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IES Plays the Long Game

Mark Schneider, Director of IES | July 22, 2020

As the nation faces a new school year, uncertain about reopening schools, wary of a resurgence of Covid-19, and scarred from months of unplanned homeschooling, it can be hard to maintain focus on the essential work all of us continue to pursue.

If you haven't seen it, I recommend the Washington Post article: "Yes, balancing work and parenting is impossible. Here's the data."

But as Billie Holliday put it in her classic "Crazy He Calls Me":

The difficult I'll do right now
The impossible will take a little while

So, even if life sometimes seems impossible, we will keep moving forward, even if it takes a little while. We must do so because the work we do to improve learning outcomes is essential to the future of the country and to millions of learners during the pandemic and afterwards.

But I am not writing this blog to confront the gloom that so many of us are feeling (well, maybe it's helping to counteract my own periodic bouts of gloom); rather, it is to launch a series of blogs about IES' progress on our Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER).

Eighteen or so months ago, when IES began to think about SEER (thanks again to Fiona Hollands for winning the contest to name them), we had no idea that they would be a defining characteristic of how IES structures so much of its work. Most of the SEER principles just seemed like good science and essential for good policy. While parts of the standards were clearly aspirational, none seemed BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals).

Over the coming weeks, I plan a series of blogs starting with four components of SEER—with coverage of the other SEER domains likely. The first four are:

  • Long-term outcomes.
  • Costs.
  • Core components.
  • Common measures.

This blog will report on the progress we have made in supporting the study of long-term outcomes.

Given the heavy lift faced by the field in response to IES' emphasis on costs, I think we have made enormous progress. Core components may be the closest thing we have to a BHAG, but developing a common taxonomy that allows us to track and compare the effectiveness and efficiency of the core components—the "moving parts"—of interventions will doubtless advance the adoption of evidence-based practices. Common measures is the latest addition to SEER, and like the others SEER principles on this list, will be discussed in more detail in later blogs.

Progress on Supporting Long-Term Outcomes.

Of the SEER domains listed above, supporting the study of long-term outcomes may be the one against which the "machinery" of IES can most easily be deployed. Indeed, over the last few months to encourage research on long-term outcomes, IES has awarded a total of over $7 million in supplements across four NCSER grants and three NCER grants. Below, are highlights of each of these projects.

We continue to look for other ways to support the measurement of long-term outcomes (see, for example our RFA for using state longitudinal data systems for this purpose). In addition, our RFAs now encourage applicants to measure education outcomes beyond the intervention end point to determine if short-term changes in education outcomes are sustained over time. We now encourage applicants to plan to maintain contact with schools and study participants and ensure that IRB protocols are written to allow researchers to follow participants beyond the current grant period. These kinds of activities are important as IES continues its efforts to measure long-term outcomes.

Look for more updates on SEER, even it might take a little while, as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our lives.

As always, please feel free to contact me:

Supplemental Funding Awards for Long-term Follow-up

NCSER Awards

Preschool First Step to Success: An Efficacy Replication Study
PI: Edward Feil, Oregon Research Institute
Award: $1,261,392
First Step Next (FSN) is designed to improve behavior, social skills, and school readiness of preschool children who are at high risk for the development of oppositional and conduct disorders. The research team found positive results for improving student behavioral and academic outcomes at post-intervention and 1 year later. This follow-up study examines behavioral and academic outcomes through 3rd grade.

Efficacy of the START-Play Program for Infants with Neuromotor Disorders
PI: Regina Harbourne, Duquesne University
Award: $929,509
For infants with moderate to severe impairments, Sitting Together and Reaching To Play (START-Play) has shown positive effects on children's global cognition and problem solving and the frequency with which parents provide cognitive learning opportunities. The supplemental funds will allow the researchers to see if these effects persist over time by examining children's cognitive, motor, language, and problem-solving skills and parent-child interaction 3 years later.

Developing Connections Between Word Problems and Mathematical Equations to Promote Word-Problem Performance Among Students with Mathematics Difficulty
PI: Sarah Powell, University of Texas, Austin
Award: $544,235
This study found a positive effect of the word-problem intervention on measures of pre-algebraic reasoning and on word-problem outcomes for third grade students with or at risk for disabilities. The supplement will pay for assessing whether the effects sustain over time, particularly in grades 5 and 6 when algebraic reasoning becomes more important for math learning.

Improving Reading and Mathematics Outcomes for Students with Learning Disabilities: Next Generation Intensive Interventions
PI: Douglas Fuchs, Vanderbilt University
Award: $748,548
The Accelerating the Academic Achievement of Students with Learning Disabilities Research Initiative developed and evaluated the efficacy of math and reading interventions for students with learning disabilities in grades 3–5 in need of intensive interventions. This additional work will collect and analyze follow-up data on participants in the mathematics study the following year (grade 4 students now in 5th grade and grade 5 students now in 6th grade).

NCER Awards

The Causal Impact of Attending a Career-Technical High School on Student Achievement, High School Graduation, and College Enrollment
PI: Shaun Dougherty, Vanderbilt University
Award: $647,499
The original study examined the impact of attending a career technical education (CTE) high school on achievement, high school graduation, and college enrollment. The extended data collection will follow existing cohorts from ages 20 through 30, adding higher education attainment and workforce outcomes, to determine whether earlier positive effects persist over time.

Efficacy Evaluation of Zoology One: Kindergarten Research Labs
PI: Brooks Bowden, University of Pennsylvania
Award: $1,000,000
The original study tested the efficacy of Zoology One, an integrated literacy and science curriculum, and showed positive effects of the intervention on literacy outcomes at the end of kindergarten and at the end of second grade. This supplement will allow the researchers to follow students into fourth grade to measure long-term impacts of the kindergarten curriculum on both science knowledge and reading achievement.

Evaluation of Alternative Placement Systems
Evaluation of Developmental Math Pathways and Student Outcomes
PI: Nicole Edgecombe, Teachers College, Columbia University
Award: $2,000,003
One of the research studies carried out by TC's R&D Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness evaluated the State University of New York's (SUNY) use of multiple measures to predict student performance in college-level math and college-level English courses. A second study tested the efficacy of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) project. The follow up studies will estimate the effects of the DCMP and SUNY multiple measures placement system on long-term student outcomes like graduation and transfer.