Skip Navigation

News & Activities


Winter/Spring 2022


The projected release for the MGLS:2017 Restricted-Use Research and Development Base Year and First Follow-Up data is late summer 2022. This timing is subject to change. The MGLS experienced low response rates, which affects the precision of the data for certain key subgroups. Thus, there will be limitations on the kinds of analyses the data support. NCES made the decision to release the data only as a restricted-use product to assure that researchers understand these limitations and analyze the data accordingly. Prospective data users may want to review the requirements for a restricted-use license and the process for obtaining one at https://nces.ed.gov/statprog/instruct.asp. In addition, an Overview Technical Report will likely be released before the dataset, in summer 2022. This preview document will include a description of the MGLS data and its limitations.

Summer/Fall 2021

The projected release for MGLS:2017 Base Year and First Follow-Up data is summer 2022. This timing is subject to change The MGLS experienced low response rates, which affects the precision of the data for certain key subgroups. Thus, there will be limitations on the kinds of analyses the data support. NCES made the decision to release the data only as a restricted-use product to assure that researchers understand these limitations and analyze the data accordingly. The First Look report (projected for early 2022) will include a description of our data and its limitations. Prospective data users may want to review the requirements for a restricted-use license and the process for obtaining one at https://nces.ed.gov/statprog/instruct.asp.

Fall 2020, Winter/Spring 2021

Results for the MGLS:2017 Main Study Base-Year data collection (MS1 or Main Study [round] 1), which took place in from January to July 2018, and the Main Study First Follow-up (MS2), which took place in from January to July 2020, will be released together in a longitudinal data file in mid-2022. Data from MS2 was analyzed for its viability given the recruitment issues that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was decided in January 2021 that both rounds of MGLS:2017 are to be released under a restricted-use license or RUF. An additional Item-Level File (ILF) will also be available under a restricted-use license for psychometric research on the various scores and scales used in the study.

Spring/Summer 2020

On March 16, 2020 data collection for the MGLS:2017 Main Study First Follow-up (MS2) moved to an ONLINE ONLY mode due to the coronavirus pandemic. Due to uncertainty around whether schools would resume in-person instruction before the end of the school year, school recruitment continued through April. However, as most schools did not reopen their brick-and-mortar operations, it was decided to cease school recruitment and focus on obtaining student participation through parent recruitment. Parents were contacted as usual for their own participation in the parent survey either through web or CATI. Additionally, they were asked to encourage their child to log in to the Out-Of-School (OOS) session. This session was offered in both a 45-minute and a 75-minute version to increase participation. Students received $20 for their OOS participation in either case, but an additional $20 contribution to the Save the Children pandemic response charity was added for those willing to do the 75-minute version. Reminders to the students’ Math Teachers, Special Education Teachers and School Administrators to complete their surveys have continued as before.

Data collection for students has been extended to July 31, 2020, like the adult data collection. A First Look Report may appear in fall 2021 while the data may be released by the end of 2021. Note that all survey instruments are available online at the latest OMB Information Collection (IC) listing for this study.

Winter 2020

On January 14, 2020 data collection commenced for the MGLS:2017 Main Study First Follow-up (MS2). This nationally representative sample of students was in sixth grade in fall 2017. Currently, most MGLS students are in eighth grade. However, students are being followed regardless of their current grade or location so that the sample’s representative quality can be maintained. Most of the data collection is taking place in schools, as it did in the Base Year 2017-18. Generally, a lead Session Facilitator contacts the school and identifies a School Coordinator who they work with to determine the logistics of the session. There are some cases where a student has moved to a school with few or no other MGLS students; those may be asked to log in from home to take the survey. Students’ parents, teachers, and school administrators are also asked to participate by completing an online survey. While data from students in approximately 570 schools were obtained in the Base Year (MS1), the sample has been augmented by over 200 schools in this First Follow-up in order to reduce the potential for data bias and to improve data precision and representativeness for certain groups of students. Data collection for students will end on June 30, 2020, while adult data collection ends on July 31, 2020.

