IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Understanding NCER and NCSER’s Investments in Research Training

Since 2004, NCER has invested over $270 million dollars in education research training programs through solicited and unsolicited grants. NCSER has invested over $32 million in special education research training programs through solicited and unsolicited grants since 2008.

This investment has supported the training and professional development of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early- and mid-career researchers. But what guides NCER’s and NCSER’s investments? What roles do NCER and NCSER play in research training in the education sciences, and how can the centers determine whether these investments are successful?

In June 2022, IES awarded a joint-center contract to WestEd to document the background and rationale for these training programs and help articulate the theoretical models for each of the programs, including assumptions, inputs, activities, and outputs. WestEd will then work with IES to identify metrics and potential data sources to better understand the successes and impacts of the current and possible future programs.


The commissioners for the centers, Drs. Elizabeth Albro and Joan McLaughlin, are excited about the opportunity to delve into the training programs that they believe have transformed the education sciences:

We see the benefits of these trainings every day, including the quality of the applications that we receive, ability of the research teams to conduct thoughtful and rigorous studies even when confronted with the practical challenges of working in schools, the number of early career applicants taking on important research, and the growing diversity of the research teams. 

 The commissioners see the contract as an exciting opportunity:

WestEd is supporting us as we take stock of our various research trainings and help us identify metrics for measuring success both within and across our training programs.  We want to make sure our research training programs stay current and address the needs and evolving challenges of the field and are looking forward to working with the WestEd team on this project. 


Dr. Nick Gage, a former NCSER postdoctoral fellow and current mentor on an NCSER Early Career grant leads the WestEd team and notes –  

I believe deeply in the capacity of IES to impact change through the training programs and am passionate about working with IES to find the connections among the programs and to develop a plan for measuring success across the training programs. I believe thinking broadly while also attending to the unique features of the training programs when developing models and a unified conceptual framework will be an on-going challenge, but one my team is excited to tackle. 

By understanding the connections between what is being done during these programs and the impacts on grantees, trainees, institutions, and the education sciences in the short and long term, we can develop new approaches for measuring and understanding success resulting from training program implementation. 

To build the models and identify metrics, WestEd is talking with IES staff, reviewing public and internal documents, leveraging natural language processing and other data analytic approaches, and soliciting input from former training program grantees and participants. Dr. Gage’s goal is to incorporate the voices of all those involved in training programs to help bring together multiple perspectives and ideas in this effort.


For more information about the research activities or to provide input, contact Dr. Nick Gage


NCER Research Training Programs 

  • Early Career Mentoring Program for Faculty at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs)  
  • Methods Training for Education Research 
  • Pathways to the Education Sciences 
  • Postdoctoral Research Training 
  • Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training 
  • Training in Education Use and Practice 


NCSER Research Training Programs 

  • Early Career Development and Mentoring in Special Education 
  • Methods Training for Special Education Research 
  • Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Special Education and Early Intervention 


This blog was written by Dr. Meredith Larson (, an NCER Postdoctoral Training program officer and current coordinator for the NCER/NCSER Training Program team. She is also the contracting officer representative for the NCER/NCSER Education Research Training Program Support contract. 

Women’s Equality Day: The Gender Wage Gap Continues

Today, on Women’s Equality Day, we honor the many women who fuel the education sector with their dedication to our nation’s students! But, let’s also remember the many ways women are still striving to overcome inequalities in the workplace.

Women made up the majority of public school teachers (77 percent) and public school principals (54 percent) in 2017–18. While overrepresented in terms of public school positions, women were paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

Background Demographics

Compared to 30 years ago, women made up higher proportions of public school teachers and principals in 2017–18 than in 1987–88. According to data from the 1987–88 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), 71 percent of all public school teachers were women. By 2017–18, data from the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) showed the rate had increased to 77 percent. The percentage of female public school principals more than doubled during the same period, from 25 percent in 1987–88 to 54 percent in 2017–18. 

