IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Experimenting with Science Education to Improve Learner Opportunities and Outcomes

The NAEP science assessment measures science knowledge and ability to engage in scientific inquiry and conduct scientific investigations. According to results from the 2019 NAEP science assessment, only one-third of grade 4 and grade 8 students, and less than one-quarter of grade 12 students scored at or above proficient. In addition, for grade 4 middle-performing and low-performing students, their science performance showed declines from 2015. While IES has a history of investing in high quality science education research to improve science teaching and learning, these data suggest that much more work is needed.

To that end, during the 2022-23 school year, IES held two Learning Acceleration Challenges designed to incentivize innovation to significantly improve learner outcomes in math and science. Under the Challenge for the Science Prize, IES sought interventions to significantly improve science outcomes for middle school students with low performance in science. Unfortunately, the judging panel for the Challenge did not recommend any finalists for the Science Prize (more information about the Math Prize results can be found here). IES recognized this Challenge was an ambitious and rapid effort to improve science achievement. Feedback from potential Science Prize entrants indicated that the rapid cycle for evaluating the intervention along with the lack of resources to implement the intervention were barriers to this competition.

With the knowledge gained from the Science Prize, IES is continuing to design opportunities that encourage transformative, innovative change to improve teaching and learning in science. In our newest opportunity, the National Center for Education Research (NCER) at IES, in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF), released a Request for Applications for a National Research and Development Center (R&D Center) on Improving Outcomes in Elementary Science Education. Results from the most recent NAEP science assessment and the lessons learned from the Science Prize suggest opportunities for improving teaching and learning in science education need to begin early in education, and more resources are needed to conduct high quality research in science education. Through this R&D Center, IES and NSF will provide greater resources (grant award of up to $15 million over 5 years) to tackle persistent challenges in elementary science education, including the measurement of elementary science learning outcomes, and generating evidence of the impact of elementary science interventions on learner’s science achievement. In doing so, the new Elementary Science R&D Center will provide national leadership on elementary science education and build capacity in conducting high-quality science education research.


This blog was written by NCER program officer, Christina Chhin. For more information about the Elementary Science R&D Center competition, contact NCER program officers, Jennifer Schellinger or Christina Chhin, take a look at the 84.305C RFA, and/or attend one of our virtual office hours.

Encouraging the Use of LGBTQI+ Education Research Data

Until recently, limited data existed in education research focused on the LGBTQI+ community and their experiences. As this area of interest continues to grow, education researchers are learning how to effectively collect these data, interpret their implications, and use them to help improve the educational outcomes of LGBTQI+ identifying students. In this blog post, we review current federal recommendations for data collection and encourage researchers to submit FY 2024 applications focused on the educational experiences and outcomes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) identifying students.

Collecting Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities

In January 2023, the Office of the Chief Statistician of the United States released a report with recommendations on how to effectively design federal statistics surveys to account for sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI). While this report is for a federal audience, the recommendations are relevant and useful for education researchers who wish to measure the identities and experiences of those in the LGBTQI+ community. Some suggestions include—

  • Provide multiple options for sexual orientation identification (for example, gay/lesbian, straight, bisexual, use other term)
  • Provide a two-question set in order to measure gender identity—one asking for sex assigned at birth, and one for current self-identification
  • Provide write-in response and multiple-response options for SOGI-related questions
  • Allow respondents to proceed through the survey if they choose not to answer unless answers to any of these items are critical for data collection

Education researchers looking to incorporate SOGI data into their studies can also use existing SOGI data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to support their research. A new NCES blog outlines the studies that collect SOGI information and outlines some initial findings from that data.

