Under the Education Sciences Reform Act, the federal government supports states, school districts, and the private sector in conducting education research. State, local, and federal policymakers rely on this research to evaluate federal education programs so taxpayer resources can be allocated to the most successful programs and initiatives.
Rep. Hunter described the value of education research in his opening remarks, stating, “The resultant data allows teachers, parents, and officials to gain a greater understanding of successful interventions, school performance, and student achievement... 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.”
During the hearing, members learned ways education research has helped school districts improve student achievement. Former director of the Institute for Education Sciences Dr. Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst explained research on high school start times shows students perform better across the board when classes begin later in the morning.
Another witness, former Florida Commissioner of Education Dr. Eric Smith, detailed the statewide database of teaching practices and tools he implemented in Florida. He said, “The intent was that we could develop relational information between instructional practices and tools and student achievement in a variety of different school settings. These findings would be made available to districts for use in their strategic planning process.”
However, despite its successes, there are still opportunities to make education research more effective and applicable to schools and teachers. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) asked the panel of witnesses to share their views on what the next steps should be in education research. Watch the exchange below:
“There’s a lot we don’t know about effective curriculum, particularly how to deliver it digitally.” – Dr. Whitehurst
“We don’t know how well teacher incentives work to improve teaching in the classroom.” – Dr. Caroline Hoxby, Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics, Stanford University
“How to help classrooms to better adapt to the variability that comes to the teacher every day.” – Dr. Smith
“As we look toward reauthorization of this law, we must acknowledge the challenges facing education research and the Institute of Education Sciences,” Rep. Hunter concluded. “We must find better ways to help states and school districts translate the best research principles into classroom practices.”