Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

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.

Why Doesn't Everyone Get to Ride the Bus? Reflections on Studying (In)Equity in School Busing

In celebration of IES’s 20th anniversary, we are highlighting NCER’s investments in field-initiated research on equity in education. In this guest blog interview, researchers Amy Ellen Schwartz and Sarah Cordes share the equity-related implications of their IES-funded research on school busing. The research team conducted four related studies as part of their IES grant. First, researchers examined the individual and school factors that may explain why some students ride the bus and others do not. Next, they explored the relationship between bus use and school choice, examining whether students who use the bus to attend a choice school attend a higher quality school than their zoned school. The final two studies explored the link between taking the bus and academic outcomes.

Photo of Amy Ellen SchwartzWhat motivated your research on school busing?

Both of us are very interested in how factors outside the classroom matter for students. The school bus is a critical school service; however, at the start of our research, we knew very little about ridership, commutes, or the relationships between school bus ridership and student outcomes. Given what we know about inequities in other school services and the geography of schooling, it seemed natural for us to explore whether sociodemographic disparities exist in access to and provision of school bus service. Although NYC, like many other urban districts, also provides passes for use on public transit, we chose to focus specifically on the school bus because districts have significantly more discretion to set policies around the school bus.

 

Photo of Sarah CordesWhat were your findings about the relationship(s) between school busing and student outcomes?

Despite the popular images of the iconic yellow school bus as a fundamental part of American public education, there is wide variation in the availability and cost of school bus service across schools, districts, and states. As part of our IES-funded research, we examined the relationship between bus access/characteristics of the bus ride in New York City (NYC) and various outcomes including the likelihood that students attend a choice school, the quality of school attended, attendance, and test scores. Our research revealed four key findings:

  1. Among NYC students who attend choice schools, those who use transportation, especially the school bus, are more likely to attend a school that is significantly better than their zoned school.
  2. Transportation plays a particularly important role for Black and Hispanic students in NYC. Black and Hispanic students who use the bus to attend a choice school are 30-40 percentage points more likely to attend a significantly better school than Black or Hispanic students who attend a choice school but do not use transportation.
  3. Access to the school bus in NYC is associated with higher attendance—bus riders are absent approximately one day less than non-riders and are about four percentage points less likely to be chronically absent. However, most of this gap is explained by differences in the schools that bus riders attend, as within-school disparities in attendance are small.
  4. Although long bus rides (over 45 minutes) are relatively uncommon in NYC, students with long bus rides are disproportionately Black and more likely to attend charter or district choice schools. Further, long bus rides have negative effects on attendance and chronic absenteeism of district choice students and may have small negative effects on test scores among charter school students.

What does equity (or lack thereof) look like in the NYC school bus system?

This is a complicated question that is largely context specific. For example, equity in school bus systems in a choice-rich district like NYC looks different than equity in a district where most students attend their zoned schools. In NYC, the main determinant of school bus eligibility is how far a student lives from school based on their grade level. For example, students in K-2 are eligible for free transportation (MetroCard or school bus) if they attend a school that is more than half a mile from home. That said, “eligibility” for school bus transportation does not mean that students will be assigned to a school bus. This creates the potential for inequities.

Among students who attend the same school, we find no strong evidence of racial/ethnic disparities in bus access. This is not the case when we compare students who attend different schools. We found that while Black students are significantly more likely than any other racial/ethnic group to be eligible for the bus, eligible Black students are also less likely than any other group to be assigned to a bus. Specifically, among students who live far enough from school to be eligible for the bus, Black students are 4.3 percentage points less likely than White students and 4.8 percentage points less likely than Asian students to be assigned bus service. Hispanic students are least likely to be eligible for the bus based on how far they live from school. However, Hispanic students who are eligible for bus service are also less likely to receive it than White or Asian students.  

We identified two possible explanations for these disparities—routing restrictions and whether a school offers the bus. Bus routes in NYC cannot exceed 5 miles and cannot cross certain administrative boundaries. For example, a student cannot take a school bus from one borough to another. Due to these restrictions, there are some students who are eligible for the bus but cannot be placed on a route that follows these restrictions, so they receive a MetroCard instead. The second and main explanation for these disparities is that Black and Hispanic students are significantly less likely to attend a school that provides bus service, as the decision of whether to provide bus service is at the discretion of individual principals.

