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Core Projects

The following are multi-year, novel research projects identified by IWERC’s Research Advisory Council, designed to take advantage of state data sets.

Early Childhood Research Portfolio

Understanding children’s journeys through early childhood programs and services

Disparities in cognitive skills emerge in children as young as nine months old and widen during later years. At kindergarten entry, sizable school readiness gaps exist. Illinois children—particularly children living in adverse environments—have shown inadequate levels of school readiness. Through mapping the journeys children from birth to eight years old take through Illinois early childhood programs and services and identifying the effectiveness of different pathways, IWERC provides important evidence for early childhood interventions and policies aiming to promote equality of opportunity. 

Project Lead:

Yi Wang

Project Team:

Meg Bates, Shereen Oca BeilsteinRobert Goerge (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago), and Leah Gjertson (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago)

Teacher Workforce Research Portfolio

Maintaining a diverse, high-quality early childhood and K-12 workforce

Approximately 130,000 full-time teachers and administrators are employed in Illinois public schools, comprising a workforce responsible for supporting the positive, holistic development of 1.9 million youth across the state. In 2021, roughly 87% of that teacher workforce was retained. Although teacher retention has remained stable for the past 5 years, an educator shortage disproportionately exists in certain subject areas, such as special education and bilingual/English as a Second Language; educator demographics, such as race; and geographic areas, including rural and urban districts. By focusing our research on those areas where shortages are pronounced, IWERC aims to explore the factors that contribute to the development and retention of diverse, high-quality teachers. 

Project Lead:

Shereen Oca Beilstein

Project Team:

Meg Bates, Mariana Barragan Torres, Illinois State University Center for the Study of Education Policy, Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, Goshen Education Consulting

High School-to-Work Research Portfolio

Exploring the diverse routes from high school to work

Student pathways after high school are seldom linear. Many young adults transition between various higher educational institutions, training programs, and jobs a number of times before arriving at a long-term career. This study will describe pathways that Illinois high school graduates take to work, including pathways through four-year colleges, community colleges, certificate programs, and/or work-based learning experiences. After mapping these pathways, we will analyze how they relate to education and employment outcomes. By understanding the nature of Illinoisan student trajectories from high school to work, we can identify opportunities for supporting more students in attaining their education and career goals.

Project Lead:

Sarah Cashdollar

Project Team:

Meg Bates, Jenny Nagaoka (University of Chicago Consortium on School Research)

Syntheses

These projects are shorter-term research reviews and syntheses of public data recommended by IWERC’s Research Advisory Council.

Trauma-Informed Approaches Research Brief Series

Trauma-informed responses to post-pandemic schooling

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois educators and policymakers have taken an increased interest in the effects of trauma on students and educators. In March 2021, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 2170, which, among many other things, called for specific attention to the effects of trauma on students. Given this interest in how trauma intersects with educational experience, IWERC was asked to write “research briefs” on trauma and its implications for educational institutions in the state. IWERC is producing briefs that are Illinois-specific, rooted in rigorous scholarly research, focused on target populations that are more likely to experience trauma and may require distinct approaches, and pithy and actionable for educators, educational institutions, and others.

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Project Team:

Meg Bates
Yi Wang
Stephanie Werner

Effective Schools: A Revised Framework for Public Schools in Illinois

Strategies that cultivate effective schools for different purposes and learners

The concept of effective schools is broad and largely depends on the definition given by scholars and practitioners and on the measures being used to evaluate schools. In this study, we present a systematic review of the literature on effective schools to provide context for a comparison exercise between three different frameworks of effective schools in the state of Illinois: the 5Essentials, the Illinois Report Card, and the U.S. News Ranking of high-quality high schools. By focusing on three different frameworks, we highlight two different problematics concerning the current use of frameworks of effective schools (1) that results of the classification of effective schools varies depending on the framework being used; and (2) that many components across frameworks correspond to measures related to processes and inputs in addition to measuring outcomes. We summarize some of the problematics related to the measurement of effective schools and propose recommendations for educators and researchers to consider when studying issues related to effective schools.

Project Lead:

Mariana Barragan Torres

Project Team:

Shereen O. Beilstein

Data Collection Support:

Olivia Palid and the Pritzker Tech Talent Research Team

Socio-Demographic Mapping of Illinois

Illinois demographics and access/opportunity

Where one lives matters. While Chicago has been repeatedly studied and used as a case study for neighborhood typology, Illinois has not. IWERC is proposing a series of studies that will (1) build a general map of Illinois that is characterized by several demographic variables collected from Census tract data and (2) build several specialty maps that highlight areas in Illinois that need support in improving equitable access to essential programs that better the lives of Illinois residents and advance the state’s social services and technology, education, and workforce initiatives.

Project Lead:

Stephanie Werner

Project Team:

Mariana Barragan Torres, Sarah Cashdollar, Yi Wang

Capacity-Building Work

This project is focused on building IWERC’s and the state’s capacity to do meaningful statewide educational research. It was suggested by IWERC’s Research Advisory Council.

Community Engagement

A Research-Practice Partnership to Understand Community Perspectives of Education and the Workforce

This project was designed to gather opinions, experiences, and expectations related to education and the workforce of individuals across different communities in Illinois. We will gather data concerning the outcomes of education (including the workforce), teaching as a profession, effective schools, and the use of educational research. To start, several communities in Illinois were strategically selected and purposefully sampled based on their geography and demographic diversity. Our study will allow researchers to further our understanding of education and workforce opinions and experiences of individuals not traditionally included in research studies.


Project Lead:

Meg Bates

Project Team:

Mariana Barragan Torres, Shereen O. Beilstein, Candace Williams
IWERC’s Current Projects

Opportunistic Projects

These are projects that were not explicitly recommended by IWERC’s Research Advisory Council but align to IWERC’s core agenda and allow IWERC to expand in meaningful and “just-in-time” directions.

Exploring Computer Science Education Structures and Pathways in Illinois: An Urgent Research Project to Improve Equitable Access and Outcomes

Research on computer science education in the state

Access to technology careers is an urgent equity issue. Technology jobs are more remunerative and recession-proof than other occupations, but many minoritized populations (including women, Latinx, and Black workers) are starkly underrepresented in these professions. This project includes a pair of studies aimed at understanding how to promote success in computer science (CS) education for minoritized learners in Illinois. These studies would examine the current K-12 infrastructure for starting minoritized learners on CS pathways, as well as individual-level factors that encourage or discourage minoritized learners from persisting in CS in post-secondary education or alternative pathways.

Project Director:

Stephanie Werner

Project Team:

Meg Bates, DPI Community Education (Mark Harris, Charity Freeman), UIUC College of Education (Raya Hegeman-Davis)

Analysis of IEPP

Research on the Illinois Educator Prep Profiles

IWERC is analyzing data from the Illinois Educator Preparation Profiles (IEPP) system housed at ISBE. The IEPP reports scores for specific teacher preparation programs (e.g., elementary ed, math ed) at higher education institutions across the state. Analyzing IEPP data will shed light on how teacher preparation programs shape teachers’ career trajectories. As such, this work aligns with IWERC’s core project on maintaining a diverse, high-quality early childhood and K-12 workforce.

Project Lead:

Meg Bates

Project Team:

Layne Vollman, Mariana Barragan Torres