IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Bringing Evidence-based Practices to the Field

By Dr. Barbara Foorman, Director Emeritus, Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University

The Institute of Education Sciences recently released a What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) educator’s practice guide that has four recommendations to support the development of foundational reading skills that are critically important to every student’s success. The recommendations in Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade are based on a comprehensive review of 15 years of research on reading, and guidance from a national panel of reading experts, of which I was the chair.

Recently, the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southeast at Florida State University has developed a set of professional learning community (PLC) materials and videos to help teachers and other practitioners implement the guide’s recommendations in classrooms.

Over the past few months, REL Southeast has shared the practice guide and PLC materials with practitioners and policymakers in two states – North Carolina and Mississippi, which both have K-3 reading initiatives and reading coaches who assist with implementation. I’m excited by the feedback we are getting.

During these presentations, we shared the format of the ten 75-min PLC sessions and accompanying videos that demonstrate the recommendations and action steps in actual classrooms. We filmed the videos in partnership with Dr. Lynda Hayes, Director of the PK Yonge Developmental Research School at the University of Florida, and her primary grade teachers.

In North Carolina, we trained K–3 regional literacy consultants, elementary teachers and reading coaches, and higher education faculty on the PLC Facilitator’s Guide in Charlotte and Raleigh. The K-3 regional literacy consultants are organized by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

In Mississippi, we trained the 90 Mississippi Department of Education reading coaches and district-supported special education specialists in Jackson. In turn, the state coaches will train the K–3 teachers who are a part of the reading initiative in the practice guide recommendations and action steps. Additionally, the coaches will work with the primary grade teachers in each of their assigned schools to implement the PLC. Having the state coaches oversee the implementation of the PLC will help ensure commitment and instill depth to the PLC sessions.

Also present at the training in Mississippi were faculty members from the University of Mississippi and Belhaven University. I accepted an invitation from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Literacy Council to speak to higher education faculty about the guide and PLC materials. The invitation is timely because Mississippi recently completed a study of teacher preparation for early literacy instruction.

I hope you will download the practice guide and PLC materials. If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions, please email You can learn more about the work of the Regional Educational Laboratories program and REL Southeast on the IES website.  

Dr. Foorman is the Director of REL Southeast, located at Florida State University

Sharing the Power of Intensive Interventions for Students with Learning Disabilities

In 2013, the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) launched the Accelerating the Academic Achievement of Students with Learning Disabilities Research Initiative (A3). The goal was to develop and evaluate intensive interventions—such as curricula, instructional approaches and technology—that could improve the academic achievement of students with or at risk of a disability.

A five-year grant in this initiative went to Dr. Douglas Fuchs and Dr. Lynn Fuchs (pictured), of Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, who for the past three years have been developing and piloting intensive interventions focused on improving students’ reading comprehension of informational texts and fraction and pre-algebra performance.

Earlier this month, the Fuchs joined Dr. Lou Danielson and Dr. Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds from the National Center on Intensive Interventions (NCII) for a webinar: “Intensive Intervention: What is it, Who it’s For, and Why it’s Important?” (NCII is a research initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.)

The NCII/A3 webinar was purposely held in October—which is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month—to raise awareness of research and resources to support students with learning disabilities. The session was recorded and is available through the NCII website or you can watch it below.

The panelists discussed the intensive intervention process, methods of identifying students not making adequate academic progress, and recent related research. Specifically, the Fuchs’ shared their research designing and piloting two innovative components that seek to expand responsiveness to intervention:

  • Capitalizing on the power of prior knowledge to build informational text comprehension; and
  • Capitalizing on the power of executive function to build fractions knowledge

As part of this NCSER A3 Initiative, these and other intervention components are being developed, integrated into comprehensive intervention programs, and rigorously tested. Please visit the project website to learn more and keep up to date with the latest findings from this research. Viewers of the recorded webinar can also learn more about implementation support resources available through NCII.

In the final years of their five-year NCSER grant, Doug and Lynn Fuchs will work to understand the efficacy of intensive interventions for improving outcomes for students with learning disabilities.  