What potential policy implications does your research have?

Based on our findings, there are three important policy implications to consider. First, districts should consider mandating school bus service in all schools. Second, in the absence of universal bus service, districts should increase transparency about school-level bus provision so that families can factor this into their decisions about where to send their children to school. Finally, districts should consider the consequences of policies around school bus provision, such as route restrictions.


Amy Ellen Schwartz is the dean of the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware. Her research spans a broad range of topics in education policy and urban economics, focusing on the nexus of schools, neighborhoods and public services and the causes and consequences of children’s academic, social and health outcomes. Dr. Schwartz is currently a co-PI and director of transportation research for the IES-funded National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice.

Sarah A. Cordes is an associate professor of policy, organizational and leadership studies within Temple University’s College of Education and Human Development and former IES Predoctoral Fellow. Her research focuses on the ways in which the urban context, including neighborhoods, housing, and charter schools, affect student outcomes.

This blog was produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) and Virtual Student Federal Service Intern Audrey Im. It is part of a larger series on DEIA in Education Research.

 

Bilingüe, Educación y Éxito: Learning from Dual Language Education Programs

April is National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month! As part of the IES 20th Anniversary celebration, we are highlighting NCER’s investments in field-initiated research. In this guest blog, Drs. Doré LaForett and Ximena Franco-Jenkins (University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) and Adam Winsler (George Mason University) discuss their IES-funded exploration study, some challenges they encountered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how their study contributes to supporting multilingual students.

The BEE Project

Our IES-funded study, called the Bilingualism, Education, and Excellence (BEE) project, was born out of a research partnership initiated by a principal of a Spanish-English dual-language (DLE) elementary school. She noticed that student engagement in DLE classrooms seemed to differ depending on the student’s home language and the language of instruction. This got us thinking about how we as a field know very little about what goes on in two-way immersion (TWI) classrooms in terms of teacher language use, student-teacher relationships, student engagement, and learning outcomes for students who speak Spanish or English at home. Therefore, we were excited for the opportunity to dig deeper into links between language of instruction and academic outcomes for students in a relatively new immigrant community like North Carolina. Specifically, we were interested in whether and how the amount of instruction in English and Spanish is related to improvements in student academic outcomes in English and Spanish.

We conducted extensive individual direct student assessments at the beginning and end of the school year, as well as intensive classroom observations to assess both language of instruction and student on-task engagement during both English and Spanish instruction. Although we are still analyzing the data, preliminary findings suggest that language model (90% Spanish/10% English vs. 50% Spanish/50% English), type of 50/50 model used (switching language of instruction mid-day vs alternating days), and initial student language proficiency all matter for student engagement and academic outcomes assessed in English and Spanish. For some outcomes, students with low language proficiency had lower average spring scores when in the 50/50 model compared with students in the 90/10 model. In contrast, students with high language proficiency had higher average spring scores when in the 50/50 model compared with the 90/10 model. In addition, students who speak mostly English at home have a hard time staying engaged on the Spanish day in 50/50 alternate programs.

Impact of COVID-19 on Our Research and Pivots Made

Although we are excited about these findings, like many other studies, we encountered challenges with conducting our study when the pandemic hit. While some studies may have been able to pivot and resume data collection using a remote platform, we had to pause data collection activities during spring 2020 and the 2020-21 school year given our study design and the context in which our research was being conducted. For instance, we used gold-standard, English/Spanish, parallel direct assessments of children which required it to be in person since on-line versions were not available. Also, classroom- and student-level observations were not possible when instruction was remote because, for example, cameras were turned off or there was a lack of access to remote or hybrid learning platforms, due to issues such as contactless video recording technologies that prioritize the talk of only one individual in the classroom rather than the entire class or do not allow for focused observations of individual student behavior.

Therefore, our top priority was maintaining our partnerships with the school districts during the ‘sleeper year.’ We kept in touch and followed our partners’ lead as to when and how we could resume. Meanwhile, we tried to understand what school districts were doing for DLE instruction (in-person, hybrid, remote) during the pandemic. The research team found it necessary to shift tasks during the pandemic, and our efforts were centered on data management and dissemination activities. Once schools started to reopen in 2021-22, our team continued to be patient and flexible to address the health and visitor regulations of the various school districts. In the end, we had one year of data pre-pandemic, one pandemic year without spring data, and one year of data post-pandemic.

