Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

The 2023 IES PI Meeting: Building on 20 Years of IES Research to Accelerate the Education Sciences

On May 16-18, 2023, NCER and NCSER hosted our second virtual Principal Investigators (PI) Meeting. Our theme this year was Building on 20 Years of IES Research to Accelerate the Education Sciences. Because it was the IES 20th anniversary this past year, we used this meeting as an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the success of IES and the education research community. Another goal was to explore how IES can further advance the education sciences and improve education outcomes for all learners.

Roddy Theobald (American Institutes for Research) and Eunsoo Cho (Michigan State University) graciously agreed to be our co-chairs this year. They provided guidance on the meeting theme and session strands and also facilitated our plenary sessions on Improving Data on Teachers and Staffing Challenges to Inform the Next 20 Years of Teacher Workforce Policy and Research and the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Student Learning and Contributions of Education Sciences to Pandemic Recovery Efforts. We want to thank them for their incredible efforts in making this year’s meeting a big success!

Here are a few highlights:

The meeting kicked off with opening remarks from IES Director, Mark Schneider, and a welcome from the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. Director Schneider spoke about the importance of timeliness of research and translation of evidence to practice. IES is thinking about how best to support innovative approaches to education research that are transformative, embrace failure, are quick turnaround, and have an applied focus. He also discussed the need for data to move the field forward, specifically big data researchers can use to address important policy questions and improve interventions and education outcomes. Secretary Cardona acknowledged the robust and useful evidence base that IES-funded researchers have generated over the last 20 years and emphasized the need for continued research to address historic inequities and accelerate pandemic recovery for students.

This year’s meeting fostered connections and facilitated deep conversations around meaningful and relevant topic areas. Across the three day PI Meeting, we had over 1,000 attendees engaged in virtual room discussions around four main topic areas (see the agenda for a complete list of this year’s sessions):

  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)—Sessions addressed DEIA in education research
  • Recovering and Learning from the COVID-19 Pandemic—Sessions discussed accelerating pandemic recovery for students and educators, lessons learned from the pandemic, and opportunities to implement overdue changes to improve education
  • Innovative Approaches to Education Research—Sessions focused on innovative, forward-looking research ideas, approaches, and methods to improve education research in both the short- and long-term
  • Making Connections Across Disciplines and Communities—Sessions highlighted connections between research and practice communities and between researchers and projects across different disciplines and methodologies

We also had several sessions focused on providing information and opportunities to engage with IES leadership, including NCER Commissioner’s Welcome; NCSER Acting Commissioner’s Welcome; Open Science and IES, NCEE at 20: Past Successes and Future Directions; and The IES Scientific Review Process: Overview, Common Myths, and Feedback.

Many  sessions also had a strong focus on increasing the practical impacts of education research by getting research into the hands of practitioners and policymakers. For example, the session on Beyond Academia: Navigating the Broader Research-Practice Pipeline highlighted the unique challenges of navigating the pipeline of information that flows between researchers and practitioners and identified strategies that researchers could implement in designing, producing, and publishing research-based products that are relevant to a broad audience. The LEARNing to Scale: A Networked Initiative to Prepare Evidence-Based Practices & Products for Scaling and The Road to Scale Up: From Idea to Intervention sessions centered around challenges and strategies for scaling education innovations from basic research ideas to applied and effective interventions. Finally, the Transforming Knowledge into Action: An Interactive Discussion focused on identifying and capturing ways to strengthen dissemination plans and increase the uptake of evidence-based resources and practices.  

We ended the three-day meeting with trivia and a celebration. Who was the first Commissioner of NCSER? Which program officer started the same day the office closed because of the pandemic? Which program officer has dreams of opening a bakery? If you want to know the answers to these questions and more, we encourage you to look at the Concluding Remarks.  

Finally, although we weren’t in person this year, we learned from last year’s meeting that a real benefit of having a virtual PI meeting is our ability to record all the sessions and share them with the public. A part of IES’s mission is to widely disseminate IES-supported research. We encourage you to watch the recorded sessions and would be grateful if you shared it with your networks.