Funding Opportunities for Research to Improve Outcomes of LGBTQI+ students

In alignment with the SEER Equity Standard, IES encourages researchers to submit applications to the FY 2024 research grant competitions that support the academic and social behavioral outcomes of students who identify as LGBTQI+. IES is especially interested in research proposals that involve—

  • Describing the educational experiences and outcomes of LGBTQI+ students
  • Creating safe and inclusive learning environments that support the needs of all LGBTQI+ students.
  • Identifying promising practices for school-based health services and supports, especially mental health services, that are accessible to and supportive of LGBTQI+ students
  • Identifying systems-level approaches that reduce barriers to accessing and participating in high quality learning environments for LGBTQI+ students

Check out our funding opportunities page for more information about our FY 2024 requests for applications. If you have specific questions about the appropriateness of your research for a specific FY 2024 research competition, please contact the relevant program officer listed in the request for applications.


This blog is part of a 3-part Inside IES Research blog series on sexual orientation and gender identity in education research in observance of Pride month. The other posts discuss the feedback from the IES LGBTQI+ Listening and Learning session and the first ever learning game featuring a canonically nonbinary character.

This blog was produced by Virtual Student Federal Service intern Audrey Im with feedback from IES program officers Katina Stapleton (NCER - Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov) and Katherine Taylor (NCSER - Katherine.Taylor@ed.gov) and NCES project officers Elise Christopher (Elise.Christopher@ed.gov) and Maura Spiegelman (Maura.Spiegelman@ed.gov).

ED/IES SBIR: Highlights from 2022 & Announcing the New 2023 Program

The Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), which IES administers, funds the research, development, and evaluation of new, commercially viable education technology products. Known as ED/IES SBIR, the program’s goal is to grow a portfolio of products that are research-based and ready to be widely deployed to address pressing educational needs.

Over the past decade, the program has become known for investing in new entrepreneurial innovations, such as products by Future Engineers and Schell Games, as well as for supporting the transfer of evidence-based research into products that can be used in practice at scale, such as projects by Learning Ovations and Analytic Measures.

ED/IES SBIR: A Look Back at 2022

ED/IES SBIR products were used by millions of students, educators, and administrators to support remote and in-person learning.  Many companies, including MidSchoolMath, Education Modified, Sirius Thinking with partner Success For All, and PocketLab, earned new district contracts and licensing agreements to adopt their technologies at scale. Many companies also won industry awards for innovations on the basis of their ED/IES SBIR products.

With its 2022 awards, ED/IES SBIR continued to invest in emerging areas of education technology, funding projects that use artificial intelligence to personalize learning and generate real-time insights for educators to inform instruction, facilitate real-world learning, and support integrating arts in education and learning. Also in 2022, ED/IES SBIR launched a new “Direct to Phase II” program to support the scale up of existing evidence-based researcher developed innovations through the development of new education technology products. One award was made through this program.

Checkout the IES/ED SBIR News Archive for more information about our 2022 highlights.

ED/IES SBIR Releases Three 2023 Program Solicitations

On January 12, 2023, ED/IES SBIR released three solicitations, requesting proposals for Phase IA, Phase IB, or Direct to Phase II projects. The submission deadline for all three solicitations is March 13, 2023. The URL links to each solicitation on SAM.gov can be found on this page.

This year’s Phase I program introduces a new, two-track approach to stimulating innovation and research.

  • A “Phase IA” solicitation requests proposals for projects to develop a prototype of an entirely new education technology product, where no previous technological development has occurred. The goal of the Phase IA track is to stimulate novel approaches to solve pressing problems in education.
  • A “Phase IB” solicitation requests proposals for projects to develop a prototype of a new component to be added to an existing education technology prototype or product. The goal of the Phase IB track is to strengthen existing research-based prototypes or products in addressing pressing problems in education. Offerors interested in submitting a proposal for Phase IB must demonstrate that the existing prototype or product is research-based and that an additional investment in a new component to be integrated with what already exists is warranted. All Phase IA and IB proposals are for projects lasting 8 months for $250,000. All successful 2023 Phase I awardees will be eligible to submit a Phase II proposal in 2024 for $1M for full-scale development and evaluation.

A “Direct to Phase II” solicitation requests proposals for 2-year projects for $1,000,000 for the full-scale R&D and evaluation of new education technology products to ready existing evidence-based innovations (products, programs, or practices) for use at scale in education settings, and to plan for commercialization.  The existing education innovation is required to have originally been created by researchers at either universities (or other academic institutions) or non-profit education research organizations. Proposals must be submitted by a for-profit small business per the eligibility requirements of the SBIR program.


