Inside IES Research

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Counting and Listening to Native American Students: Reflections on NIES and its Potential

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, IES is highlighting the National Indian Education Study (NIES) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in partnership with the Office of Indian Education (OIE). Dr. Meredith Larson, who has been with the National Center for Education Research (NCER) since 2010 interviewed Dr. Jamie Deaton about NIES. Dr. Deaton has worked at NCES since 2009 and became the NIES Project Director in April 2010.

What is NIES, and how is it similar or different from other NAEP studies?

NIES describes the condition of education for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students in the United States. Since 2005, NCES has administered it in conjunction with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) state-level assessments in mathematics and reading at grades 4 and 8. The very large NAEP sample allows us to report data for AI/AN students nationally and for various subgroups of AI/AN students. In NIES, students first take either the NAEP mathematics or reading assessment, followed by a NAEP survey questionnaire, and then an NIES survey questionnaire (which emphasizes Native language and culture). Both NAEP and NIES survey questionnaires are also administered to the teachers and school administrators of AI/AN students. You can learn more about the survey design here.

 

 

What are some examples of how have policymakers, practitioners, or researchers used it?

NIES data has been used in Congressional testimony and at the state level. For example, NIES data has been included in past testimonies to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies; the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education; and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. At the state level, Oregon used NIES data to support a successful request to its state legislature to approve a full-time Indian Education Specialist within the Oregon Department of Education.

We also want to ensure that a variety of educational leaders—especially Native leaders—are aware of the study and can access the results and products. In addition to the online reports, we also produce hard copies to ensure results get to those without easy access to online documents. We help distribute these widely via a Native-owned NIES contractor (currently Tribal Tech, LLC) to Tribal colleges and universities, AI/AN studies programs at colleges and universities, all federal and state recognized tribes, AI/AN focused media, research centers, and other related AI/AN non-profits.

In addition, we want to get the results in the hands of school leaders. For example, all Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools serving grades 4 and 8 are in the NIES sample, and all of these schools receive hard copies of NIES reports.

What makes working on NIES study interesting to you?

Building partnerships with Native leaders both within and outside the federal government has been really rewarding. We administer NIES on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education (OIE) which provides funding for the study; integrates NIES data collection with its work when possible; and serves as a strong partner, advocate, and disseminator for NIES results. NIES is not only conducted in conjunction with the NAEP program but also conducted in conjunction with OIE’s work. Over the years, I have regularly presented to OIE grantees, and this has been a wonderful forum to share more about the study and also draw connections to and learn more about grantee-related work.

For NIES to be successful, it needs to be guided not just by assessment experts, but by Native experts. To this end, NCES established the NIES Technical Review Panel (TRP) made up of individuals with expertise in matters related to the education of AI/AN students. Members oversee the development of the NIES survey questionnaires and guide the planning, drafting, and revision of NIES publications with their ongoing expert consultation. In conjunction with the release of the last two NIES reports, the TRP has also authored a companion document, called  Setting the Context, that provides perspective on how this study fits into the larger sphere of education for AI/AN students. Tribal Tech recruits BIE schools for the study, disseminates study results at conferences focused on AI/AN education (for example, National Indian Education Association Annual Convention & Trade Show), and has established a long-term partnership with a Native-owned printing company (Sault Printing Company Inc.) that helps produce and disseminate NIES-related documents.

What excites you about NIES?

I’m very excited about last year’s release of the 2019 NIES Qualitative Data Companion as a public use data file (available in Excel files on the NIES main page). The data release marked the first time in NIES program history that qualitative survey questions, collected since 2005, became publicly available. Prior to the release, we ensured that all student and teacher responses were reviewed and edited to remove the presence of names or addresses and any other Personal Identifiable Information (PII). My hope is that having an established process for releasing this type of data will be beneficial to other IES data collections. Members of the TRP deserve a lot of credit for continuously advocating for this data. Had the TRP not done so, there was a real possibility that we would have dropped these qualitative questions from future data collections. Instead, we now have a model to follow for getting this data out to the public. We are also working on releasing previous NIES Qualitative Data Companions from earlier NIES administrations too.

From a research perspective, what do these qualitative data provide?

Researchers without a restricted-use data (RUD) license now can access this robust dataset. We recognize that many of our stakeholders live in remote areas and/or have other barriers to accessing the RUD (for example, those not affiliated with an institution). I think for doctoral candidates these data provide an opportunity for a dissertation with data already gathered and accessible for analysis.

