Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

IES at the APS Annual Convention

Every Memorial Day weekend, thousands of psychological scientists meet to discuss findings from current research at the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS) annual convention. Representatives and grantees from the two research centers at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will participate in the 28th annual convention, sharing what we are learning about ways to improve education for all learners.

Erin Higgins, the program officer for Cognition and Student Learning program in the National Center for Education Research (NCER), will discuss current IES funding opportunities on Saturday, May 28, at 1 p.m. (Learn more about current IES funding opportunities.)  Dr. Higgins is also chairing a session on Sunday, May 29th at 1 p.m. focused on the role that graphs, diagrams, and other visual representations play in mathematics. This sessions features  NCER grantees Steven Franconeri, Jennifer Cromley, Martha Alibali, and James McClelland.

We want to extend our congratulations to one of our first IES grantees, Robert Bjork, who is delivering one of three APS James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award Addresses. These awards are given for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the area of applied psychological research. The research of award recipients addresses a critical problem in society at large.

More information about which IES grantees are participating in the APS convention is available on the NCER website. If you're tweeting about IES funded work at the conference, please tag @IESResearch

Addressing Mental Health Needs in Schools, Pre-K to Grade 12

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and for educators, mental health is a serious issue. Students who are suffering with mental health issues will have a harder time learning and thriving in school.  

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has funded and supported work that seeks to identify how schools can support the 1 in 5 students in the United States who experience a mental health disorder such as disruptive behavior, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Below is a snapshot of some of that work.

Preschool

  • Jason Downer (University of Virginia) is developing the Learning to Objectively Observe Kids (LOOK) protocol to help prekindergarten teachers identify and understand children’s engagement in preschool and choose appropriate techniques to supports children’s self-regulation skills.

Elementary School

  • Golda Ginsburg (University of Connecticut) and Kelly Drake (Johns Hopkins University) are developing the CALM (Child Anxiety Learning Modules) protocol for elementary school nurses to work with children who have excessive anxiety.
  • Desiree Murray (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) is testing the Incredible Years Dina Dinosaur Treatment Program (IY-child) for helping early elementary school students with social-emotional and behavioral difficulties. IY-child is a small-group, mixed-age pullout program co-led by a clinical therapist and a school-based counselor. Students view brief video vignettes of same-age children in different situations where social-emotional skills and self-regulation are modeled. Students also participate in discussions facilitated by life-sized puppets, and engage in role-play practices and small group activities. Group leaders also provide individual consultation to teachers of participating students.
  • Gregory Fabiano (SUNY-Buffalo) is adapting the Coaching Our Acting Out Children: Heightening Essential Skills (COACHES) program for implementation in schools. This is a clinic-based program to help fathers of children with or at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) get more involved and engaged in their child's school performance. 
  • Aaron Thompson (University of Missouri) is testing the Self-Monitoring Training and Regulation Strategy (STARS) intervention to see if it can improve behavior, social emotional learning skills, and academic performance for fifth grade students who engage in disruptive or otherwise challenging classroom behaviors.
  • Karen Bierman (Pennsylvania State University) is testing whether an intensive, individualized social skills training program, the Friendship Connections Program (FCP), can remediate the serious and chronic peer difficulties that 10–15 percent of elementary school students experience. Most of these students have or are at risk for emotional or behavioral disorders and exhibit social skill deficits (e.g., poor communication skills, inability to resolve conflict) that alienate peers. 

Middle School

High School

Policy

  • Sandra Chafouleas (University of Connecticut) is identifying current policies and national practice related to school-based behavioral assessment to determine whether current practice follows recommended best practice, and to develop policy recommendations for behavioral screening in schools. 

Written by Emily Doolittle, Team Lead for Social and Behavioral Research at IES, National Center for Education Research

Celebrating and Learning with the FPG Institute

The Franklin Porter Graham Child Development Institute, at the University of North Carolina, is celebrating its 50th year of conducting research, technical assistance, outreach, and service to shape the care and education of young children. This makes its annual symposium, May 24 and 25, 2016, a very special event. The symposium will focus on early care and education; race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and children with disabilities and their families.

Representatives and grantees from the two research centers at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will participate in the conference, sharing what we are learning about ways to improve education for all learners.

Dr. Joan McLaughlin, the commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), will be part of a plenary panel of funding organizations on Wednesday, May 25, at 2:45 p.m., which will focus on considerations for future research activities. (Learn more about current NCSER funding opportunities)

NCSER grantees who are participating in the sessions include Judith Carta, Patricia Snyder, and Samuel Odom.  Grantees who have received funding from the National Center for Education Research are also participating, including  Margaret (Peg) Burchinal and Donna Bryant.

Portions of the conference, Advancing Knowledge, Enhancing Lives: A Vision for Children and Families, are being live-streamed both days

Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluations: Helping States and School Districts Make Evidence-based Decisions

Last year, IES launched two new grant programs to help state and district education agencies obtain rigorous and timely evidence they can use to inform decisions about education interventions of high importance to the agency: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Education Interventions (CFDA 84.305L) and Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions (CFDA 84.324L). These programs are intended to support relatively quick (completed within 2 years) and inexpensive ($250,000 or less) evaluations to test the effects of education interventions that schools and other education institutions may want to scale up or redesign to improve student education outcomes.

