AERA and IES Hold Webinar on Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Policymaking, in Advance of Special Competition—Deadline: July 30
AERA and IES Hold Webinar on Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Policymaking, in Advance of Special Competition—Deadline: July 30

June  2020

On June 11, AERA and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) hosted a webinar for more than a thousand researchers from universities, think tanks, and program evaluation organizations to provide information on a current Request for Applications for a new IES grant competition, Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Policymaking. The competition encourages state education agencies (SEAs) to leverage the research use of data in Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) to examine long-term outcomes. The deadline for submissions is July 30. 

SEAs are encouraged to partner with researchers from universities and research organizations to address important education issues and to make policy decisions using these data.  IES has provided funding for SLDS to states since 2005. 

AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine welcomed participants and introduced the event, emphasizing the important role that the SLDS program has had in producing longitudinal data on teaching and learning.

“This webinar is part of AERA’s close and ongoing collaboration with IES,” said Levine. “It reflects our deep commitment to promoting the use of administrative data to examine issues and programs in education and to inform effective policy.”

The SLDS include common K–12 student data elements such as student demographics, grade level, enrollment and completion, attendance, state assessment scores, and more. In many cases the SLDS link early childhood, K-12 teacher, postsecondary, workforce, and health and human services data.  

Levine also highlighted how the webinar could foster connections between education researchers and state education officials to provide additional expertise for analyzing SLDS data.

IES staff who detailed the grant opportunity and related information included:

  • Allen Ruby, Associate Commissioner for Policy and Systems, National Center for Education Research (NCER)
  • James Benson, Program Officer, NCER
  • Nancy Sharkey, Research Scientist, Administrative Data Division: State Longitudinal Data Systems Branch, National Center for Education Statistics

George L. Wimberly, AERA director of professional development, moderated the presentations and Q&A. 

Ruby discussed the intent of the grant program to study the impact of state policies in education through expanding the existing capacity of SEAs. An SEA is required to be the primary applicant, but Ruby highlighted that in cases where researchers want to link to early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, or workforce data, agencies could serve as collaborators. Proposed projects must include a focus on learner education outcomes.

Benson highlighted the proposal requirements, which include a letter of agreement between researchers and the SEA, an account of how research findings will be provided to state policymakers, and a plan for reporting not only positive results but also null or negative results.

Sharkey noted keys to successful partnerships between SEAs and researchers: aligned expectations, interests, and goals; good project management and regular communication; and ensuring that research projects are useful. She recommended that data variables used for analysis and included in data dictionaries be linked to the Common Education Data Standards.

In December 2019, IES Director Mark Schneider announced the grant competition as a new initiative. The deadline for SEAs to submit proposals as the primary grant recipient is July 30. 

AERA members are encouraged to connect and collaborate with state education officials to answer research questions that the state may have to address key education policy issues. AERA is a longstanding supporter of the SLDS program at IES and has encouraged the use of these data systems through the AERA-NSF Grants Program

As Highlights goes to press, AERA is collaborating with the SLDS program to offer another webinar, titled “Collaborating to Support Education Research.” Recordings of both webinars will be available on the AERA website on July 2. The one from June 11 will be particularly relevant to researchers working with SEAs to submit applications by the July 30 deadline.