Historically, U.S. school buildings weren’t heavily populated by women. Nearly all teachers were men before “Common Schools”—the precursor to today’s public school system—were introduced in the late 1820s. As the education landscape shifted, so did the composition of the teaching workforce. By the 1890s, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of all public school teachers were women.1 

New Depression-era laws in the 1930s—which limited the number of adults in a family who were allowed to work in certain occupations—made it more difficult for married women to stay in the workforce, since a husband often earned more than his wife, even in the same position. Since female public school teachers were the most immediately recognizable example of this law at the local level, married women in education were direct targets of employment discrimination.2 Consequently, the percentage of female teachers dropped from 81 percent in 1930 to 76 percent in 1940.3 Throughout history, this percentage continued to fluctuate as laws readjusted more equitably and more diverse jobs became available to women, although women have always represented more than 50 percent of the teacher workforce. 

The Gender Wage Gap: Teachers and Principals (2017–18 NTPS)

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, women are paid less than men in nearly all occupations. While the gap for public elementary and secondary teachers is smaller than the average, it still exists.  

History tells us that the gender wage gap in elementary and secondary education wasn’t accidental. In fact, it was specifically created to expand the reach of the public education system by Common School reformers who argued that the United States could afford to staff the proposed new schools by adding more female teachers, since schools could pay them less than male teachers.4

Patterns in teacher compensation from the 2017–18 school year show that the average base teaching salary of female public school teachers is less than that of their male counterparts ($55,490 vs. $57,453).5 Comparably, female public school principals also had a lower average salary in 2017–18 than did male principals ($96,300 vs. $100,600).

How does average annual salary vary based on teacher, principal, or school characteristics? (201718 NTPS)

Public school teacher and principal salaries are known to vary by several individual- or school-related characteristics (see figures 1 and 2).

For instance, there are fluctuations in teachers’ and principals’ average annual salary by age, years of experience, and highest degree earned. Salary increases often follow a predictable pattern: older, more experienced, or more highly educated teachers and principals generally earn higher salaries than their younger, less experienced, or less educated counterparts.

Educators are also paid differently based on where they work. Certain school characteristics, such as community type, school level, and school size, can influence teachers’ and principals’ average salaries. In 2017–18, the educators with the highest average annual salary worked in either suburban schools, high schools, or large schools with more than 1,000 enrolled students.

Figure 1. Average annual base teaching salary of regular, full-time public school teachers, by selected school or teacher characteristics: 201718

[click figure image to enlarge]

Horizontal bar chart showing average annual base teaching salary of regular, full-time public school teachers, by selected school or teacher characteristics (community type, school level, student enrollment, years of experience, and highest degree earned) in 2017–18

Figure 2. Average annual salary of public school principals, by selected school or principal characteristics: 2017–18

[click figure image to enlarge]

Horizontal bar chart showing average annual salary of public school principals, by selected school or principal characteristics (community type, school level, student enrollment, years of experience, and highest degree earned) in 2017–18

Do teacher, principal, or school characteristics close the gender wage gap? (201718 NTPS)

We know that gender differences in average salary can be correlated with other related factors. For example, higher percentages of public primary school teachers (89 percent) and principals (67 percent) than of public middle or high school educators are female. Notably, figures 1 and 2 show that primary school educators earn less on average than their counterparts in middle or high schools. But these other related factors don’t entirely explain the male-female wage gap.


Comparing male and female public school teachers who have the same characteristics can, in some situations, narrow the wage gap (see figure 3).

Figure 3. Average base teaching salary of regular, full-time public school teachers, by sex and selected school and teacher characteristics: 2017–18

[click figure image to enlarge]

Line graph showing average base teaching salary of regular, full-time public school teachers, by sex and selected school and teacher characteristics (years of experience, highest degree earned, community type, school level, and student enrollment) in 2017–18

Among teachers who have the same years of experience, salaries among newer teachers are more similar than among more experienced teachers. There is no significant difference in the average base teaching salary between male and female teachers with less than 4 years or 4–9 years of experience. However, the wage gap remains for the most experienced teachers. Female teachers with 10–14 years or 15 or more years of experience had lower average salaries ($56,990 and $66,600, respectively) than their male counterparts with the same amount of experience ($58,300 and $69,100, respectively).

