Letter from the Commissioner: NCER by the Numbers (FY 2020) December 2020
This year has been particularly interesting to say the least. In the 35+ weeks since we were all sent home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, NCER has been busy. Here's a quick recap of what we've been doing.
- NCER made 97 new grants, a total investment of approximately $192M. Eleven of those grants were to establish new interdisciplinary predoctoral training programs, and three were to establish new National Research and Development Centers, one focused on gifted education and two focused on improving outcomes for English Learners in secondary schools. We made eight unsolicited awards—and the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance is supporting two additional unsolicited projects. In that set of awards, two are addressing COVID-related questions. We are also supporting the work of EdInstruments—a developing library of educational measurement tools intended to be a resource for scholars, educators, schools, districts and the general public. With our funding, they will expand and refine their repository of instruments in six domains: middle grades mathematics, a subdomain of social-emotional learning, early elementary reading, teaching practices, civics, and school climate. This will support our efforts to incentivize the use of common measures in our research studies—a key Standards for Excellence in Education Research principle.
- NCER awarded 22 contracts to support small businesses through our Small Business Innovation Research program. Each of the new awards supports a project to develop a product to personalize the student learning experience or generate information that educators can use to guide practice.
- NCER is busy running our FY2021 competitions. We posted six Requests for Applications for our FY 2021 competitions, including a brand new competition, Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Policymaking, inviting collaborative applications from state agencies and researchers. This new competition seeks to expand state education agencies' use of their state longitudinal data systems to provide evidence for use when making policy decisions. The NCER team provided technical assistance to the more than 600 teams who submitted applications.
- NCER just announced two new competitions for FY 2021—one inviting high risk, high reward research; the other a research network competition on two separate topics: using digital platforms to support efficient high quality research and adult basic skills.
- NCER continues to work closely with our 680 active grantees as they navigate education research during the pandemic. As many of you know, nearly all research that requires in-person interaction has paused. However, our researchers are resilient and creative, and with the support and guidance of our program officers, have plans to continue with research activities that can happen now and are ready to begin in-person activities when it is safe and sensible to do so. Researchers are doing everything they can to understand how COVID-19 is disrupting education and learning, to provide high quality learning opportunities for everyone in this most unusual time, and to offer resources to support learners, educators, and parents. To learn more about the new and continuing work that NCER is supporting, including resources to support remote learning during COVID-19, we have been sharing what our grantees are doing through our blog.
- NCER welcomed two new staff members—Dr. Helyn Kim and Mr. Bennett Lunn. Dr. Kim is overseeing our English Learners portfolio and comes to us from the Brookings Institution via the University of Virginia Predoctoral Training Program. Mr. Lunn is a Truman-Albright Fellow, who is spending the year supporting the work of both NCER and the National Center for Special Education Research. He hails from South Carolina and will be starting law school at Columbia University in the fall of 2021.
All of this has happened in our 100% telework environment. All the normal ways that we interact are taking place virtually, and those changes are impacting the delivery and experience of learning opportunities for everyone—from our youngest children to the adults in postsecondary and adult education, and their teachers and faculty. These challenges also present us with opportunities—to reimagine how we can carry out high-quality and rigorous research; to identify new solutions to persistent problems of gaps in access, opportunity, and achievement; and to collaborate across government and the private sector to ensure that our shared investments work together to support these ends.