There are many different angles to approach this open-ended data. For example, the final question on the NIES student survey is “What else would you like to say about yourself, your school, or about American Indian or Alaska Native people?” I’m curious what researchers would find as key differences when comparing grade 4 responses to grade 8. What are some themes and patterns in student respondents? What is the breakdown between responses that pertain to Native language and culture, and how does this differ across school types, such as public schools run by the states and schools operated through funding from the Bureau of Indian Education?  

Are there other resources for researchers interested in NIES data?

Another public use tool is the NIES Data Explorer available at NDE Core Web (nationsreportcard.gov). This explorer includes a wealth of data from all previous NIES administrations. If you go to the NDE Core Web page, you will find other relevant data explorers available including the Main NAEP, High School Transcript Study, and Long-Term Trend.


This blog was produced by Meredith Larson (Meredith.Larson@ed.gov), research analyst and program officer for postsecondary and adult education, NCER. Individuals or organizations interested in learning about field-initiated research or training grant opportunities to conduct work relevant to Native American/Alaska Native prekindergarten through postsecondary and adult education may contact her for initial technical assistance.

Education Research, Eyesight, and Overcoming Adversity: An Interview with Pathways Alumna Carrissa Ammons

The Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program was designed to inspire students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in doctoral study to pursue careers in education research. In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), we asked Carrissa Ammons, an alumna of the California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) Pathways training program, to share her experiences as a student-researcher with low vision.

What sparked your interest in education research?

My interest in education research stems from my own lived educational experiences as a formerly impoverished person who was born with a visual impairment. My innate passion for understanding the world around me motivated me to continue learning, and my intrinsic curiosity drew me towards the sciences at a rather young age. Over time, I became interested in psychology, and I entered college with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. However, my exposure to research methods and applied research experiences within the Cultural and Community Lab at CSUS gave me the confidence to pursue a career as a researcher. Now, I want to use my knowledge and work to help reduce barriers to education for individuals who have not been historically represented within education and the social sciences.

What was your favorite experience as a Pathways fellow?

My Pathways summer internship at the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) has been an invaluable part of my professional and personal development. The internship was challenging at times but also incredibly fulfilling. All of the SCOE staff I worked with were supportive and gave me great insight into how the state values and uses evidence-based decision making and evaluation. During my 10-week internship, I assisted with a variety of projects, including evaluations for programs relating to bullying prevention, underage substance use prevention and intervention, and California National History Day. I also helped complete a literature review on evidence-based practices in recruiting and retaining diverse teacher candidates for the SCOE internal education career pipeline program.

I learned that researchers who work for state organizations must excel at communicating their findings to both technical and non-technical audiences because they are often tasked with communicating data to individuals with little to no background in research, and because they heavily rely on data visualization as a means of disseminating information in a way that is easy to digest for a diverse array of audiences.

What have been some challenges or barriers you have faced in academia as a person with low vision?

Transportation and inequitable access to written and visual information have been the most salient barriers to education that I have faced during my academic career. I am unable to obtain a driver’s license in most states due to the level of my visual impairment, so I am often dependent on public transportation. While I am incredibly grateful for the increased freedom that I have been granted by the Sacramento Regional Transit, some areas of their system can still be a bit inconsistent—it can be difficult, if not impossible at times, to make impromptu changes to my weekly routines. This structural restriction to my mobility has made it difficult to participate in events and activities outside of certain time frames and areas, and this can evoke a lot of anxiety and aversions for me as I try to fully participate in academic experiences and extra-curricular activities.

For example, reaching the CSUS campus from my home via transit requires a transfer from a bus to the light rail and onto another bus. This process takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes from door to door for a trip that would typically take approximately 20 minutes by car. If an issue arose during any leg of this trip (such as a late or canceled bus), it could set me back an hour or more depending on the time of day. This has caused me to miss entire classes and events at times. Alongside the stress of arriving places on time, relying on the public transit system as one’s sole means of transportation can be incredibly taxing mentally at the end of the day. There were many times during my evening commute home from college when the bus on the last leg of my trip would be canceled for the evening due to a driver shortage, forcing me to either ask a loved one or use a rideshare service (which as a student was not always financially feasible). 

