Federal research grants include teacher home visits

Federal research grants include teacher home visits

(District of Columbia) About $1 million in federal grant money was awarded this month to researchers interested in studying teacher home visits, computer games as instruction vehicles, online learning failure rates and reading support for students with disabilities.

The grants, each worth upwards of $250,000, were provided by the Institute of Educational Sciences with the expectation that findings would be available within two years.

The institute, which serves as the research unit within the U.S. Department of Education, receives about $615 million annually to promote scientific analysis of new trends and ideas within public education.

The awards made this week are part of an ongoing program aimed at encouraging low-cost, short-term analysis aimed at both the mainstream classroom and support for students with disabilities.

Among the winning applications is St. Louis Public Schools, which received $248,752 to take a closer look at the growing interest in teacher home visits.

As proposed, students from 10 elementary schools in the St. Louis area would be randomly selected to either get the benefit of a home visit  program in year one; while the other half would have the service delayed until year two of the study. Researchers would then compare results as it relates to reading achievement, days absent from school and disciplinary actions.

The findings would be delivered by the end of June, 2019.

District officials in Fullerton, California were also selected for a grant of $221,517 to consider student engagement and computer games.

Research suggests that almost three-quarters of all K-12 students play some form of digital games after the school day ends, and designers of online curriculum are increasingly using some of the same techniques to make learning more game-like.

Fullerton already is using an online learning platform and will break two groups of twenty, grade 6 classrooms—one using the online program with the other not using it for the first trimester, at which point the roles would be reversed.

A third grant, totaling $238,867, went to the Michigan Department of Education to look at a problem that is also occurring in many states and districts—too many students failing to pass online learning courses.

Students enrolled in the Michigan Virtual School—a state sponsored program that offers online courses to some 500 schools—the completion rate is just 77 percent, which is well below the 91 percent pass rate that students achieve in the traditional setting.

The plan here is to develop an orientation unit that students would take before beginning any online coursework. As designed, the orientation would cover technical issues, learning skills and strategies for self-regulation. Curiously, however, the two-hour introduction would be delivered online as well.

Finally, federal officials are spending $250,000 on an examination of a reading program for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

The program is multi-sensory based and designed to help students with severe cognitive disabilities who are not yet reading. The plan is to test the reading program among 400 students attending New York City schools in kindergarten through the 5th grade.