IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month With NCES

Sexual minorities are people whose sexual orientation is something other than straight or heterosexual.

Gender minorities are people whose sex as recorded at birth is different from their gender.

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and NCES is proud to share some of the work we have undertaken to collect data on the characteristics and well-being of sexual and gender minority (SGM) people. Inclusion of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on federal surveys allows for a better understanding of SGM people relative to the general population. These questions generate data to inform the development of resources and interventions to better serve the SGM community. Giving respondents the opportunity to describe themselves and bring their “whole self” to a questionnaire also helps them to be more fully seen and heard by researchers and policymakers.

Sometimes, we get asked why questions like this appear on education surveys. They can be sensitive questions for some people, after all. We ask these questions so we can better understand educational equity and outcomes for SGM people, just as we do for other demographic groups, such as those defined by race, ethnicity, household income, and region of the country. Just as is the case for other demographic groups, it is possible that SGM people have unique experiences compared with students and educators from other demographic groups.

Over the past 10 years, NCES has researched how to best ask respondents about their sexual orientation and gender identity, how respondents react to these questions, and what the quality of the data is that NCES has collected in questionnaires and datasets that include sexual orientation and gender identity information.

Several NCES studies include background questions for adults about their sexual orientation and gender identity, including the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-up in 2016, the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B) 08/18 and 16/21 collections, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) in 2020, the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) 20/22 and 20/25 collections, and the 2023–24 National Teacher and Principal Survey. In addition, the School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and sponsored by NCES, asks students several questions pertinent to SGM experiences. For example, the SCS asks students whether they were bullied due to their gender or sexual orientation and whether they experienced hate speech related to their gender or sexual orientation. As participants in the NCVS, students ages 16 and older who respond to the SCS also report their gender identity and sexual orientation. Collectively, these data allow NCES to describe the experiences of students who identify as sexual and gender minorities.

  • As of 2021, 2009 ninth-graders who were bisexual and questioning left postsecondary education without degrees or credentials at higher rates than other groups of students who were in ninth grade in 2009, and they earned bachelor’s or higher degrees at lower rates than other students.1
     
  • In 2020, some 9 percent of students who identified as genderqueer, gender nonconforming, or a different identity had difficulty finding safe and stable housing, which is the three times the rate of students who identified as male or female (3 percent each).2
     
  • In 2018, about 10 years after completing a 2007–08 bachelor’s degree, graduates who were gender minorities3 described their financial situations. Graduates who were gender minorities were less likely to own a home (31 percent) or hold a retirement account (74 percent) than graduates who were not gender minorities (63 percent and 87 percent, respectively).4
     
  • Among 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates with a full-time job in 2018, those who were straight people reported higher average salaries than those who were either lesbian/gay or bisexual.    
     
  • In the 2017–18 school year, 18 percent of public schools had a recognized student group that promoted the acceptance of students’ sexual orientation and gender identity, such as a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). This was an increase from the 2015–16 school year, in which 12 percent of schools reported having a GSA.5|
     
  • Among all students ages 12–18 in grades 6–12 who reported being bullied (19 percent), the percentage who reported being bullied due to their sexual orientation more than doubled from 2017 (4 percent) to 2022 (9 percent).6 That change was primarily driven by female students, for whom the percentage tripled from 2017 to 2022 (from 4 to 13 percent), while the percentage of bullied males who reported being bullied for their sexual orientation was not statistically significantly different across the period (3 percent in 2017 and 4 percent in 2022).

Figure 1. Among students ages 12–18 enrolled in grades 6–12 who reported being bullied, percentage who reported that they thought the bullying was related to their sexual orientation: 2017, 2019, and 2022

! Standard error for this estimate is 30 to 50 percent of the estimate’s value.

* Statistically significantly different (p < .05) from 2022. 


NCES is committed to collecting data about equity in education and describing the experiences of all students and educators, including SGM people.

To learn more about the research conducted at NCES and across the federal statistical system on the measurement of sexual orientation and gender identity, visit nces.ed.gov/FCSM/SOGI.asp.

Plus, be sure to follow NCES on XFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay informed when resources with SGM data are released.

 

By Elise Christopher, Maura Spiegelman, and Michael McGarrah, NCES


[1] SOURCE: Christopher, E. M. (2024). Disparities in postsecondary outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals:
New evidence from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009. Presented at the American Education Research Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.

