Newspaper article Roll Call

Congress' Back to School Assignment: Fully Fund U.S. Education Research

Newspaper article Roll Call

Congress' Back to School Assignment: Fully Fund U.S. Education Research

Article excerpt

As America's young people go back to school, we'll hear lots of discussion about how "our kids need to know more." As an educator, I would add that my colleagues and I also need to know much more about how to teach different children in different contexts.

Compared to medicine, education has been slower in embracing evidence-based methods. Educators need a knowledge base that helps them move beyond one-size-fits-all policies to target teaching methods and support children of an ever-more diverse society.

In the absence of proven practices, too many states and school districts are instituting policies that reflect recent fads, not rigorous research. We are also witnessing a divisive debate about Common Core when the urgent question is not whether but how we can teach to the high standards that most states have adopted to ensure that all Americans have access to knowledge that will propel us forward as a country.

American educators need a knowledge base. That is why it is crucial for Congress to improve, approve, and fully fund the Education Sciences Reform Act, which provides for research evaluating the programs, practices, and outcomes in our nation's schools.

Since the ESRA was enacted in 2002, the Department of Education's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, has begun the hard work of building the trustworthy evidence we need. The IES has sponsored hundreds of studies of such important issues as early childhood programs, effective teaching, and reading math and science instruction. These studies have produced useful findings about what works in different schools serving different populations.

The ESRA needs to be reformed as well as renewed, however. Its data and findings need to be conveyed more quickly and comprehensively to educators at every level, from state agencies to local schools. And more should be done to evaluate education policies and programs, as well as IES' own efforts.

While voting by a large bipartisan margin to reauthorize the ESRA, the House of Representatives has also revised the law, incorporating recommendations by the Government Accountability Office.

Now known as the Strengthening Education through Research Act, the legislation takes strong steps to ensure that research findings will be relevant and timely, not filed away on a bookshelf or on a hard drive.

The reformed ESRA focuses on urgent national priorities, including improving high school graduation rates, school safety, student discipline and teacher preparation and evaluation. …

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