WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 10, 2013 -
Established by the Education Sciences Reform Act in 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences is responsible for gathering information on education progress, conducting research on educational practices in the nation’s schools, and examining the quality of federal education programs and initiatives.
The information collected and disseminated by the Institute helps schools identify and implement successful education initiatives. Additionally, the data allows taxpayers and congressional leaders to keep tabs on the federal investment in education, which is especially important in these times of fiscal restraint.
The Education Sciences Reform Act has been due for reauthorization since 2008 and traditionally moves right after the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In July the House approved the committee’s legislation to rewrite ESEA, known as the Student Success Act. The Education Sciences Reform Act presents another opportunity to help provide teachers and parents the tools necessary to raise the bar in our schools, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop smart policies that will improve the law.
To lay groundwork for the reauthorization, last year Ranking Member George Miller and I asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the Institute’s research. Though the final report has yet to be released, we have received a few preliminary findings that highlight areas for improvement.
For example, GAO confirms the Institute has greatly improved the quality of education research over the last decade, but notes there is often a significant delay in disseminating key data and findings to education officials. As a result, the research is not always immediately relayed to parents and school leaders, reducing its usefulness and relevancy.
GAO also found the Institute does not always properly evaluate the efficacy of its own programs and research arms, which could lead to unnecessary costs, confusion, and redundancies. Currently the Institute operates 10 regional labs and 12 research and development centers to conduct research, provide technical assistance, and distribute data. Meanwhile, the Department of Education operates five content centers and 16 comprehensive centers that serve some of the same purposes.
As we develop policies to strengthen the Institute, we should consider streamlining the federal research structure to reduce duplication, enhance accountability, and make it easier for states and school districts to access important information. We must also ensure the Institute of Education Sciences has the flexibility necessary to modernize its research methods and keep up with new developments in education delivery and practice. Finally, we must acknowledge that the value of the Institute’s research depends on its political autonomy, and take the necessary steps to protect the organization’s independence.
We are fortunate to have with us several witnesses who can help us better understand what is and is not working within the Institute of Education Sciences, including a representative from GAO who can provide more information on the aforementioned study. Their testimony will inform our efforts to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act and help us craft policies that will improve the quality and usefulness of education research.
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