Despite these challenges, we used this opportunity to gather information about the learning experiences of students enrolled in the final year of our study, who had been exposed to remote or hybrid learning during the 2020-21 school year. So, when schools reopened in fall 2021, we asked our schools about what instruction was like during the pandemic, and we also asked teachers and parents what they thought about dual language progress during the 2020-21 school year. Teachers were more likely to report that students made good gains in their language skills over that year compared to parents. Further, parents who reported greater English-speaking learning opportunities during remote instruction tended to speak primarily English at home and have more education. Parents who reported that their child had difficulties participating in remote instruction due to technology tended to speak more Spanish at home and have less education.

These findings show how inequities in the home environment, such as those experienced during the pandemic, may have reduced learning opportunities for some students in DLE programs. This is particularly noteworthy because the social experience of language learning is critical in DLE programs, so reduced opportunities to speak in English and Spanish—particularly for students who are not yet fully bilingual or do not live in bilingual homes, can really undermine the goals of DLE programs. These reduced learning opportunities also give us pause as we consider how best to test for cohort effects, choose appropriate procedures for dealing with the missing data, and proceed cautiously with generalizing findings.

A Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Our research is grounded in the cultural mismatch theory, where DLE programs are hypothesized to produce greater alignment or match with English learners’ (ELs’) home environments compared to non-DLE programs. By design, DLE programs that support heritage languages seek to promote bilingualism, bi-literacy, and biculturalism which bolster ELs’ social capital, increase academic performance and reduce the achievement gap for ELs. Thus, effective DLE programs are examples of anti-racist policies and practices. However, some have suggested that DLE programs may be conferring more benefits for White, native English speakers (that is, the Matthew effect, where the rich get richer) compared to the students whose heritage language and culture is being elevated in DLE programs. This is especially concerning given our data showing a potential exacerbation of the Matthew effect during the pandemic due to a variety of factors (lack of access to technology, less-educated families struggling to support their children during remote instruction) suggesting not only learning loss but also language loss. Our research is attempting to open the black box of DLE programs in such classrooms and examine whether experiences, engagement, and outcomes are similar across language backgrounds. We hope that information from our study about the intersection of language proficiency and language of instruction will facilitate decisions regarding how students are assigned to different language models and ultimately support equitable learning opportunities for students attending DLE programs.


Ximena Franco-Jenkins is an Advanced Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Adam Winsler is an Associate Chair Professor at George Mason University.

Doré R. LaForett is an Advanced Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This blog was produced by Helyn Kim (Helyn.Kim@ed.gov), Program Officer for the English Learners Portfolio, NCER.

 

Pennsylvania Student Proficiency Rates Rebound Partially from COVID-19-Related Declines

Given the magnitude of the disruption the COVID-19 pandemic caused to education practices, there has been considerable interest in understanding how the pandemic may have affected student proficiency. In this guest blog, Stephen Lipscomb, Duncan Chaplin, Alma Vigil, and Hena Matthias of Mathematica discuss their IES-funded grant project, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), that is looking at the pandemic’s impacts in Pennsylvania.  

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 brought on a host of changes to K–12 education and instruction in Pennsylvania. Many local education agencies (LEAs) instituted remote learning and hybrid schedules as their primary mode of educating students, while others maintained in-person learning. Statewide assessments, which were suspended in spring 2020, resumed in 2021 with low participation rates, particularly among students with lower performance before the pandemic. Furthermore, test administration dates varied from spring 2021 to fall 2021. Pennsylvania statewide assessment data reveal that student proficiency rates may have rebounded in 2022, despite remaining below pre-pandemic levels. In grades 5–8, there was a marked increase in proficiency in English language arts (ELA) and a slightly smaller increase in proficiency in math compared to 2021 proficiency rates predicted in recent research. Despite these gains, increasing student proficiency rates to pre-pandemic levels will require additional efforts.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has been committed to providing LEAs with the resources and support necessary to help students achieve pre-pandemic academic proficiency rates. To learn more about changes in how those rates may have been associated with the pandemic, PDE and Mathematica partnered to explore trends in student proficiency data for students in grades 5–8. Given the lower and nonrepresentative participation in the 2021 statewide assessments, as well as the differences in when LEAs administered the assessments, we developed a predictive model of statewide proficiency rates for spring 2021 to produce predicted proficiency rates that would be more comparable to previous and future years. The results revealed that steep declines in proficiency likely occurred between 2019 and 2021 (see Figure 1 below). By spring 2022, proficiency rates in grades 5–8 regained 6 percentage points of their 10 percentage point drop in ELA and nearly 5 percentage points of their 13 percentage point drop in math. Taken together, these results suggest that although the pandemic may have originally been associated with declines in students’ academic proficiency, over time, student proficiency might move back towards pre-pandemic levels.