Spring/Summer/Fall 2019

MGLS Main Study, Round 2 (MS2) preparations are taking place including a second round of locating and tracking students, contacting MS1 schools and recruiting augmentation schools, finalizing instrument specifications, programming instruments, and training field staff.

Fall 2018/Winter 2019

In December 2018, OMB approved NCES’s request (OMB# 1850-0911 v.21) to further modify the study design for MS2 to augment the sample with additional schools in order to achieve about 776 participating schools in MS2. Several new recruiting and incentive strategies are being used. Tracking and locating of students in both the Main Study and OFT samples is taking place. Planning is underway for a possible administrative records collection in 2021. The MGLS Technical Review Panel convened in January 2019 to offer its expertise on the survey design and items as the project looks toward the second round of data collection.

Winter/Spring/Summer 2018

The MS1 data collection took place from January to August 2018, and the OFT First Follow-up (OFT2) data collections from February to May 2018. OFT2 was conducted primarily to obtain information on recruiting, particularly for students in three focal IDEA-defined disability groups: specific learning disability, autism, and emotional disturbance; obtain a tracking sample that can be used to study mobility patterns in subsequent years; and test protocols, items, and administrative procedures. Originally, NCES planned for MGLS:2017 to conduct annual main study follow-up data collections first beginning in January 2019 and next beginning in January 2020, when most of the students in the sample will be in grades 7 and 8, respectively. The yield of 570 schools rather than 900, and 15,000 students rather than 20,000 created a need to re-design the study. In September 2018, OMB approved NCES’s request (OMB# 1850-0911 v.20) to revise the study design due to lower than expected response rates experienced in the sixth grade data collection and to: (1) drop the originally planned seventh grade round of data collection and to instead conduct the Main Study First Follow-up (MS2) data collection in January-July 2020 (when most sample students will be in the eighth grade), (2) notify participating districts and schools of this change in data collection schedule, (3) discontinue the procedures designed to oversample students in specific IDEA-defined disability groups, and (4) conduct MS2 and OFT Second Follow-up (OFT3) tracking activities..

Fall 2017

The MGLS team is working diligently to prepare for the Main Study Base Year (MS1) set to begin in early January 2018. This includes the crucial base year recruitment activity for the cohort that we will be following for the next three years. Selection into the study is random but participation is voluntary. Thus our data quality depends on selected schools accepting our request. We are using social media, conference presentations, an online webinar, and a network of professionals who perform variety of outreach activities with schools and districts. Other preparations include field staff hiring, field staff training, and re-programming of student assessments and surveys for our tablet-based mobile testing labs. All adult surveys are programmed for the web, and, as a backup mode, for Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI).

Summer 2017

The Technical Review Panel met in May to weigh in on the OFT results and plans for the Main Study, With that information the team further refined the various surveys and assessments to make them more valid, less burdensome, more user-friendly and more efficient.

Winter/Spring 2017

The Operational Field Test (OFT) began in late January and concluded in May 2017. This is what we call our “dress rehearsal” for the Main Study that is to begin in January 2018. School recruitment was challenging and we tried various incentive and other strategies to learn about what might work best for the Main Study. Over 1000 students in about 50 nationally-representative schools participated. We obtained about 100 students in each of the three focal disability groups. Further information was obtained on the functioning of the various instruments and their items. Field staff continued to add to our knowledge base about the best ways to manage the student session and school relationship.

Fall 2016

The MGLS team worked diligently throughout the fall to prepare for the Operational Field Test (OFT) set to begin in January 2017. This included intense recruitment activity, field staff hiring, field staff training, and programming of student assessments and surveys for delivery via tablet computer. All adult surveys were programmed for the web, and, as a backup mode, for Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI).

Summer 2016

Results of the IVFT were examined and the MGLS Team met many times during the spring and summer to formulate the best first draft of all instruments in preparation for the next field test. The Operational Field Test (OFT) set for the Winter/Spring of 2017 requires a close approximation of final instruments in order for the team to finalize administration protocols. The OFT also permits a test run of our sample design. The OFT general education student sample and special education student sample was drawn at this time. School recruitment commenced for OFT as well.