IES developed the Low-Cost, Short Duration Evaluation grant programs to help states and school districts plan and launch rigorous evaluations when they roll out new interventions. Such interest is likely to intensify under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which requires states to set accountability goals and encourages use of evidence-based programs to close achievement gaps and improve low-performing schools. 

Advances in technology and administrative data systems have also led some policymakers and researchers to suggest that rigorous evaluations ought to be less expensive to perform today than in the past, when evaluators had to do much of their own data collection.

To meet the goals of relevance, rigor, and affordability, the Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation grant programs set out specific requirements and expectations for applicants:

  • To ensure the relevance, the evaluations must be focused on an intervention that the education agency identifies as a priority and will be implemented in Year 1 of the grant, and must be carried out as a partnership between a research institution and a state and local education agency. 
  • To ensure rigor, evaluation designs must either be randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs that have the potential to meet the What Works Clearinghouse evidence standards without reservation. Beginning in FY 2017, single-case designs may also be used in evaluations of special education interventions. 
  • To ensure lower-cost, the evaluations are expected to rely mainly on agency administrative datasets or other secondary sources rather than on new data collection. 

The short-term nature of the grants leads to a focus on interventions that are expected to improve student education outcomes within a summer session, quarter, semester or academic year. The low cost also means that researchers are not expected to conduct in-depth research into program implementation, comparison group practices, and costs and benefits of interventions unless the data exist in the administrative datasets. Other IES funding opportunities – including Education Research Grants, Special Education Research Grants, and Evaluation of State and Local Education Policies and Programs – are available to support longer-term and/or more in-depth evaluations. 

In sum, the Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation grant programs fill a special niche within the IES portfolio by providing results on specific types of interventions that education agencies can use in making important decisions on programs, policies, and spending. They can also lay the groundwork for future grant-funded research to investigate implementation, underlying mechanisms, and longer-term impacts.

The results from last year’s competitions will be released soon and both programs are being re-competed this year with an application deadline of August 4, 2016.  On June 9, 2016, 2:00-3:30 p.m. (EDT), IES will host a webinar on the two grant competitions. Please register in advance. An archive of the webinar will also be available on the IES funding webinar page.

Written by Allen Ruby, Associate Commissioner, National Center for Education Research

A Renewed Focus on Education Leadership

Education leaders, such as school principals, have been the focus of education research for decades. While research suggests that there are substantial (albeit mostly indirect) relationships between school leadership and student achievement, there is still much to learn. More information is needed about how the knowledge, skills, abilities, and actions of school leaders are impacting student outcomes and the best ways to prepare and support school leaders.

Since 2004, the National Center for Education Research (NCER) within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has only funded 15 research studies on education leadership through several education research grant programs. A technical working group met last year and recommended that NCER strengthen its portfolio of research on this important topic.

In response, IES is revamping its Education Leadership topic as a separate part of its Education Research grants program. By doing so, we hope to provide a greater focus on education leadership research and increase understanding of how school leadership can improve achievement and opportunities for students.

Through the leadership topic, IES is offering research opportunities on programs, policies, and practices that support leaders in K-12 education systems at the school, district, or state level and ultimately lead to improved student outcomes.  While IES invites all applications that meet the topic requirements, we are especially interested in

  • exploratory research on the specific competencies and behaviors needed by leaders to support at-risk or high-risk students and improve student outcomes in challenging educational settings, such as persistently low-performing schools and high-poverty schools and districts;
  • exploratory research on the relationship between student education outcomes and district policies regarding the identification and selection of education leaders, assignment of leaders to specific schools, leadership turnover, and the distribution of leadership roles and responsibilities among multiple individuals within a school;
  • evaluations of leadership interventions that have the potential to improve student outcomes; and
  • the validation of existing leadership measures and the development and validation of new leadership measures for the purpose of research, formative assessment, and accountability.

Education leadership researchers who have strong partnerships with school districts and/or state education agencies should also consider applying to the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research topic within the Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy grants program.  This topic allows researchers to carry out initial research that is of importance to district and/or state partners and then develop a plan for future research.

For more information on funding opportunities for research on education leadership contact Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) or Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov) or visit the IES website. If you missed the deadline to submit an optional Letter of Intent for the Education Leadership topic, please email it to Katina or Corinne directly.

A One-Stop Shop for Leadership Research

We have consolidated all education research grants related to education leaders under our Education Leadership research portfolio. The focus of these studies varies and includes the development and validation of leadership measures (such as the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-ED) and the exploration of potential relationship(s) between malleable factors (such as principals’ skills and behaviors) and student outcomes. In addition to these studies, NCER has funded research on education leadership through its R&D centers on school choice, scaling up effective schools, and analyzing longitudinal education data

Written by Katina Stapleton, Education Research Analyst, NCER

PHOTO: Principals meet with the U.S. Department of Education leadership in 2015 (courtesy of U.S. Department of Education)