[2] SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20, preliminary data)

[3] On the NCES surveys mentioned above, gender identity categories include male; female; transgender, male-to-female; transgender, female-to-male; genderqueer or gender nonconforming; a different gender identity; and more than one gender identity.

[4] SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2008/18 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/18).

[5] SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 and 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS).

[6] SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017, 2019, and 2022 School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

 

IES is Investing in Research on Innovative Financial Aid Programs in Five States

State financial aid programs have the potential to substantially augment the support that students receive from the federal Pell Grant. Federal programs, most notably the Federal Pell Grant program, have historically played the lead role of providing a solid foundation of financial support to students, with states playing the supporting role of providing additional aid to students who meet specific eligibility requirements. In recent years, states have moved to innovate their financial aid programs in ways that have the potential to increase total aid packages, meet a wider range of needs, and serve a broader population of students. The effects of these recent innovations are mostly unknown yet of great interest to state legislators and policymakers. To address this issue, IES is funding a set of five research projects that assess the scope and effects of innovative financial aid programs in California, Connecticut, Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington state. This blog describes how the five projects are contributing to the evidence base.

State financial aid program eligibility rules differ in ways that can substantially alter total aid awards, the scope of the population that can be served, and the ways in which students can use aid funds to meet their various needs while enrolled in college. For example, one key policy attribute that affects the total aid award is whether awards are calculated independently of the Pell Grant­–as “first-dollar” awards that add to the Pell award if state eligibility requirements are met– or as “last-dollar” awards that supplement Pell awards conditional upon eligibility and appropriate-use requirements. Policies including an eligibility requirement for recent high school graduation within the state tend to limit aid access for older and returning students. In addition, financial need requirements can limit or broaden the pool of eligible recipients, depending on family income thresholds. Policies that require completion of the federal FAFSA Form without offering an alternative state application tend to close off access to aid for undocumented immigrants. Merit and high school GPA requirements can close off aid access to students who are otherwise ready for college. Moreover, appropriate-use requirements in some states limit aid usage to tuition and registration expenses while other states allow aid usage for living expenses such as housing and transportation.

Given these variations in program eligibility rules, state officials want to know if their aid programs are reaching targeted student groups, meeting their needs in ways that allow them to focus on their studies, and making a difference in their academic and subsequent labor market outcomes. In an effort to support decision making, IES is funding five projects that are each working closely with state officials to understand the features of their programs and conducting research to assess which students are accessing the programs, the extent of support provided by the programs, and their effects on enrollment in and progression through college. Below is the list of the IES-funded projects.

We are excited to fund these projects and look forward to the findings they will be sharing, starting in fall 2024.


This blog was written by James Benson (James.Benson@ed.gov), program officer in the Policy and Systems team at NCER.

Using IPEDS Data: Available Tools and Considerations for Use

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) contains comprehensive data on postsecondary institutions. IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in federal student financial aid programs. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires institutions that participate in federal student aid programs to report data on enrollments, program completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid.

These data are made available to the public in a variety of ways via the IPEDS Use the Data webpage. This blog post provides a description of available IPEDS data tools as well as considerations for determining the appropriate tool to use.


Available Data Tools

College Navigator

College Navigator is a free consumer information tool designed to help students, parents, high school counselors, and others access information about postsecondary institutions.

Note that this tool can be found on the Find Your College webpage (under "Search for College"), along with various other resources to help users plan for college.

IPEDS provides data tools for a variety of users that are organized into three general categories: (1) Search Existing Data, (2) Create Custom Data Analyses, and (3) Download IPEDS Data.

Search Existing Data

Users can search for aggregate tables, charts, publications, or other products related to postsecondary education using the Data Explorer or access IPEDS data via NCES publications like the Digest of Education Statistics or the Condition of Education.

Create Custom Data Analyses

Several data tools allow users to create their own custom analyses with frequently used and derived variables (Data Trends) or all available data collected within IPEDS (Statistical Tables). Users can also customize tables for select subgroups of institutions (Summary Tables). Each of these options allows users to generate analyses within the limitations of the tool itself.

For example, there are three report types available under the Data Feedback Report (DFR) tool. User can

  1. select data from the most recent collection year across frequently used and derived variables to create a Custom DFR;
     
  2. create a Statistical Analysis Report using the variables available for the Custom DFR; and
     
  3. access the NCES developed DFR for any institution.