Having low vision has also been a barrier throughout my education; however, major advancements in accessible technology during my college years have provided me with more equitable access to visual information. There are some environments, such as academic conferences, where I still struggle to gain access to the same quality of experience as my fully sighted peers. For example, academic poster sessions are environments that require a lot of reading, and for individuals to be able to quickly scan information in order to get the most out of the limited time provided for each session. While most presenters are happy to explain their work to their onlookers, it can still be difficult at times to get the full picture of their work without being able to fully examine all the components of their posters, such as charts or tables.

One easy way presenters and conferences can disseminate information in a more equitable way is to include tools like QR codes on visual material to allow individuals to view them in ways that may be most accessible to them. Academic organizations can also make more of an effort to assess the needs of their members prior to conferences, rather than assuming that everyone with a disability will be able to advocate and accommodate for themselves prior to the event, especially those that claim to be student-friendly organizations. Learning to navigate new spaces can be difficult enough, let alone having to do so while having physical or mental traits that were not considered during the planning and implementation of these events.

What advice would you give students with disabilities who wish to pursue a career in education research?

I wish all students with disabilities could recognize that the concept of disability is a byproduct of living in a society that was not built with us in mind, and those traits do not reflect any deficit in our personal ability to achieve our dreams. It may be difficult at times, but never forget that representation is the only way we, as a scientific community, can achieve the fullest picture of the human experience and push the needle closer to creating an inclusive society for everyone, including ourselves. Despite being faced with myriad historic and contemporary barriers to inclusion and belonging within our society, we have always been here, we will always be here, and our voices deserve to be included in conversations pertaining to education and human development.


Carrissa Ammons recently graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. As part of her Pathways fellowship at CSUS, Carissa conducted research with Dr. Lisa Romero on the efficacy of motivated self-regulation theory in mitigating implicit biases of college level educators. This summer, Carissa served as a data analysis and visualization intern at the Sacramento County Department of Education’s Center for Student Assessment and Program Accountability. Carissa is currently applying to graduate school and says her ultimate career goal is to become a professor of psychology and run her own research lab with a focus on studying diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within higher education, with an emphasis on personal identity and stereotype threat.

This NDEAM blog post was produced by Katina Stapleton (Katina.Stapleton@ed.gov), Program Officer for the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training program.

Improving Assessment Practices for Spanish-Speaking English Learners: An Interview with Dr. Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we interviewed Dr. Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, associate professor at Vanderbilt University, who recently received a new NCSER grant to explore the associations among language comprehension skills in both Spanish and English, the processes involved in English reading comprehension, and special education placement decisions for elementary school students from Spanish-speaking homes. She believes the results of the study have the potential to mitigate English reading comprehension difficulties, improve school-based assessment practices to better inform special education decisions, and reduce disproportionate special education representation for students from Spanish-speaking homes.

How did you become interested in a career in education research?

Headshot of Dr. Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez

My experience as an elementary school teacher in Southern California is what motivated me to pursue graduate studies. I taught five grade levels within a 3-year span in two very different elementary school contexts. Most students in the school commonly labeled as “diverse”—the same school I attended as a student—were of Mexican origin and from Spanish-speaking, low-income homes, whereas students in the other school actually represented a wide range of linguistic, socioeconomic, and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

I soon noticed a common thread across the two school contexts. The students who were English learners (ELs) tended to struggle with English language and reading development more than their English-proficient peers. This is not surprising given that EL students, by definition, are effectively still in the process of developing English proficiency. What I found disturbing were the discussions about routing ELs to special education services under the assumption of learning disabilities (LDs), which occurred far too frequently given the expected prevalence of LDs in this community of learners. Although ELs may benefit from additional services, I repeatedly found that many educators (including EL specialists and special education teachers) did not know how to determine whether ELs needed more time to develop English language and reading skills or had, in fact, a language-based disability.

I needed to learn more about typical and atypical language and reading development to help students, regardless of their language background, acquire the language and reading skills to thrive academically. What was supposed to be a 1-year stay to get a master’s degree to become a reading specialist turned into a life-changing, 6-year stay to get my PhD.

What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered and how did you overcome the challenge? 

Year after year, myths persist about linguistically diverse students in the United States. These include such misconceptions as assuming most linguistically diverse students are foreign-born or have limited English proficiency and, most troubling, that speaking a language other than English is a risk factor for low academic achievement. I have found that too many researchers, educators, and policymakers share these misconceptions about linguistically diverse learners.

