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The ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education

The ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education produces high-quality, evidence-based research that explores critical issues impacting opportunity in America today.

Our researchers leverage ETS's work on national and international large-scale assessments to explore the acquisition, outcomes and inequalities of human and social capital across a range of topics including pre-K–12 education, teacher quality, higher education, workforce readiness and noncognitive skills.

Latest Publications

Buttressing the Middle: A Case for Reskilling and Upskilling America's Middle-Skill Workers in the 21st Century (2021)

This report explores the current challenge facing middle-skilled workers and provides a road map for building and augmenting the essential skills they need to prosper now and in the future. Using data from The Occupational Information Network (O*NET®) at the Department of Labor and data from the Program for the Assessment of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the study explores the skills that are currently in demand and will be in the future, and how these are tied to a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy. The report also provides a Theory of Action to develop targeted interventions to improve adults' essential skills.

How to Unlock the Power of Prison Education (2020)

The role of education in reentry planning and recidivism is explored in this report produced by ETS and authored by Stephen J. Steurer. The report presents a compelling case for why immediate steps must be taken to improve the education and skills of the incarcerated population.

Curbing America's Reading Crisis: A Call to Action for Our Children (2019)

This report explores some of the reasons for low reading and comprehension proficiency, focusing on a lack of foundational reading skills in older students. Using just-released data, it shows that little more than one-third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, with minority and urban students disproportionately affected. The authors offer actionable recommendations for improving the skills of struggling readers.

If You Can't Be With the Data You Love: And the Risks of Loving the Data You're With (2019)

This study from researchers at Drexel University and ETS finds that the skills of working adults are not as closely connected to levels of educational attainment as widely thought. Using data on the literacy proficiencies of U.S. adults, the study shows that diploma and degree attainment is a less than satisfactory proxy for skills, as nearly 34 million employed Americans would be misclassified by relying on credentials to assess their skills.

Equity in Education Series

This Series provides a multifaceted exploration of prospects for developing indicators of teaching quality. These measures would move beyond inputs and outcomes to capture important features of what happens in the classroom that could lead to more equitable access to high-quality teaching for traditionally underserved students. This series explores a range of issues, focusing particularly on the promise of specific measurement strategies for producing indicators that can lead to a more just distribution of teaching quality.

Indicators of Teaching Quality: Appraising the Case of Early Childhood Education (2020)

Quest for Quality: An Indicator System for Teaching (2019)

Impact of Human Capital in the American Labor Market Series

This Series explores the importance of a key element of human capital — cognitive skills — that has only recently been available for adults for examination, along with educational credentials, in the United States. Using newly available measures of the literacy and numeracy skills of American workers from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, this series examines the central role that these skills play, alongside years of work experience and educational attainment, in influencing a range of labor-market outcomes. In an age where status, prestige, and credentials have taken center stage, this series seeks to return the education debate to its core — the fundamental need for skills to succeed in life.

A Story of Opportunity in America

Opportunity has always been intangible, but for increasing numbers of Americans, it's becoming invisible. In 2014, ETS launched a two-year exploration to shed light on the rising inequality of opportunity that is leaving many Americans behind. The result of this effort includes a report that takes a broad view of the challenges we face, a book containing research from leaders from a range of fields related to opportunity and a short film highlighting stories about opportunity from across our nation. Together, these inform the work of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education.

Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America

Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America (2016)

This comprehensive report examines the magnitude of the crisis of opportunity in America and its long-term implications. Interactions among powerful global economic forces, government policies and business practices have generated a self-sustaining set of dynamics that have led to increasing economic, social and political polarization, with the accumulation of advantage or disadvantage experienced by one generation passed along to the next. Choosing Our Future argues that ignoring these forces will lead to growing disparities among our citizens and place an unsustainable strain on the nation's social fabric and the character of our democracy.

The Dynamics of Opportunity in America

The Dynamics of Opportunity in America (2016)

Written by leaders from a range of fields — including education, economics, demography and political science — this book illuminates key aspects of the problem of inequality of opportunity and provides a range of recommendations to reverse harmful trends. Across the country, our children are beginning life from very different starting points. Some have aspirations and believe they can be achieved. For too many others, aspirations are tempered, if not dashed, by the sobering realities of everyday life. These different starting points place children on distinctly different trajectories of growth and development, ultimately leading to vastly different adult outcomes. Written in an engaging style, this volume constitutes an essential foundation for informed discussion and strategic analysis.

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