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May 2008

Around the Centers

Four new RFAs for FY 2009

On March 3, IES announced its FY 2009 research grant competitions. Four RFAs have been released for the first round of competitions, which will close in June: Education Research Grants, Special Education Research Grants, Statistical and Research Methodology in Education, and Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies. The Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies is a new research grant competition. The program will provide grants to evaluate the impact of state or local education programs and policies. Although any organization that has the ability and capacity to conduct scientifically valid research is eligible to apply, all applications must include the involvement of a state or local education agency. The purpose of the program is to provide states and districts with funding to rigorously evaluate their own programs. States and districts can use the results of such evaluations to identify and maintain successful policies and programs while redesigning or terminating ineffective ones. The program on Statistical and Research Methodology in Education is also new and will provide grants to develop new or refine and extend existing tools for conducting education research.

Education Research Briefings

The Institute kicked off a series of education research briefings in February featuring a talk by University of Washington professor Dan Goldhaber on "How Licensure and Teacher Workforce Policies Might Affect Teacher Quality." The new briefing series, scheduled to take place approximately every six weeks, is designed to provide Department senior staff and program offices with timely information about developments in the field of education research and how they could impact policy decisions. A second briefing took place in April featuring a talk by Mark Dynarski on "Helping Educators Stem the Dropout Problem: What Works (or Might Work)." The next briefing is scheduled to take place in June in the Department's Barnard Auditorium, LBJ Building. It will feature Michael Podgursky from the University of Missouri, whose presentation is titled "Teacher Compensation in U.S. Public Schools: The Case for Market-Based Reform."

Director Whitehurst Delivers Talk at Annual AERA Meeting

Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Director of the Institute of Education Sciences
During a speech to more than 150 attendees at the annual meeting of AERA on March 27 in New York City, Russ noted that since becoming director of IES, this was the seventh time he had presented at the annual meeting. In that time, he said, "the state of education research has improved." Russ spoke about six things he has learned about research and policymaking, noting that: 1) researchers are more likely to be interested in understanding while policymakers are more likely to be interested in improvement; 2) researchers use a logic of disconfirmation whereas policymakers use a logic of confirmation; 3) much research of interest to policymakers should not be because it is too methodologically weak to be useful; 4) demonstrating that popular programs don't work is risky business; 5) high stakes for policymakers have generated unreasonable expectations for how quickly the research community can answer questions; and 6) policymakers are receptive to rigorous and relevant research when they are uncertain about policy direction.

What Works Clearinghouse Debuts New Quick Reviews

On May 6, the What Works Clearinghouse released a new type of evidence report. The WWC Quick Review is designed to provide education practitioners and policymakers with an objective assessment of the quality of the research evidence from a research paper or report whose public release is reported in a major national news source. The intent of the quick reviews is to rate whether the research described in the report or article is consistent with WWC evidence standards. The first WWC Quick Review was on a report on Scaling Up SimCalc Project: Can a Technology Enhanced Curriculum Improve Student Learning of Important Mathematics? This study examined whether SimCalc Mathworlds™ improves students' knowledge of the algebra concepts of rate and proportionality. The second Quick Review was on an article on Outcomes of a Prospective Trial of Student-Athlete Drug Testing: The Student-Athlete Testing Using Random Notification (SATURN) Study. This study examined whether the SATURN program affects illicit drug and alcohol use among student-athletes. The third Quick Review was on the report on Outcomes Linked to High-Quality Afterschool Programs: Longitudinal Findings from the Study of Promising Afterschool Programs. This study examined whether high-quality after-school programs operating in high-poverty communities improve the academic, social, and behavioral outcomes of participating students » view reports.

Spanish-language Version of College Navigator

The Spanish-language version of the College Navigator is now available online at All of the content has been translated into Spanish, making the free consumer information tool more accessible to Spanish-speaking students and their families. College Navigator is designed to help students, parents, high school counselors, and others get information about nearly 7,000 postsecondary institutions in the United States. Since its launch last September, the site has been very popular—on average, it receives 30,000 visitors a day. Money Magazine has named it as one of the magazine's top 28 websites and one of the best places to start a college search.

NCES to Launch New Longitudinal Studies

The National Center for Education Statistics will be starting a new study of kindergartners in the 2010–11 school year (ECLS-K:11). The new study is designed to compare results about students and their learning with the original ECLS-K study and to collect data on issues that have emerged in early elementary education since the late 1990s. For example, new questions will be developed to study the relationships between efforts aimed at improving school performance and the children's learning experiences and development. In addition, the new study will focus on the increasing population of English-language learners and particularly those students who cannot be tested in English. The new study will also include improvements aimed at better measuring students' progress and potential developmental problems.

During the fall of 2009, NCES will initiate a nationally representative, longitudinal study of 9th graders. These 9th graders will be followed through high school, postsecondary education, and early work experiences. Information will be collected from students, school administrators, math and science teachers, school counselors, administrative records, and parents. Students will be assessed in mathematics in the 9th and 11th grades. Information on coursetaking and postsecondary education applications and acceptances will be collected after the senior year in high school. Information will also be collected from HSLS:09 students regarding their experiences as they leave high school and enter postsecondary education and the work world.