Similarly, female teachers whose highest degree is bachelor’s degree or less or whose highest degree is a master’s degree earn less on average per year ($49,600 and $62,700, respectively) than male teachers with the same amount of education ($52,300 and $64,300, respectively).6 There is no significant difference between the average salaries of male and female teachers who have higher than a master’s degree.   

When looking at the data by key school characteristics, the wage gap also shrinks for at least some teachers. As discussed before, average base teaching salaries vary by school level and by school size. When comparing male and female teachers at the same school level, female primary school teachers earn less ($56,800) than male primary school teachers ($59,000). But there is no significant difference in average salaries between male and female middle and high school teachers, nor between male and female teachers who work at the same size schools.  

However, gender differences in average base teaching salary remain when school location is the same. In all four community types, female teachers have lower average salaries than their male colleagues: $62,300 vs. $64,400 in suburbs, $59,000 vs. $60,800 in cities, $50,200 vs. $52,600 in rural areas, and $50,100 vs. $52,000 in towns.


Female principals consistently have lower average annual salaries than male principals, even when controlling for other related factors (see figure 4).

Figure 4. Average annual salary of public school principals, by sex and selected school and principal characteristics: 2017–18

[click figure image to enlarge] 

Line graph showing average annual salary of public school principals, by sex and selected school and teacher characteristics (years of experience, highest degree earned, community type, school level, and student enrollment) in 2017–18

Both the newest and the most experienced female principals are paid significantly less on average than their male peers with the same amount of experience. Similarly, when considering highest degree earned, the data show that female principals are consistently paid less on average than male principals. For example, female principals with a doctorate or first professional degree are paid less on average than male principals with the same education ($102,800 vs. $111,900).

For the most part, principal salaries by gender also remain significantly different when accounting for school characteristics. For example, when considering school location, the data show that female principals have lower average salaries than their male colleagues in all four community types: $105,200 vs. $112,700 in suburbs, $101,400 vs. $106,000 in cities, $85,800 vs. $92,000 in towns, and $82,200 vs. $87,500 in rural areas.

Although there is a lot more to learn about the complex levers that guide educator salaries, the data show that the male-female wage gap is still affecting female educators in many situations.  

Because of the NTPS, researchers, policymakers, and other decisionmakers can continue to analyze relationships that may influence the gender salary gap, including state-by-state differences, turnover rates, self-rated evaluation and job satisfaction scales, and data on the self-reported amount of influence an educator has over various school or classroom decisions. Results from the 2020–21 NTPS will be released in fall 2022 and will include information on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on public and private schools. Whether the gender wage gap changed over the last two school years is to be determined.

Be sure to follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to receive notifications when these new data are released.


Facts and figures in this blog come from the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) and its predecessor, the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). The NTPS is a primary source of information about K12 schools and educators across the United States and a great resource for understanding the characteristics and experiences of public and private school teachers and principals.


By Julia Merlin, NCES

[1] The Fifty-Second Congress. (1893). The executive documents of the House of Representatives for the second session of the Fifty-second Congress (Vol. 1). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 

[2] Blackwelder, J.K. (1998). Women of the Depression: Caste and Culture in San Antonio, 1929–1939. Texas A&M University Press.

[3] Adams, K.H., and Kenne, M.L. (2015). Women, Art, and the New Deal. McFarland.

[4] Kaestle, C. F. (1983). Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society: 1780–1860. Macmillan.