Winter/Spring 2016

The Item Validation Field Test (IVFT) was successfully conducted with approximately 60 purposively selected schools in a number of states throughout the U.S. Over 5000 grades 5 through 8 students took a spiraled set of assessments and surveys in a 90-minute session. A supplemental sample of fifth-graders took the math assessment in order to discover any floor effects with that assessment. We were able to obtain adequate numbers of students in the disability groups in order to improve the Universal Design aspects of our measures. Selected students with and without IEPs also participated in an eye-tracking study to improve item design for all students. This was our first trial of the mobile testing lab, which can be set up independently of any school network or computer facility. Additionally, we trialed our Parent, Math Teacher, Special Education Teacher, and School Administrator surveys.

Fall 2015

The MGLS team worked diligently throughout the fall to prepare for the Item Validation Field Test (IVFT) that begins in February 2016. This field test will help us to identify the best items to use in our assessments and questionnaires for the main study. An important goal of the IVFT is to recruit adequate numbers of students and their parents, teachers and school administrators to try out our assessments and questionnaires. The goal is to get a minimum of 400 responses per item. The group administration of student assessments uses an innovative system of laptop servers that communicate to tablet computers where students enter their responses. Parents and other adults will respond to surveys via web. MGLS has a new informational website at https://surveys.nces.ed.gov/mgls.

Summer 2015

In order to better prepare for the Base Year (BY) 6th Grade data collection, the Item Validation Field Test (IVFT) will be conducted in winter 2016 and the Operational Field Test (OFT) in winter 2017. Separating the two field tests by a year gives us the opportunity to apply any lessons learned about recruitment and administration in the IVFT to refinements for the OFT. In this way, the OFT can be a more effective dress rehearsal for the main study. Then we will draw the national sample in fall 2017 and conduct Base Year data collection in winter 2018. The meaning of “MGLS:2017” will now center on the notion of the sample rather than on the initial year of testing. The MGLS Sixth and Seventh Grade Data Collection contract was awarded to RTI International in August. The MGLS Sixth and Seventh Grade Data Collection contract was awarded to RTI International in August.  

Spring 2015

On April 2, 2015 the Disabilities Expert Panel met to follow up on discussions that began in the winter at the Middle Grades Experts Meeting. Participating experts were Jose Blackorby, SRI International, Lindsey Jones, National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), Jim Wendorf, NCLD, and Margaret McLaughlin, University of Maryland. Participants from other Department of Education offices were Jackie Buckley and Kim Sprague, National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), and Richelle Davis of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). We discussed sampling approaches that would impact the research questions that could be answered with MGLS data. The research questions that MGLS data will be able to answer are going to be about students with disabilities as they are found in general education schools in the U.S. (as opposed to all students with disabilities in the U.S.) Among other topics and questions: How can MGLS be as inclusive as possible? Are the three disability categories we have selected for oversampling the best choices? What accommodations can/should we offer? How are students with IEPs doing in the prevalent middle school models?

Winter 2015

The Middle Grades Experts Meeting was convened in January at the NCES main office in Washington DC and brought together leaders from various organizations to begin building bridges to the research community who will be the ultimate users of the MGLS dataset. In attendance were Nancy Flowers, University of Illinois; Deborah Kasak, National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform; Doug MacIver, Johns Hopkins University; Margaret McLaughlin, University of Maryland; Steve Mertens, Illinois State University; Karen Swanson, Mercer University. The goals of the meeting were introductory in nature and prepared the way for collaboration in the coming four years as the field tests and national data collections get underway. We hope to get ideas and community support for gaining the cooperation of schools and districts as we begin recruitment of both general education students and the special education students in our disability sample. Click here Zip File (5.17 MB) to get the background documents that were provided in the meeting packet.

