effects of standards-based reform.