Download IPEDS Data

Other data tools provide access to raw data through a direct download (Complete Data Files) or through user selections in the IPEDS Custom Data Files tool. In addition, IPEDS data can be downloaded for an entire collection year for all survey components via the Access Database.

IPEDS Data Tools Help

The IPEDS Data Tools User Manual is designed to help guide users through the various functions, processes, and abundant capabilities of IPEDS data tools. The manual contains a wealth of information, hints, tips, and insights for using the tools.

 

Data Tool Considerations

Users may consider several factors—related to both data selection and data extraction—when determining the right tool for a particular question or query.

Data Selection

  1. Quick access – Accessing data in a few steps may be helpful for users who want to find data quickly. Several data tools provide data quickly but may be limited in their selection options or customizable output.

  2. Data release – IPEDS data are released to the public in two phases: Provisional and Final. Provisional data have undergone quality control procedures and imputation for missing data but have not been updated based on changes within the Prior Year Revision System. Final data reflect changes made within the Prior Year Revision System and additional quality control procedures and will not change. Some tools allow users to access only final data. Table 1 summarizes how provisional and final data are used by various data tools. The IPEDS resource page “Timing of IPEDS Data Collection, Coverage, and Release Cycle” provides more information on data releases.


    Table 1. How provisional and final data are used in various data tools

  1. Select institutions – Users may want to select specific institutions for their analyses. Several tools allow users to limit the output for a selected list of institutions while others include all institutions in the output.
     
  2. Multiple years – While some tools provide a single year of data, many tools provide access to multiple years of data in a single output.
     
  3. Raw data – Some data tools provide access to the raw data as submitted to IPEDS. For example, Look Up an Institution allows users access to survey forms submitted by an institution.
     
  4. Institution-level data – Many data tools provide data at the institution level, since this is the unit of analysis within the IPEDS system.
     
  5. All data available – Many data tools provide access to frequently used and derived variables, but others provide access to the entirety of variables collected within the IPEDS system.

Data Extraction

  1. Save/upload institutions – Several data tools allow a user to create and download a list of institutions, which can be uploaded in a future session.

  2. Save/upload variables – Two data tools allow a user to save the variables selected and upload in a future session.
     
  3. Export data – Many data tools allow a user to download data into a spreadsheet, while others provide information within a PDF. Note that several tools have limitations on the number of variables that can be downloaded in a session (e.g., Compare Institutions has a limit of 250 variables).
     
  4. Produce visuals – Several data tools produce charts, graphs, or other visualizations. For example, Data Trends provides users with the opportunity to generate a bar or line chart and text table.


Below is a graphic that summarizes these considerations for each IPEDS data tool (click the image to enlarge it). 

 

To find training opportunities—including video tutorials, workshops, and keyholder courses—check out the IPEDS Training Center. Plus, access the IPEDS Distance Learning Dataset Training modules for more guidance on how to use IPEDS data. For additional questions, call the IPEDS Data Use Help Desk at (866) 558-0658 or e-mail ipedstools@rti.org.

 

By Tara B. Lawley, NCES, and Eric S. Atchison, Arkansas State University System and Association for Institutional Research IPEDS Educator

Unlocking Opportunities: Understanding Connections Between Noncredit CTE Programs and Workforce Development in Virginia

With rapid technological advances, the U.S. labor market exhibits a growing need for more frequent and ongoing skill development. Community college noncredit career and technical education (CTE) programs that allow students to complete workforce training and earn credentials play an essential role in providing workers with the skills they need to compete for jobs in high-demand fields. Yet, there is a dearth of research on these programs because noncredit students are typically not included in state and national postsecondary datasets. In this guest blog for CTE Month, researchers Di Xu, Benjamin Castleman, and Betsy Tessler discuss their IES-funded exploration study in which they build on a long-standing research partnership with the Virginia Community College System and leverage a variety of data sources to investigate the Commonwealth’s FastForward programs. These programs are noncredit CTE programs designed to lead to an industry-recognized credential in one of several high-demand fields identified by the Virginia Workforce Board.

In response to the increasing demand for skilled workers in the Commonwealth, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 66 in 2016 to establish the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program (WCG) with the goal of providing a pay-for-performance model for funding noncredit training. The WCG specifically funds FastForward programs that lead to an industry-recognized credential in a high-demand field in the Commonwealth. Under this model, funding is shared between the state, students, and training institutions based on student performance, with the goal of ensuring workforce training is affordable for Virginia residents. An important implication of WCG is that it led to systematic, statewide collection of student-level data on FastForward program enrollment, program completion, industry credential attainment, and labor market performance. Drawing on these unique data, coupled with interviews with key stakeholders, we generated findings on the characteristics of FastForward programs, as well as the academic and labor market outcomes of students enrolled in these programs. We describe the preliminary descriptive findings below.