This represents a significant challenge as the very people who have limited knowledge about linguistically diverse students are those in positions of power who can and do make high-stake decisions. These decisions influence the overall well-being and academic achievement of all students, including linguistically diverse students. I would love to say this challenge can be overcome, but I know that shifting away from the pervasive deficit mindset about this population will not be easy. For now, I continue to underscore the vast heterogeneity among linguistically diverse students in the United States, and I make clear in all my work that speaking a language other than English does not impede the ability to learn. This may sound obvious, but it is necessary for all to know.

In your area of research, what do you see as the greatest research needs or recommendations to address diversity, equity, and inclusion and to improve the relevance of education research for diverse communities of students and families?

We have a long way to go to ensure educational equity for historically underserved students and families. One area in need of attention is the common inequitable process for identifying—and reclassifying—ELs in U.S. schools. Typically, parents are required to complete a home language survey when they enroll their child in school. If parents report that a language other than English is used at home, the student is immediately flagged as potentially not having the academic English language skills necessary to access the curriculum in English and must take an English language proficiency assessment. The intent is to identify students who need academic English language support services.

The problem is that many ELs who receive EL services tend to face a cycle of watered-down instruction and low academic expectations. In fact, many ELs are never reclassified as English-proficient despite years of EL support and English-only instruction. In sharp contrast, if parents report English as the only language used in the home, the student is automatically assumed to have adequate academic English language skills; their academic English language proficiency is never assessed. If we had universal academic English language proficiency screeners, I hypothesize that a sizable proportion of the “English-only” school-age population would show language profiles similar to that of ELs. It seems clear to me that there is inequity in the EL identification process and that ELs are arguably held to a higher academic standard, without the accompanying rigorous academic English language instructional support.

What advice would you give to emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups that are pursuing a career in education research?

All emerging scholars must prioritize their research (from idea generation to grant writing to manuscript development) over other pulls on their time. However, emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups must be extra cautious to avoid overcommitting their time. It is almost a given that, precisely because they are from underrepresented, minoritized groups, there will be more service requests of all sorts for this subset of emerging scholars. Here is a typical example: A faculty member from an underrepresented, minoritized group tends to lead equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts at the department, college, and/or university level. Yet, being a scholar from a historically underrepresented and minoritized background is not synonymous with being an EDI expert. I think people don’t quite understand that these unspoken expectations can create a real time and ethical dilemma for emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups that their peers from majority groups do not encounter.

This  interview blog was produced by Sarah Brasiel (Sarah.Brasiel@ed.gov), a program officer for the reading, writing, and language portfolio in the National Center for Special Education Research.

Trends that Expand How We Think About Multilingual Students

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) is here once again, and with it, an opportunity to celebrate the many strengths, talents, and achievements of students who identify with this ethnic community. In this guest blog, Dr. Molly Faulkner-Bond, a senior research associate at WestEd and principal investigator of two NCER research grants and an NCEE contract, discusses three trends that reflect efforts to celebrate and support all multilingual students.

The word “Hispanic” often makes people think of students classified as English learners, and not without reason—as various federal data sources show, about three‑quarters of English learners speak Spanish. As someone whose career focuses squarely on English learners, I’m always thrilled to see this group celebrated and acknowledged in research, policy, development work, and any kind of reporting and dissemination.

But the Hispanic population is broader and richer than just English learners. It includes millions of Hispanic students who are not currently, or perhaps never were, English learners. These students—many of whom are multilingual—also deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged for their knowledge, strengths, and contributions to their academic communities.

In thinking about the work I see happening in the field—be it in school districts, universities, research firms, or government agencies—some of the trends I find most exciting are those that reflect ongoing efforts to embrace and celebrate all types of multilingual learners in our schools. I have noticed three trends that reflect efforts to expand our thinking about multilingual students, including those who are Hispanic.

Labels and Language are Evolving

When I talk to policymakers, educators, and researchers, it’s clear that everyone is thinking more deeply about the words we use to describe students who speak multiple languages. Over time, federal policy has evolved from “limited English proficient” to “English language learners” to “English learners.” These days, I increasingly hear the phrase “multilingual learners” instead. In general, this evolution reflects growing awareness of the deficit orientation implied by many of our older labels and an effort to shift our language from what multilingual students can’t do or need help doing to focus on the strengths they bring to school.