Stay tuned for updates on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as IES continues to support innovative technology and research.

Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) 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.

Introducing the IES Listening and Learning Series

Over the last few months, staff from the National Center for Education Research, the National Center for Special Education Research, and the Standards and Review Office have partnered to increase our awareness of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility issues (DEIA) in the IES-grant making process. The goal is to broaden participation of institutions and researchers who apply for and receive IES grants, increase the diversity of IES panel reviewers, and encourage culturally responsive research across our grant competitions.

Based on feedback from our December 2020 technical working group Increasing Diversity and Representation of IES-funded Education Researchers, we are hosting a series of Listening and Learning sessions with researchers and other stakeholder groups. The first session, How Can the Institute of Education Sciences Support HBCU Applicants, was held during HBCU Week in partnership with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We discussed lessons learned in our DEIA blog update and used this feedback to develop an HBCU-specific presentation of IES funding opportunities for HBCU Research and Innovation Week.

Over the next few months, IES will hold additional virtual Listening and Learning sessions, including Leveraging the Voices of Persons with Disabilities in Education Research. Unless specified, these sessions will be open to the public and will require registration. More information about the sessions and registration links will be available on the IES website. If you have questions about the events or would like to schedule one specific to your community, please contact IESVirtualTA@ed.gov.

Listening and Learning Sessions:​

  • Leveraging Hispanic Voices in Education Research – December 6, 2021 at 1 pm ET. Hosted jointly with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics.
  • Leveraging Black Voices in Education Research – December 9, 2021 at 2 pm ET. Hosted jointly with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.
  • Leveraging Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Voices in Education Research – January 18, 2022 at 2:30pm ET. Hosted jointly with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
  • Leveraging Native American and Alaska Native Voices in Education Research – Date to be determined. Hosted jointly with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities.
  • Leveraging the Voices of Persons with Disabilities in Education Research – Date to be determined.

 

Career Pathways Research at HHS: Lessons and Opportunities for Education Research

Over the past few years, staff from IES and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have been learning from and supporting one another’s work. Our offices have a shared interest in understanding and improving outcome for adults in postsecondary career pathway programs and for creating a strong evidence base.

We have even funded projects that dovetail nicely. For example, IES funded a development project focusing on Year Up, and OPRE included Year Up programs in their Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) Study.

For IES researchers not already aware of OPRE’s research, we would like to highlight three things that may be particularly relevant to the work IES hopes to support.

A Growing Portfolio of Career Pathway Research: For over a decade, OPRE has created a robust research portfolio longitudinal, rigorous experimental career pathways program research.  These career pathway programs provide postsecondary education and training through a series of manageable steps leading to successively higher credentials and employment opportunities. In particular, OPRE has supported the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) Study and the rigorous evaluation of the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program. You can find reports from these and other self-sufficiency, welfare, and employment activities in the OPRE Resource Library.

Available Data and Funding Opportunity: Later this summer, OPRE will be archiving data from PACE and HPOG at the University of Michigan’s Inter-University Consortium on Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the Institute for Social Research. These data will be available as restricted-use files for secondary data analysis. To encourage research, OPRE announced a funding opportunity Career Pathways Secondary Data Analysis Grants to support secondary analysis these data. Applications are due August 16, 2019.

Understanding Programs’ Motivations for Participating in Research: Getting education programs (schools, universities, etc.) to join multi-year, randomized controlled trials is difficult. Programs are wary of random assignment or finding null or negative effects. Yet, the programs that participated in the PACE Study were overall quite supportive. A recent report “We Get a Chance to Show Impact”, Program Staff Reflect on Participating in a Rigorous, Multi-site Evaluation documents the hurdles and benefits of participation from a program’s point of view. These programs’ insights are particularly useful for any researcher hoping to form partnerships with education settings.

To learn more about the ongoing career pathways research at OPRE and their findings, please visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/career-pathways-research-portfolio.