Written by Sarah Brasiel, Program Officer, NCSER

Photo by Wolf Hoffmann,courtesy of Vanderbilt University


New Release: Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Disaggregated Data on Racial/Ethnic Subgroups

By the National Forum on Education Statistics’ Disaggregation of Racial/Ethnic Subgroups Working Group

Across the nation, our schools serve a diverse student population reflecting a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, interests, identities, and cultures. The more accurately education data reflect the diversity of the student population, the better prepared education practitioners will be to customize instructional and support services to meet those students’ needs.

Local and state members of the National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) convened a Data Disaggregation of Racial/Ethnic Subgroups Working Group to identify best practices for disaggregating data on racial/ethnic subgroups. The Forum Guide to Collecting and Using Disaggregated Data on Racial/Ethnic Subgroups is intended to identify some of the overarching benefits and challenges involved in data disaggregation; recommend appropriate practices for disaggregating racial/ethnic data in districts and states; and describe real-world examples of large and small education agencies disaggregating racial/ethnic data successfully. This resource will help state and district staff better understand the process of disaggregating data in the field of education. It can also help agency staff determine whether data disaggregation might be an appropriate analytical tool in their communities, and, if so, how they can successfully institute or advance a data disaggregation project in their agencies.


The guide is organized into the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Data Disaggregation in Education Agencies explains the purpose of the document; describes the concept of data disaggregation for racial/ethnic subgroups; discusses why the issue is becoming increasingly important in many communities; refers to current U.S. population data; and provides a case study of why this type of data collection can be important and advantageous in a school district.
  • Chapter 2: Strategies for Disaggregating Racial/Ethnic Data Subgroups recommends specific strategies for disaggregating data, including tasks undertaken during the two major phases of the effort: (1) needs assessment and (2) project implementation.
  • Chapter 3: Case Studies offers an in-depth look at how the disaggregation of racial/ethnic subgroup data is already being implemented through a wide range of state and district case studies.

Examples from the case studies and other education agencies are used throughout the document to highlight real-world situations. For instance, readers will learn how Highline (Wash.) Public School District changed the information it gathered on students to support its community’s commitment to equity and how the Springdale (Ark.) School District is using data to better serve its growing population of students from the Marshall Islands.

The recommendations in the resource are not mandates. Districts and states are encouraged to adapt or adopt any recommendations they determine to be useful for their purposes.

About the National Forum on Education Statistics

The work of the National Forum on Education Statistics is a key aspect of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System. The Cooperative System was established to produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the states, comparable and uniform education information and data that are useful for policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics. The Forum addresses issues in education data policy, sponsors innovations in data collection and reporting, and provides technical assistance to improve state and local data systems.

Members of the Forum establish working groups to develop best practice guides in data-related areas of interest to federal, state, and local education agencies. They are assisted in this work by NCES, but the content comes from the collective experience of working group members who review all products iteratively throughout the development process. After the working group completes the content and reviews a document a final time, publications are subject to examination by members of the Forum standing committee that sponsors the project. Finally, Forum members (approximately 120 people) review and formally vote to approve all documents prior to publication. NCES provides final review and approval prior to online publication.

The information and opinions published in Forum products do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the U.S. Department of Education, IES, or NCES. For more information about the Forum, please visit or contact Ghedam Bairu at

Financing Education: National and State Funding and Spending for Public Schools in 2014

By Stephen Q. Cornman and Lauren Musu-Gillette

Revenues and expenditures increased in public K-12 education for the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year data is available, according to a recently released report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report shows that, nationally, spending on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2013–14, reversing a decline in spending for the previous four years.

The First Look report, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2013–14 (Fiscal Year 2014) is based on data from the National Public Education Finance Survey (NPEFS), a component of the Common Core of Data (CCD).

The amount of money spent, per pupil, in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools rose to $11,066 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014.[i] That is a 1.2 percent increase over the previous year (FY 2013), after adjusting for inflation.  Although spending per student has increased overall from 2002–03 to 2013–14, it had decreased each year from 2008–09 to 2012–13  In order to compare spending from one year to the next, expenditures are converted to constant dollars, which adjusts figures for inflation.