FastForward programs enroll a substantially different segment of the population from credit-bearing programs and offer a vital alternative route to skill development and workforce opportunities, especially for demographic groups often underrepresented in traditional higher education. FastForward programs in Virginia enroll a substantially higher share of Black students, male students, and older students than short-duration, credit-bearing programs at community colleges that typically require one year or less to complete. Focus groups conducted with FastForward students at six colleges indicate that the students were a mix of workers sent by their employers to learn specific new skills and students who signed up for a FastForward program on their own. Among the latter group were older career changers and recent high school graduates, many of whom had no prior college experience and were primarily interested in landing their first job in their chosen field. Moreover, 61% of FastForward participants have neither prior nor subsequent enrollment in credit-bearing programs, highlighting the program’s unique role in broadening access to postsecondary education and career pathways.

FastForward programs offer an alternative path for students who are unsuccessful in credit-bearing programs. The vast majority of students (78%) enrolled in only one FastForward program, with the average enrollment duration of 1.5 quarters, which is notably shorter than most traditional credit-bearing programs. While 36% have prior credit-bearing enrollment, fewer than 20% of these students earned a degree or certificate from it, and less than 12% of FastForward enrollees transitioned to credit-bearing training afterward. Interviews with administrators and staff indicated that while some colleges facilitate noncredit-to-credit pathways by granting credit for prior learning, others prioritize employment-focused training and support over stackable academic pathways due to students’ primary interest in seeking employment post-training.

FastForward programs have a remarkable completion rate and are related to high industry credential attainment rates. Over 90% of students complete their program, with two-thirds of students obtaining industry credentials. Student focus groups echoed this success. They praised the FastForward program and colleges for addressing both their tuition and non-tuition needs. Many students noted that they had not envisioned themselves as college students and credited program staff, financial aid, and institutional support with helping them to be successful.

Earning an industry credential through FastForward on average increases quarterly earnings by approximately $1,000. In addition, industry credentials also increase the probability of being employed by 2.4 percentage points on average. We find substantial heterogeneity in economic return across different fields of study, where the fields of transportation (for example, commercial driver’s license) and precision production (for example, gas metal arc welding) seem to be associated with particularly pronounced earnings premiums. Within programs, we do not observe significant heterogeneity in economic returns across student subgroups.

What’s Next?

In view of the strong economic returns associated with earning an industry credential and the noticeable variation in credential attainment between training institutions and programs, our future exploration intends to unpack the sources of variation in program-institution credential attainment rates and to identify specific program-level factors that are within the control of an institution and which are associated with higher credential rates and lower equity gaps. Specifically, we will collect additional survey data from the top 10 most highly-enrolled programs at the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) that will provide more nuanced program-level information and identify which malleable program factors are predictive of higher credential attainment rates, better labor market outcomes, and smaller equity gaps associated with these outcomes.


Di Xu is an associate professor in the School of Education at UC, Irvine, and the faculty director of UCI’s Postsecondary Education Research & Implementation Institute.

Ben Castleman is the Newton and Rita Meyers Associate Professor in the Economics of Education at the University of Virginia.

Betsy Tessler is a senior associate at MDRC in the Economic Mobility, Housing, and Communities policy area.

Note: A team of researchers, including Kelli Bird, Sabrina Solanki, and Michael Cooper contributed jointly to the quantitative analyses of this project. The MDRC team, including Hannah Power, Kelsey Brown, and Mark van Dok, contributed to qualitative data collection and analysis. The research team is grateful to the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) for providing access to their high-quality data. Special thanks are extended to Catherine Finnegan and her team for their valuable guidance and support throughout our partnership.

This project was funded under the Postsecondary and Adult Education research topic; questions about it should be directed to program officer James Benson (James.Benson@ed.gov).

This blog was produced by Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov), NCER program officer for the CTE research topic.

IES Makes Three New Awards to Accelerate Breakthroughs in the Education Field

Through the Transformative Research in the Education Sciences Grants program (ALN 84.305T), IES  invests in innovative research that has the potential to make dramatic advances towards solving seemingly intractable problems and challenges in the education field, as well as to accelerate the pace of conducting education research to facilitate major breakthroughs. In the most recent FY 2024 competition for this program, IES invited applications from partnerships between researchers, product developers, and education agencies to propose transformative solutions to major education problems that leverage advances in technology combined with research insights from the learning sciences.