I’m excited about these efforts and shifts. I also think more work and clarity are needed in the field to come to a consensus about who and what we mean by “multilingual learners.” In some states (for example, California), the phrase “multilingual learners” is used as an umbrella term for all students who use or are learning multiple languages, regardless of whether they are formally classified as English learners. In these cases, the term “multilingual learners” includes students who are screened for English learner status but not classified, heritage language learners who are fluent in English but also learning an ancestral or cultural language they did not grow up using, and English-only students who are learning a world language via direct instruction in school. In other states (for example, Rhode Island), the term “multilingual learners” is used to replace the term “English learner” with a more asset-oriented alternative.

I see opportunities and challenges in each approach. The broader use in California gives us language to acknowledge the many profiles and faces of multilingualism and the many students who are learning and using languages other than English in their lives and schools. It can also lead to confusion and make it challenging to communicate about the specific group of English learners who constitute a protected class, are entitled to specific supports and services by law, and whose achievements must be tracked and reported for federal accountability. The narrower use in Rhode Island is more straightforward in this sense, requiring us to attend more carefully to a specified group relative to the larger multilingual population. The narrower approach, however, leaves us without the language to acknowledge and celebrate the many multilingual students who are not classified as English learners for service and accountability purposes.

I believe (and evidence suggests) that the labels we use for students matter, so these conversations are consequential and important to have. I am excited about the conversations that are to come, as they are likely to move us forward as a field, regardless of where we land on the labeling.

Nurturing and Celebrating Multilingualism

Another area where I see increased awareness and advocacy is around celebrating the value of multilingualism for all students. Perhaps the most notable example of this is U.S. Secretary of Education Cardona’s Raise the Bar initiative, which includes pathways to multilingualism for all students as a key goal and a strategy to support global engagement.

A related sign of this shift is the general expansion of dual-language (DL) instructional programs and the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSoB) across the country over the past two decades. Given that research suggests multilingualism and multilingual education confers benefits for academic, social-emotional, and workforce outcomes, these expansions should not be surprising.

It’s important to acknowledge that enthusiasm for multilingualism is a shift from former practice, which tended to center monolingualism in English as a desirable norm and sometimes made it challenging for families to pursue dual language education. There is also concern that the expansion of DL programs and the SSoB does not always benefit English learners or students from communities whose languages are undervalued or minoritized. More research and discussion are needed on these topics. As part of a recent IES-funded research, my colleagues and I are examining implementation of the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act in Massachusetts, focusing on the extent to which the expansion of bilingual programming through the LOOK Act supports equitable access to and participation in DL programs and SSoB for English learners. Stay tuned for our findings!

Substantial Investments in Rigorous Research

One final area for hope are the substantial investments from the U.S. Department of Education in multilingual learners and English learners. In addition to initiatives like Raise the Bar, IES currently supports two $10M research and development centers focused on secondary English learners, as well as a large-scale evaluation study on the impacts of English learner classification and reclassification policies in 30 states. This is in addition to annual funding from NCER and NCSER on English learner-focused research projects, both through a topic area dedicated to English learners and through other topics that support research that will generally improve the opportunities and outcomes of multilingual learners. These investments are critical to advancing our understanding of what works for which multilingual students under which circumstances. I appreciate the Department’s attention to this vital population of students and look forward to seeing these students continue to thrive as we improve our practices and understanding of how to help them unlock their potential. I see many exciting things happening in the field around multilingualism, all of which give me hope for Hispanic students both within and beyond the English learner group.


Molly Faulkner-Bond is a senior research associate at WestEd and focuses on understanding and improving policies, assessments, and programs for students identified as English Learners, and amplifying that knowledge for the benefit of all students and educators. She supports a variety of stakeholders via several federally funded centers, including the Regional Educational Laboratories, the Regional Comprehensive Centers, and the National Research and Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners.

This blog was produced by Helyn Kim (Helyn.Kim@ed.gov), program officer for the English Learners portfolio at the National Center for Education Research.

The Importance of Training and Mentorship: An Interview with Former IES Postdoctoral Fellow Priscilla Goble

The IES Postdoctoral Research Training Program  funds groups of faculty research trainers who recruit, hire, and prepare postdoctoral researchers to conduct high-quality education research. IES encourages training programs to recruit fellows from underrepresented demographic groups including minority groups and those with disabilities, those coming from smaller or less well-known institutions, or those with non-traditional backgrounds including former practitioners or institutional researchers. Priscilla Goble was a fellow in the IES-funded University of Virginia Post-Doctoral Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Science and is now an associate professor of human development & family sciences in the School of Family & Consumer Sciences at Texas State University. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Priscilla to reflect on her career journey and the experiences of Hispanic scholars.