We want to thank the attendees who made this meeting so meaningful and engaging. This meeting would not have been a success without your contributions. We hope to see our grantees at the next PI Meeting, this time in-person!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for how we can further advance the education sciences and improve education outcomes for all learners, please do not hesitate to contact NCER Commissioner Liz Albro (Elizabeth.Albro@ed.gov) or NCSER Acting Commissioner Jackie Buckley (Jacquelyn.Buckley@ed.gov). We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Have a Cost Analysis to Plan or Execute? We Have a Module for That

This blog is part of a guest series by the Cost Analysis in Practice (CAP) project team.

Analyzing an intervention’s costs is one of IES’s nine SEER principles. Cost analysis is not just about the dollar value of an intervention; it provides key information to education decision-makers about the personnel, materials, facilities, and other inputs needed to implement an intervention or policy with fidelity. But planning and executing any kind of economic evaluation, such as a cost analysis or cost-effectiveness analysis, involves many steps.

The IES-funded Cost Analysis in Practice Project (CAP Project) has developed a series of five free, online modules on cost analysis. Each module includes a sequence of short videos (3‑17 minutes each) and resources to facilitate each of the 4 main stages of a cost analysis: study design, data collection, data analysis, and reporting (register here for the CAP Project online modules).

The modules are timely for anyone submitting a grant application to the IES FY 2024 grant programs that require a cost analysis. In addition, cost studies are included in the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Mid-phase or Expansion grants. For your grant application, you’ll likely only need parts of Modules 1 and 2, Introduction to Cost Analysis and Designing a Cost Analysis. You can save the rest for when you receive a grant.

You should review the IES Request for Applications (RFA) to determine what kind of economic evaluation, if any, is required for your IES application. You can also review the CAP Project’s RFA requirements chart, which summarizes our take on what is required and what is recommended for each IES RFA. If your grant application does not require a cost analysis but you want to include one, we created a flowchart to help you decide which type of evaluation might make sense for your situation: see Module 1 Video 2b. We also provide a brief example of each kind of economic evaluation in Module 1 Video 3. 

If cost analysis is new to you, Module 1 Video 1 explains what “costs” really are. Module 1 Video 2a introduces the ingredients method and a demonstration of why it’s important to differentiate between economic costs and expenditures. Module 1 Video 4 walks you through the four stages of a cost analysis and points out when to use specific CAP Project resources such as our Checklist for Cost Analysis Plans, Timeline of Activities for Cost Analysis, and Cost Analysis Templates (the “CAPCATs”). If you prefer reading to watching videos, our Cost Analysis Standards & Guidelines cover this ground in more depth.

When you’re ready to plan your cost or cost-effectiveness analysis, head to Module 2. The introductory video (Module 2 Video 1) discusses a few critical decisions you need to make early on that will affect how much of your study budget should be dedicated to the economic evaluation—no one likes surprises there. Module 2 Videos 2 and 3 walk you through the design of an economic evaluation, illustrating each design feature using Reading Recovery as an example. Module 2 Video 4 presents a few scenarios to help you think about which costs you will estimate and how the costs of the intervention you plan to study compare to the costs of business as usual. Module 2 Video 5 reviews a timeline and key activities for each stage of your economic evaluation. The content in Modules 1 and 2 should help you develop a robust plan for an economic evaluation so that you’ll be all set to begin the study as soon as you are funded.

Modules 3-5 cover data collection, analysis, and reporting. You may want to skim these now, or at least watch the brief introductory videos for an overview of what’s in store for you and your cost analyst. These modules can help you execute your cost study.


Fiona Hollands is the Founder & Managing Director of EdResearcher. She studies the effectiveness and costs of educational programs with the goal of helping education practitioners and policymakers optimize the use of resources in education to promote better student outcomes.

Jaunelle Pratt-Williams is a Senior Research Scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. She leads economic evaluations and mixed-methods policy research studies to improve the educational opportunities for historically underserved students.

This blog was produced by Allen Ruby (Allen.Ruby@ed.gov), Associate Commissioner, NCER.

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).

Navigating LGBTQI+ Research: Where We Are and Where We Are Headed

In June 2022, NCER and NCSER hosted a virtual listening session, “Leveraging LGBTQI+ Voices in Education Research.” After a brief introduction from the Office of Civil Rights on Title IX and its relevance to protecting against sex and gender discrimination within schools and LGBTQI+ resources for students, seven guest panelists discussed the history of LGBTQI+ research, challenges, and ways forward. This blog provides a summary of the discussion. 