IES is thrilled to announce that three grants have been awarded in the FY 2024 competition. Building on 20 years of IES research funding to lay the groundwork for advances, these three projects focus on exploring potentially transformative uses of generative artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver solutions that can scale in the education marketplace if they demonstrate positive impacts on education outcomes. The three grants are:

Active Learning at Scale (Active L@S): Transforming Teaching and Learning via Large-Scale Learning Science and Generative AI

Awardee: Arizona State University (ASU; PI: Danielle McNamara)

The project team aims to solve the challenge that postsecondary learners need access to course materials and high-quality just-in-time generative learning activities flexibly and on-the-go.  The solution will be a mobile technology that uses interactive, research-informed, and engaging learning activities created on the fly, customized to any course content with large language models (LLMs). The project team will leverage two digital learning platforms from the SEERNet networkTerracotta and ASU Learning@Scale – to conduct research and will include over 100,000 diverse students at ASU, with replication studies taking place at Indiana University (IU). IES funding has supported a large portion of the research used to identify the generative learning activities the team will integrate into the system—note-taking, self-explanation, summarization, and question answering (also known as retrieval practice). The ASU team includes in-house technology developers and researchers, and they are partnering with researchers at IU and developers at INFLO and Clevent AI Technology LLC. The ASU and IU teams will have the educator perspective represented on their teams, as these universities provide postsecondary education to large and diverse student populations.

Talking Math: Improving Math Performance and Engagement Through AI-Enabled Conversational Tutoring

Awardee: Worcester Polytechnic Institute (PI: Neil Heffernan)

The project team aims to provide a comprehensive strategy to address persistent achievement gaps in math by supporting students during their out-of-school time. The team will combine an evidence-based learning system with advances in generative AI to develop a conversational AI tutor (CAIT– pronounced as “Kate”) to support independent math practice for middle school students who struggle with math, and otherwise, may not have access to after-school tutoring. CAIT will be integrated into ASSISTments, a freely available, evidence-based online math platform with widely used homework assignments from open education resources (OER). This solution aims to dramatically improve engagement and math learning during independent math problem-solving time. The team will conduct research throughout the product development process to ensure that CAIT is effective in supporting math problem solving and is engaging and supportive for all students. ASSISTments has been used by over 1 million students and 30,000 teachers, and IES has supported its development and efficacy since 2003. The project team includes researchers and developers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the ASSISTments Foundation, researchers from WestEd, educator representation from Greater Commonwealth Virtual School, and a teacher design team.

Scenario-Based Assessment in the age of generative AI: Making space in the education market for alternative assessment paradigm

Awardee: University of Memphis (PI: John Sabatini)

Educators face many challenges building high-quality assessments aligned to course content, and traditional assessment practices often lack applicability to real world scenarios. To transform postsecondary education, there needs to be a shift in how knowledge and skills are assessed to better emphasize critical thinking, complex reasoning, and problem solving in practical contexts. Supported in large part by numerous IES-funded projects, including as part of the Reading for Understanding Initiative, the project team has developed a framework for scenario-based assessments (SBAs). SBAs place knowledge and skills into a practical context and provide students with the opportunity to apply their content knowledge and critical thinking skills. The project team will leverage generative AI along with their framework for SBAs to create a system for postsecondary educators to design and administer discipline-specific SBAs with personalized feedback to students, high levels of adaptivity, and rich diagnostic information with little additional instructor effort. The project team includes researchers, developers, and educators at University of Memphis and Georgia State University, researchers and developers at Educational Testing Service (ETS), and developers from multiple small businesses including Capti/Charmtech, MindTrust, Caimber/AMI, and Workbay who will participate as part of a technical advisory group.

We are excited by the transformative potential of these projects and look forward to seeing what these interdisciplinary teams can accomplish together. While we are hopeful the solutions they create will make a big impact on learners across the nation, we will also share lessons learned with the field about how to build interdisciplinary partnerships to conduct transformative research and development.


For questions or to learn more about the Transformative Research in the Education Sciences grant program, please contact Erin Higgins (Erin.Higgins@ed.gov), Program Lead for the Accelerate, Transform, Scale Initiative.