Fall 2014

In order to facilitate the best recruitment and field test outcomes possible, it was decided to make two changes to our plan. 1) There will be two types of field test, one for item validation and another to test operational aspects of recruitment and the data collection. 2) The Item Validation Field Test (IVFT) and the Operational Field Test (OFT) will take place from January-March 2016. The Winter 2016 field tests will be followed in Winter 2017 by the 6th grade base year round of data collection. Winter is considered a better testing window than spring as it helps us to avoid overburdening schools who participate in state testing.

We presented to the NCES Private Schools meeting in October and hope to build goodwill and recognizability with that sector of our general sample.

Spring / Summer 2014

Cognitive laboratories took place with middle grades students to identify any issues with items proposed for the field test MGLS mathematics, reading and executive function measures. We also carried out cog labs for the parent, mathematics teacher and school administrator questionnaires. Focus groups for middle grades mathematics teachers helped us to understand the way to improve items and the questionnaire as a whole for that group. We also conducted a focus group of middle grades students on their use of technology terms so that our questionnaire items might be more responsive to the latest trends. Students in the three IDEA categories (autism, emotional disturbance, specific learning disability) that we have selected for special focus in MGLS:2017 were also interviewed and assessed for their understanding of items and ability to complete assessments and questionnaires. Preparations for the spring 2015 field test are underway, specifically school recruitment.

Winter 2014

A MGLS:2017 Reading Content Review Panel took place on April 14th and included John Sabatini of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) who is the lead on the new reading literacy assessment GISA. Members of his team Tenaha O'Reilly and June A Zumoff were also in attendance as were additional expert panelists Donna Alvermann of the University of Georgia, Joseph Magliano of Northern Illinois University, Sheryl, Lazarus of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).

A Disabilities Content Review Panel took place on April 29th to discuss e.g. sampling and selection of IEP students to sample specifically and also to advise on the design of instruments and accommodations for all students with disabilities who occur in the survey either naturally or through sampling at higher rates. Expert panelists were Jose Blackorby of SRI International, Diane Bryant of the University of Texas, Austin, Lynn Fuchs of Vanderbilt University, Sheryl Lazarus of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), Martha Thurlow of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), and Mitchell Yell of the University of South Carolina.

We have narrowed our special sample choices for disabled students to three of the IDEA categories as follows: 1) specific learning disabilities, 2) emotionally disturbance, and 3) autism. While all students who can take a test using accommodations will be included in our study, the three selected groups will be sampled at a higher rate to assure that researchers have the statistical power needed for meaningful analysis. This is a pilot effort--NCES longitudinal studies has never before sampled specifically for IEP students and felt better results may be obtained by choosing fewer categories for this first attempt.

Fall 2013

An exciting development is in the area of inclusion. We will draw a special sample of disabled students in several of the IDEA categories as follows: 1) specific learning disabilities, 2) ADD/ADHD children under the “Other Health Impairment” category, 3) speech or language impairment, 4) emotionally disturbed, and 5) autism. While all students who can take a test using accommodations will be included in our study, these selected groups will be augmented to assure that researchers have the statistical power needed for meaningful analysis.

Because of the special sample of students with disabilities and the notion that mathematics performance may be moderated by reading level, we are adding a measure of reading proficiency to the academic test battery based on work done in IES’s Reading for Understanding grant program. Details forthcoming!

Summer 2013

We completed a series of Content Review Panels to determine the design of the instruments to be field tested in Spring 2015. The Mathematics panel included Kathy Heid of Pennsylvania State University, Margie Hill of the University of Kansas, Lisa Keller, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, Ed Nolan of Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland, Linda Wilson, and Paul Sally of the University of Chicago. Our panel on Executive Function included James Byrnes of Temple University, Lisa Jacobson of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Dan Romer of the University of Pennsylvania. Socioemotional instruments and teacher and family surveys were advised by James Byrnes of Temple University, Susan Dauber of Blue Stocking Research , Scott Gest of Pennsylvania State University, Richard Lerner and Tama Leventhal both of Tufts University, and Russell Rumberger of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Our School Administrator questionnaire received input from Susan Dauber of Blue Stocking Research, George Farkas of the University of California at Irvine, Jeremy Finn of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, and Ed Nolan of Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland.