WASHINGTON, D.C. | November 16, 2011 -
Providing more information about educational quality to families and communities is essential to improving K-12 schools in America. We are here today to discuss the value of education research, explore the appropriate level of federal involvement, and examine ways to improve current law to provide more immediate and relevant data to parents and educators.
Since the enactment of the Education Sciences Reform Act, the federal government has played an important role in supporting research and program evaluations, and gathering data about educational practice and the nation’s schools. Today, federal expert panels and research centers offer support to state and local organizations that perform education research. The responsibility for education research is shared by both federal and non-federal organizations in an effort to examine the quality of existing programs, develop and test innovative practices, and ensure the effective use of taxpayer dollars.
The resultant data allows teachers, parents, and officials to gain a greater understanding of successful interventions, school performance, and student achievement. For example, the Institute of Education Sciences established the What Works Clearinghouse to provide educators, policymakers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education. Information from the Clearinghouse showed the “I CAN Learn” curriculum resulted in significant achievement gains for 8th grade math students. However, the What Works Clearinghouse needs improvement, especially in providing clear direction on applying research to classroom practices.
Education research has also helped us identify programs that are not helping students succeed. Particularly in these times of trillion-dollar deficits and record debt, Congressional leaders must be careful stewards of taxpayer dollars. We can all agree on the need to dedicate federal education funds to the most effective programs; if research and data show a program is not working, we should get rid of it. That’s why my colleagues and I introduced legislation to eliminate more than 40 ineffective or duplicative programs as part of our K-12 education reform package.
Through the Education Sciences Reform Act and related initiatives, we have made great strides in assessing the quality of K-12 schools, protecting taxpayers’ investments, and identifying successful educational practices. However, as we look toward reauthorization of this law, we must acknowledge the challenges facing education research and the Institute of Education Sciences.
For instance, we must find better ways to help states and school districts translate the best research principles into classroom practices. Existing research centers designed to provide technical assistance to states and districts need to do a better job sharing information to help local education officials identify and implement the practices and programs that are most likely to work for their students.
Another challenge exists in establishing a more collaborative relationship between the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences and the Secretary of Education. Maintaining the autonomy and independence of the IES is extremely important; the Director’s role must stay non-political. However, more communication and data sharing between the two entities could ultimately lead to better, more effective federal education programs and initiatives.
The witnesses here today have valuable insight into the ways we can ensure education research is beneficial to parents, teachers, and students. I look forward to a productive and informative discussion this morning.
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