[5] For the purpose of this blog post, only regular, full-time teachers are included in any salary calculations. A regular full-time teacher is any teacher whose primary position in a school is not an itinerant teacher, a long-term substitute, a short-term substitute, a student teacher, a teacher aide, an administrator, a library media or librarian, another type of professional staff (e.g., counselor, curriculum coordinator, social worker) or support staff (e.g., secretary), or a part-time teacher. For average base salary, teachers who reported zero are excluded from analysis. Summer earnings are not included.

[6] Notably, most teachers have earned a bachelor’s (39 percent) or a master’s (49 percent) degree as their highest level of education. The percentage distribution of teachers whose highest degree earned is a bachelor’s or a master’s degree does not meaningfully differ by gender.

What Do NCES Data Tell Us About America’s Kindergartners?

Happy Get Ready for Kindergarten Month! 

For more than 20 years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has been collecting information about kindergartners’ knowledge and skills as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) program.

The first ECLS, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K), focused on children in kindergarten in the 1998–99 school year. At the time the ECLS-K began, no large national study focused on education had followed a cohort of children from kindergarten entry through the elementary school years. Some of today’s commonly known information about young children, such as the information about kindergartners’ early social and academic skills shown in the infographics below, comes out of the ECLS-K. For example, we all know that children arrive at kindergarten with varied knowledge and skills; the ECLS-K was the first study to show at a national level that this was the case and to provide the statistics to highlight the differences in children’s knowledge and skills by various background factors.

The second ECLS kindergarten cohort study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011), is the ECLS-K’s sister study. This study followed the students who were in kindergarten during the 2010–11 school year. The ECLS-K:2011, which began more than a decade after the inception of the ECLS-K, allows for comparisons of children in two nationally representative kindergarten classes experiencing different policy, educational, and demographic environments. For example, significant changes that occurred between the start of the ECLS-K and the start of the ECLS-K:2011 include the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation, a rise in school choice, and an increase in English language learners. 

From the parents of children in the ECLS-K:2011, we learned how much U.S. kindergartners like school, as shown in the following infographic.

The ECLS program studies also provide information on children’s home learning environments and experiences outside of school that may contribute to learning. For example, we learned from the ECLS-K:2011 what types of activities kindergartners were doing with their parents at least once a month (see the infographic below).

Infographic titled How do kindergarteners like school?

What’s next for ECLS data collections on kindergartners? NCES is excited to be getting ready to launch our next ECLS kindergarten cohort study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2023–24 (ECLS-K:2024)

Before the ECLS-K:2024 national data collections can occur, the ECLS will conduct a field test—a trial run of the study to test the study instruments and procedures—in the fall of 2022.

If you, your child, or your school are selected for the ECLS-K:2024 field test or national study, please participate! While participation is voluntary, it is important so that the study can provide information that can be used at the local, state, and national levels to guide practice and policies that increase every child’s chance of doing well in school. The ECLS-K:2024 will be particularly meaningful, as it will provide important information about the experiences of children whose early lives were shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch this video to learn more about participation in the ECLS-K:2024. For more information on the ECLS studies and the data available on our nation’s kindergartners, see the ECLS homepage, review our online training modules, or email the ECLS study team.


By Jill Carlivati McCarroll, NCES

New Grant to Develop a Learning Game About the Supreme Court Features ED/IES SBIR Education Technology Platform

In April 2022, iCivics was awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to develop Supreme Justice, a live-action multiplayer experience that simulates the deliberation process used by Supreme Court justices.  The game is being developed in partnership with small business Gigantic Mechanic and deployed using their VOXPOP platform, which was developed through the ED/IES SBIR program with awards in 2018 and 2019.