 

Figure 1. Actual and predicted proficiency rates in grades 5–8 in Pennsylvania, 2015–2022

The figure shows actual proficiency rates from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, averaged across grades 5–8, unless marked by either an open or closed circle. Notes: Open circle indicates Statewide assessment cancelled; closed circle indicates predicted proficiency rate. The figure shows actual proficiency rates from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, averaged across grades 5–8, unless marked by either an open or closed circle.

Source: Data from 2015–2019 and 2022 are from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The 2021 data are predicted proficiency rates from Lipscomb et al. (2022a). The figure originally appeared in Lipscomb et al. (2022b).  

 

The next steps for this project will include a strong focus on dissemination of our findings. For example, we will develop a research brief that describes the role of remote learning in shaping academic outcomes beyond proficiency rates and community health outcomes during the pandemic. The findings will help PDE and LEAs refine strategies for supporting vulnerable students and help state policymakers and educators learn from the COVID-19 pandemic—specifically how it might have affected student outcomes and educational inequities.


This blog was produced by Allen Ruby (Allen.Ruby@ed.gov), Associate Commissioner for Policy and Systems Division, NCER.

What do Geometry Projects and Pie Have in Common?

On March 14, many students across the country will be paying homage to one of the most important irrational numbers – Pi (or π), the mathematical constant that represents the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter. Here at IES, we are celebrating Pi Day in two ways – one, by highlighting two projects that are helping students better understand and apply pi and other geometry concepts, and two, by daydreaming about the other kind of pie (more on that below).

Highlighting Two IES-Funded Geometry Projects

Julie Booth (Temple University) and colleagues are developing and testing an intervention, GeometryByExample, to improve student learning of high school geometry. GeometryByExample provides strategically designed, worked-example based assignments of varied geometric content for students to complete in class in place of more typical practice assignments. Instead of solving all of the practice problems themselves, students study correct or incorrect examples of solutions to half of the problems and respond to prompts asking them to write explanations of why those procedures are correct or incorrect.

Candace Walkington and colleagues are exploring how the interaction between collaboration and multisensory experiences affects geometric reasoning. They are using augmented reality (AR) technology to explore different modalities for math learning, such as a hologram, a set of physical manipulatives, a dynamic geometry system (DGS) on a tablet, or a piece of paper. Each of these modalities has different affordances, including the degree to which they can represent dynamic transformations, represent objects and operations in 3 dimensions, support joint attention, and provide situational feedback. Researchers have developed an experimental platform that uses AR and situates experimental tasks in an engaging narrative story. The overarching research questions they are exploring are (1) How does shared AR impact student understanding of geometric principles? (2) how are these effects mediated by gesture, language, and actions? and (3) how are these effects moderated by student and task characteristics?

The Other Kind of Pi(e)

Baking pies with the pi symbol is another fun way to celebrate the day, so in the spirit of that, we asked NCER and NCSER staff about their favorite pie flavors. Below is a pie graph with the results – not much consensus on flavor, but it’s clear we all love pie. Happy Pi Day!


This chart shows NCER and NCSER staff pie preferences in percentages: Apple 19%, Cherry 19%, Chocolate 12%, Key Lime 12%, Peach 6%, Pecan 19%, and Rhubarb 13%.

 


Written by Christina Chhin (Christina.Chhin@ed.gov) and Erin Higgins (Erin.Higgins@ed.gov), NCER Program Officers.