NOTE: Spending is reported in constant 2014–15 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," 2002–03 through 2012–13. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 236.65

At the state level, spending per student ranged from a low of $6,546 in Utah to $20,577 in the District of Columbia (D.C.). In addition to the District of Columbia, current expenditures per pupil exceeded $15,000 in eight states: 

  • New York ($20,156); 
  • New Jersey ($18,780); 
  • Alaska ($18,466); 
  • Connecticut ($18,401); 
  • Vermont ($18,066); 
  • Wyoming ($15,903); 
  • Massachusetts ($15,886); and 
  • Rhode Island ($15,372). 

Current expenditures per pupil increased by 1 percent or more in 25 states between FY 13 and FY 14.

Current Expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary education, by state: Fiscal Year 2014

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “National Public Education Financial Survey

The report also presents national and state level data on public school funding by source.[ii] In FY 2014, total revenues per pupil averaged $12,460 nationally, an increase of 1.1 percent from FY 2013. This reversed a decrease of 1.1 percent between FY 2012 and FY 2013. Total revenues increased by 1.6 percent (from $613.2 to $623.2 billion) from FY 13 to FY 14, local revenues increased by 0.5 percent (from $279.0 to $280.5 billion), state revenues increased by 3.9 percent (from $277.5 to $288.2 billion), and federal revenues decreased by 3.9 percent (from $56.7 to $54.5 billion), after adjusting for inflation.

The percentage of total funding from federal sources accounted for 9 percent of total funding in both 2002–03 and 2012–13; however, there were notable fluctuations during this period. The federal percentage increased from 8 percent of funding 2007–08 to 13 percent of funding in 2010–11. This increase reflects, in part, the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As the funds from the program were spent, the federal percentage of total funding decreased to 10 percent in 2011–12 and to 8.7 percent in 2013–14. Local sources accounted for 45 percent of total funding in 2013–14. The percentage of total funding from state sources decreased from 49 percent in school year 2002–03 to 46 percent in school year 2013–14.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," 2002–03 through 2012–13. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 235.10.

[i] Spending refers to current expenditures. Current expenditures are comprised of expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary and secondary education, including expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, supplies, and purchased services. Current expenditures include instruction, instruction-related, support services (e.g., social work, health, and psychological services), and other elementary/secondary current expenditures, but exclude expenditures on capital outlay, other programs, and interest on long-term debt. 

[ii] Funding refers to revenues. Revenues are comprised of all funds received from external sources, net of refunds, and correcting transactions. Noncash transactions, such as receipt of services, commodities, or other receipts in kind are excluded, as are funds received from the issuance of debt, liquidation of investments, and nonroutine sale of property.



An IES-funded “Must Read” on Writing and Reading Disabilities

A paper based on an IES-funded grant has been recognized as a “must read” by the Council for Learning Disabilities.

IES-funded researcher, Stephen Hooper, and his colleagues were recently recognized by the Council for their paper: Writing disabilities and reading disabilities in elementary school students: Rates of co-occurrence and cognitive burden (PDF). The paper was written by Lara-Jeane Costa, Crystal Edwards, and Dr. Hooper and published in Learning Disability Quarterly. Every year, the Council for Learning Disabilities acknowledges outstanding work published in its journals and selected this paper as one of two Must Read pieces for 2016. The authors will present on the paper at the Council's annual conference in San Antonio this week (October 13-14, 2016).

This paper was funded through a grant from the National Center for Education Research (NCER) to examine written language development and writing problems, and the efficacy of an intervention aimed at improving early writing skills. The results of the paper found that the rate of students with both writing and reading disabilities increased from first to fourth grade and these students showed lower ability in language, fine motor skills and memory compared with students with neither disability or only a writing disability.  

The team continues their IES-funded work by looking at the efficacy of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development intervention on struggling middle school writers’ academic outcomes.

Written by Becky McGill-Wilkinson, Education Research Analyst, NCER