VOXPOP is a technology-enabled, class-wide, role-playing game for high school students. Using any web browser, teachers access a library of simulations on a range of topics drawn from the AP U.S. history curriculum and Common Core History Standards. VOXPOP’s platform provides resources to guide implementation, including videos, individualized student profiles, and real-time voting, and facilitates each student playing a unique historical role. Throughout the experience, the software guides participants with facts and primary sources, with students engaging in face-to-face discussions, and debating issues central to the simulation. All VOXPOP content can be found at

On July 15, VOXPOP was selected as the winner for the “Best Civics Game” through the Games For Change 2022 Awards. This annual award competition recognizes the year's best games for social impact and learning. All awards are competitive with submissions are evaluated by expert jurors.

In the new Supreme Justice game, students in grades 6 to 12 participate in a live-action multiplayer simulation focused on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and due process rights. Classrooms are divided into different groups to play petitioners, respondents, and justices as they argue and consider cases of constitutional law. Supreme Justice will model deliberation and critical thinking in a civic setting, grounded in historical cases and relying heavily on the U.S. Constitution as evidence. The experience will engage students in face-to-face discussions and debates, while collaborating to craft arguments central to civic and government life. Once the game is developed, it will be freely available on the iCivics website.



Along with the iCivics NEH grant, Gigantic Mechanic is partnering with other organizations and museums, such as Revolutionary Spaces (see video below), to develop custom role-plays and simulations for their platforms and spaces.



Stay tuned to @IESResearch for news and updates on research, initiatives, and project updates in the area of tutoring to accelerate learning.

For more information, please contact Edward Metz (, research scientist and the program manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.


Technology Facilitated Tutoring Programs to Accelerate Learning

It goes without saying, challenges caused by COVID-19 in the field of education remain widespread and have the potential to be long lasting. A recent report confirmed that during the pandemic the move to full-time remote schooling was related to a decrease in student achievement, especially in high-poverty districts. Now over two years later, school leaders continue to employ strategies to address learning loss, such as intensive tutoring programs. This is because decades of research support the effectiveness of in-person tutoring to accelerate learning, and recent research also shows positive effects for high dosage virtual tutoring for struggling learners during the pandemic.

While the human-to-human interaction will always be central to a quality tutoring experience, technology offers unique functionalities to enrich and extend tutoring. For example, new models of technology facilitated tutoring programs—

  • Engage students with game-based and multi-media content that adjusts to the level of the individual and generate real-time tips to scaffold learning
  • Employ tools such as virtual whiteboards and data visualizations to enrich the virtual workspace for the tutor and student
  • Use dashboards to present real-time data driven insights for tutors to track student progress and individualize instruction
  • Provide automated professional development and training opportunities to prepare tutors

Technology also enables schools and community organizations to offer remote tutoring programs at scale—to reach students anywhere and anytime, including after school and during the summer. This of course depends on student access to technology and the availability of qualified tutors.  

Four IES Supported Technology-Based Tutoring Programs

In spring 2020, to help address the crisis in education caused by the pandemic, four teams of IES-funded developers adapted and extended their learning technologies for remote tutoring to be ready to be used at scale. The technologies are all research based and offer unique capabilities to strengthen the tutoring experience and to allow programs to reach more students. Each of the following programs described below can now deliver tutoring in schools or remote settings.

A2i by Learning Ovations. A2i (watch video) is a web-based product for students in kindergarten to grade 3 that continually assesses reading and generates data-driven recommendations to inform instruction. A2i is used in hundreds of schools by tens of thousands of students each year. Originally developed for in-school use through multiple IES and other government awards, research demonstrates the efficacy of A2i to improve student reading.

At the beginning of COVID-19, the Community Literacy Support System was designed to extend A2i for tutoring at student homes and other non-school locations. The program provides customized lessons and data visualization tools for tutors and parents. In the past two years, the tutoring program has been used by 9,200 students across 5 different states, at 23 different community sites (such as this one), and within almost 8,000 homes.

