Dear Friends and Colleagues,

            As you read this message, regardless of any previous forecast put forth by your favorite groundhog of choice (not based on time series regression I might add), the cold of winter is slowly giving way to spring. While many look forward to feasting on what is known in college basketball as March Madness, many of us in the NERA community are also looking forward to a different kind of feast: spring conference season. The great city of Philadelphia will host the annual joint conferences of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) in mid-April. These conferences offer a unique opportunity to connect with colleagues and gain valuable insights into the latest developments in educational research.

        Philadelphia, with its rich history, provides a fitting backdrop for discussions on key educational research, measurement, and policy issues affecting our field today. Philadelphia’s tradition of championing freedom and liberty started almost two and a half centuries ago by those making a great sacrifice to stand up and make the people’s voices heard. The various attractions lend themselves to inspire us to carry on the cause that helped define the birth of a new country and how each of us can continue honoring their efforts by promoting social responsibility in our work. It is crucial to acknowledge that social studies and civic education as disciplines are facing significant challenges amidst the recent shifts in social climate. Undoubtedly, these challenges affect educators who work tirelessly every day to teach these concepts to students, to help make them well-rounded and informed citizens, especially in a presidential election year. Almost 30 years ago as a senior at Wantagh High School on Long Island, I very much enjoyed my Participation in Government class and it was a key reason as to why I decided to pursue an undergraduate minor in political science to complement my major in statistics. My teacher continually found ways to engage us through unique and challenging class assignments, and she continues to do so there until this day. Thank you, Michelle Harclerode, for your service to Wantagh High School and all the students who have been privileged to have been taught by you. 

        For these reasons, I have been working to commission an invited panel at the upcoming NERA conference in October dedicated to the state of social studies and civic education. Headlining this session will be one of our planned keynote speakers, Beverly Leon, from LocalCivics. Esteemed speakers from the K-12, higher education, and educational technology communities, all of whom are working to help craft the best educational experiences possible for students in this content area, will be participating. I am delighted that Laura Hamilton from American Institutes for Research (AIR) will moderate this session, having been first author in 2020 on a key piece of research while at RAND, “Social Studies Teachers' Perspectives on Key Civic Outcomes in 2010 and 2019: Civic Development in the Era of Truth Decay”.

        As a brief aside, it is always important to be recognizing our teachers for the impact they have on children academically and socially. As the end of February marked Public Schools Week, I wish to salute my friends, family, and colleagues who once did or are currently teaching, wherever they may be doing so. As we navigate through these challenging times, we need you now more than ever to help inspire the next generation of young people to succeed in the classroom, workforce, and society overall.

        The transition to spring allows us to reflect on two important national month-long observances during the winter: Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. From my experiences at ETS, I had the good fortune to observe and learn about the culture of and associated challenges in running Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Tennessee and also present insights about teacher licensure assessment data at an annual conference of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). If you did not already know, the NERA region is home to HBCUs in Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania and dozens of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). More broadly, minority-serving institutions (MSIs) are often under resourced, placing administrators in binds not only to keep their institutions financially solvent, but to provide pathways for helping their students succeed personally, academically and beyond. To that end, I am leading efforts to build an invited panel for the upcoming conference highlighting the work being done at MSIs. This will dovetail well with the presentation by our other keynote speaker, Dr. Shaun Nelms from the University of Rochester, who helped turnaround Rochester’s East High School from borderline failure to great success.

        If you are familiar with the story behind the movie Hidden Figures, you know the challenges faced by women, especially women of color, in the quantitative disciplines. NERA members have been active in the Women in Measurement organization for many years now, and they continue their efforts to find ways to help promote inclusivity and representation in the educational research field. For over a year, I have been participating in a working group dedicated to enhancing the educational research pipeline, beginning in high school. Our goal is to particularly encourage younger people to consider the relevance of educational research in their lives at such a formative time, potentially encouraging more students to pursue this discipline in higher education and beyond. I hope to report more on our progress as the year continues, but a great example of this is described by one of my conference co-chairs, Hannah Smith, and my NERA student ambassador, Nellie Rushton, at our January 11th NERA webinar. Slides and a video from that session can be found here.

        Hopefully you can see how the energy being put into the NERA organization so far this year has the potential throughout the spring to put us in a strong position once spring turns to summer and then to autumn. Please make sure you keep up-to-date on what NERA is doing, especially about the upcoming conference, by checking our website, reading the newest issue of the NERA Researcher, and following our updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Best to all,
Jonathan Steinberg
2023-2024 NERA President

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