Historical Perspectives on LGBTQI+ Education Research 

Panelists shared their perspectives on the history of LGBTQI+ education research and made several important points. They noted that early LGBTQI+ education research was not situated in schools. Rather, as one panelist recalled, “Research on queer issues and education began as legal and historical research because of the politics of securing IRB both at your own institution and also schools.” Early research also focused heavily on negative experiences of queer and trans youth, such as bullying. “It is certainly important [to] interrupt homophobic bullying in schools, but it is troubling that queer and trans victimhood has become the most pervasive trope for recognizing bodies in schools,” stated a panelist, before urging the audience to change the narrative from victimhood to agency.  

In 2001, GLSEN started their biannual National School Climate Survey, which asks LGBTQI+ students about their experiences of discrimination and school-based supports. Panelists highlighted this as a pivotal moment in collecting data on these students and their experiences in school.   

Challenges in Conducting LGBTQI+ Education Research 

Panelists also shared challenges in conducting education research with LGBTQI+ students:

  • Geography. Although there is a need to conduct research in various regions across the United States to account for different political climates and other geographical factors, anti-LGBTQI+ policies present an obstacle to doing so in certain states.
  • Getting consent from parents and districts. “In general, districts have moved from giving you an outright no, to the passive-aggressive drown-you-in-paperwork,” noted one panelist. “My work has decidedly been in out-of-school places,” another panelist agreed, “because it’s easier to ask questions around queer and trans youth agency.”  
  • Career-related barriers. Panelists cited difficulties in finding mentors and funding to engage in this research. One panelist noted, “There's also the challenge of key scholars and gate keepers who misunderstand queer scholarship,” which can make it difficult to receive funding or get published.  

Future directions for LGBTQI+ education research  

Panelists discussed several areas the field should attend to in order to ensure the future of high-quality education research on LGBTQI+ learners.  

Responsible and Respectful Data Collection and Analysis

As identities are becoming more diverse and nuanced, it is important for researchers to prioritize collecting and analyzing data in ways that are inclusive and respectful of these varied and intersecting identities. As stated by one panelist, “We need to be able to design tests and validate forms of measuring sexuality, especially for younger queer and trans youth, not for the sake of measuring constructs, but because it's imperative at this time that we're able to use information to inform policy.”  

Using a report from the National Academy of Sciences as a foundation, panelists recommended asking open-ended questions that allow individuals to give detailed explanations and providing sliding scales for participants to place themselves along spectrums. When a categorical question is needed, panelists recommended providing multiple options that go beyond the binary and providing an explanation for the categorical question (for example, “Oftentimes, we have to create categories to do the work that we do, can you please tell us which of these options best describes your sexual orientation?”).  

Participants also discussed the importance of not collapsing data across categories and attending to intersecting identities, including gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, and race/ethnicity, to better understand experiences. “When those nuances are overlooked or erased,” one panelist remarked, “it becomes impossible to understand the LGBTQI+ community or the public health interventions that would effectively meet the needs of each and every LGBTQI+ young person, no matter their identity.” 

Expanded Theories and Approaches

Panelists emphasized the need for an understanding and acceptance of less traditional theories and methods. One panelist stated, “We need to recognize the value of projects that are informed by queer theory, a transtheoretical informed perspective, or radical feminism… to expand what we know about LGBTQI+ experiences in schools.” In addition to quantitative methods, the panelists expressed a need for more qualitative and mixed methods studies and participatory action research.  

Capacity Building

A few panelists advocated for expanded researcher training to ensure future researchers “are adept in qualitative, quantitative and mixed method research techniques aimed at producing research that will then provide rich, sound, and respected information and data that can really impact LGBTQI+ issues.” Participants also recommended increasing the diversity of researchers conducting studies. “As we're thinking about creating a community of scholars, we must include scholars who are both members of the LGBTQI+ community as well as outside of the community,” said one panelist. 


This blog is part of a 3-part blog series on sexual orientation and gender identity in education research in observance of Pride month. The other posts discuss the development of Time Tails, the first ever learning game featuring a canonically nonbinary character, and encourage the use of LGBTQI+ education research data.  

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), Katherine Taylor (NCSER - Katherine.Taylor@ed.gov), James Benson (NCER - James.Benson@ed.gov), and NCES project officers Elise Christopher (Elise.Christopher@ed.gov) and Maura Spiegelman (Maura.Spiegelman@ed.gov).