ASSISTments by ASSISTments. ASSISTments (watch video) is used by teachers to assign problems to students from curricula, such as EngageNY, Illustrative Mathematics, and Open Up Resources. Students receive real-time instructional feedback while doing problems online, while teachers receive reports with actionable insights to inform instruction. Initially developed through multiple awards from IES and other sources, in 2021-22, ASSISTments was used by over 5,000 educators and 200,000 students at schools around the country. Research by SRI International demonstrated that classrooms that used ASSISTments increased in learning course content compared to a control group.

At the onset of COVID-19, ASSISTments designed TutorASSIST, a tool to present data visualizations for tutors to target specific student needs through remote (or in-person) sessions. More than 750 students across Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland used the tool to support remote tutoring during the pandemic. With a 2021 ED/EIR grant, ASSISTments is further developing its core product and tutoring tool to serve historically underserved students, including starting a school tutoring pilot program in eight schools in partnership with EnCorps Tutors, with a focus on optimizing the technology for tutoring.

SAGA Coach by SAGA Education and Simbulus. SAGA Education and Woot Math (watch video) employ interactive and game-based activities to support student math learning and a dashboard that generates data-driven insights to promote dialogue and discussion of complex topics between teachers and students. The school-based intervention reaches approximately 75,000 students per year. Woot Math was developed through an ED/IES SBIR award and through other sources. In 2021, Woot Math was acquired by and integrated within SAGA Education’s online math program.  

During the pandemic, SAGA Coach was designed to extend Saga Education and Woot Math for remote tutoring through the addition of an interactive whiteboard shared by tutors and students, and online training materials for tutors. During the 2020-21 school year, 5,500 students used SAGA Coach for high-dosage remote tutoring, and in 2022-23, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America will use SAGA Coach to deliver a remote tutoring program.

Lightning Squad by Sirius Thinking and Success For All. Lightning Squad (watch video) is a multimedia platform where pairs of students in grades 1 to 3 who are struggling readers collaborate to read stories and play games that are presented by the computer, while a tutor provides targeted support. Developed through an ED/IES SBIR award, the product is currently being evaluated through a multiyear efficacy trial and will be used in 50 Baltimore City elementary schools in fall 2022.  

At the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Lightning Squad was adapted for remote delivery in eight Baltimore City schools serving principally low-income students. In the remote version, tutors use a video platform (for example, Zoom) with pairs of students in their respective homes. Students proceed with the activities of the software and respond verbally while a tutor types responses on the screen in real-time for each team member to see. In the 2020-21 school year, 16 Baltimore City schools used Lightning Squad with over 800 students, most for remote tutoring. Research conducted during the project by Success For All (not yet reviewed by the Department) found that students who were able to maintain consistent participation with remote tutoring gained 1.5 years of progress as measured by their initial placement and end of year placement, double the expected gains in reading during the period of school closures.  An additional 1,200 students were served remotely using Lightning Squad in other states during this same period.

Additional Related Resources on Tutoring to Accelerate Learning

  • Lightning Squad and SAGA Coach are part of Proven Tutoring, a coalition of technology-delivered tutoring programs with a mission to help educators learn about and access tutoring programs. These evidence-based programs have the potential to increase the achievement of students performing far below grade level due to COVID school closures or other factors.
  • In June 2021 during the ED Games Expo, IES partnered with AmeriCorps to host a webinar focusing on government and community partner initiatives to support remote tutoring to accelerate student learning during COVID-19.

In April 2022, AmeriCorps partnered with ED to produce a webinar on lessons from the field on the topic of high-dosage tutoring. AmeriCorps and the Department, along with Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center, are partners in the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS). Launched in July 2022, the NPSS is committed to engaging 250,000 adults as tutors, mentors, and coaches in evidence-based programs designed to accelerate students’ recovery from the pandemic. 

Stay tuned to @IESResearch for news and updates on research, initiatives, and project updates in the area of tutoring to accelerate learning.

Edward Metz is a research scientist and the program manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Melissa Moritz was the Afterschool and Summer Learning Fellow in the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. She currently serves as the Director of Policy for the STEM Next Opportunity Fund.

Please contact with questions or for more information.