How did you become interested in a career in education research?

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in the development of young children. I began taking child development and education focused courses as a high school student, and I had a clear plan to become an early childhood educator. As an undergraduate student at Purdue University, I became involved in several research projects, and one led by Dr. Karen Diamond was focused on young children’s development in preschool settings. This experience was fundamental in shifting my career goals from educator to education researcher.

Many young children spend most of their waking hours in education environments, and I became increasingly more curious about the factors that promote positive development within these early education settings. As I pursued my graduate degrees at Arizona State University, I explored child factors (for example, gender), family factors (for example, parent involvement), and contextual factors (for example, educational approaches) to better understand the relation between children’s preschool experiences, developmental gains, and formal school success.

The IES postdoctoral fellowship working with Dr. Robert Pianta in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia solidified my interests and career in education research. My current work focuses on the importance of adult-child relationships and interactions for promoting positive development within education settings. I also have applied research experience developing, implementing, and evaluating early education interventions. I aim to conduct sound education science that can be used to inform practice and positively impact our education systems.

What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered, and how did you overcome the challenge? 

The biggest challenge I have had to overcome as a researcher is imposter syndrome around academic writing. I never would have imagined that I would achieve tenure at an academic institution because I have never viewed myself as a strong writer. My parents differ in their educational attainment and in their parenting around education. My father, a U.S.-born college graduate and successful entrepreneur, always encouraged good grades, hard work, and academic success. My mother, an immigrant from Panama, never completed college and placed more emphasis on relationships than education. In addition to different educational perspectives, language barriers created obstacles in my education because my primary literacy support at home was from an English as a Second Language (ESL) parent who struggled with English fluency. My verbal scores on the SAT and GRE were consistently low, and from early on, I have struggled with feelings that I am not a strong enough writer to be a successful researcher.

I’m not sure imposter syndrome ever goes away. I still put in work to move past feelings of inadequacy. I began by listening to my peers and mentors when they emphasized my strengths. Through warm and supportive professional relationships, I learned that I am a strong critical thinker, I am well organized, I am passionate about education, and I am persistent. These skills are also important to be a successful researcher and, although I am not the strongest writer, I’ve learned to overcome that challenge. When my imposter syndrome pops up, I remind myself of the growth I’ve made as a writer and of the other skills that have helped me to achieve the career I have now.

As it relates to my research, I empathize with children in similar situations, and as a result, I have developed a professional interest in identifying factors that promote positive educational experiences for ethnic-minority children.

How can the broader education research community better support the careers and scholarship of researchers from underrepresented groups?

To best inform policies and practices that influence education for diverse children, we need trained scholars who represent diverse identities, value inclusion, and challenge biases. Students who have opportunities to engage in undergraduate research are more likely to attend graduate school and proceed to research-focused careers; thus, the education research community can support underrepresented groups by targeting and enhancing their success through undergraduate research experiences.

As a Minority Serving Institution, Texas State University is dedicated to supporting opportunities for undergraduate involvement in research. For over 5 years, I have been co-leading a program to identify and recruit undergraduate students from underrepresented groups and provide them research training and experience. The goal of this program is to help develop strong connections with school faculty and peers that can build a sense of self-efficacy and provide underrepresented students with human capital and resources to navigate the maze of higher education systems.

I can speak from my own experience that my career trajectory was forever changed because of my engagement in undergraduate research experiences.

What advice would you give to emerging scholars from underrepresented, minoritized groups that are pursuing a career in education research?

My best piece advice is to believe in yourself. Being a successful researcher is about persistence. You will have failures and receive critical feedback, but if you keep working and believe in yourself, you can achieve your goals. 

The next best piece of advice is to identify strong mentors who believe in you. I cannot overstate the degree to which my success and self-efficacy as an education researcher have been influenced by the strong mentors who believed in me at every stage. Strike up a conversation with someone you admire, be vulnerable in sharing your aspirations, listen to their advice, and believe them when they say that you have what it takes.

Finally, find your community. Join groups of people who come from both similar and different walks of life but who are struggling with the same challenges at the same time. Lean on these people and let them lean on you. Support one another through all the ups and downs and enjoy doing life together.


This guest blog is part of a series in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. It was produced by Corinne Alfeld (Corinne.Alfeld@ed.gov), a program officer in the National Center for Education Research.