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Overview:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the primary research arm of the Department of Education (ED), and comprises four “National Centers” devoted to supporting and disseminating scientific research related to education, which basically means the use of randomized trials in evaluating educational methods. Randomized trials always involve the comparison of results between an experimental group, which is taught using the new method under study, and a control group, which is taught using traditional methods. The idea behind the IES is to boost this sort of research while reducing political influence on that research. The four national centers fund, evaluate, and disseminate such research, while the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES) advises the IES Director on the agency’s policies, priorities, and procedures. IES works with the Office of Innovation and Improvement and the What Works Clearinghouse, which is designed as a resource for educational decision-makers in selecting programs and practices based on scientific research. IES also evaluates programs and grants for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

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History:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) was established by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (pdf), which President George W. Bush signed into law on November 5, 2002. This law eliminated the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) and replaced it with the IES[D1] . The reason for this action was that the federal education research field was seen as needing a shot in the arm, and the creation of IES was viewed as a solution, one that would inject that arena with a strong dose of “scientific rigor.” Bush signed the law claiming that the “act will substantially strengthen the scientific basis” for the ED’s work.

 

The legislation behind the law, HR 3801, was authored by Delaware Republican Congressman Michael N. Castle, then-chairman of the Subcommittee on Education Reform of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Castle claimed that his goal was to curtail what he perceived as a trend to follow "one education fad after another," and replace it with exhaustive studies that would make recommendations for improved teaching methods. The plan was to have IES exist as part of the ED but function as a separate entity under the watchful eye of the presidentially appointed 15-member NBES.

 

Although the new law received considerable support, critics expressed concern over how independent IES would actually be from the ED. Former ED Assistant Secretary of Research and Improvement Chester Finn said, “There’s less here than meets the eye. Odds are, most money will continue to go where it’s already gone.” In fact, funding for marginally successful R&D centers was reduced, to the dismay of researchers.

 

The OERI, the agency being replaced by the IES, had been created in 1979 by the same legislation that gave birth to the ED. Its function had been to develop and distribute education research via sponsorship of five national institutes, 10 regional laboratories, and a dozen research-and-development centers. The goal of the new law was to reconstitute many of the OERI’s functions under the umbrella of a reinvigorated, politically independent entity.

 

 

 

 

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What it Does:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is run by a director, whom the President nominates and the Senate confirms for a six-year term. The IES comprises the following major administrative components.

 

The National Center for Education Research (NCER) supports education research through grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. In FY 2010, $162.9 million was appropriated to the NCER by the IES for research, development, and dissemination. That year, the NCER received 1,000 grant applications, of which it issued 108 awards with a value of $282 million. Most recently, the NCER awarded 33 new grants in its FY 2012 Education Research Grants Program. Those programs address education practices, policies, and programs in the following areas: reading and writing, math and science education, teacher quality, education leadership, education policy and finance, cognition and student learning, high school reform, and postsecondary education. The NCER is administered by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current acting commissioner is Elizabeth Albro, who has served since 2011.

 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. The agency’s mission is to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally. The NCES conducts numerous broad surveys of education, issues annual reports, publishes a yearly Digest of Education Statistics, and provides an integrated collection of the indicators and analyses published in The Condition of Education between 2000 and 2012. The NCES is administered by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current commissioner is Jack Buckley, who has served since 2010.

 

The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) conducts large-scale evaluations of education programs and practices supported by federal funds; provides research-based technical assistance to educators and policymakers; and supports the synthesis and wide spread dissemination of the results of research and evaluation throughout the United States. It typically has about 30 evaluations underway at any given time, with topics ranging from college readiness and access, to math and literacy improvement strategies, school choice policies, and ways to improve low-performing schools and help students with disabilities. Its programs include the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), an Internet-based digital library—ongoing since 1966—that consists of more than 1.2 million indexed education research materials (journals, citations, abstracts, articles, books, conference and policy papers, technical reports); the Regional Educational Laboratory Program; and the National Library of Education. The NCEE is run by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current commissioner is Ruth Curran Neild, who has served since September 2012.

 

The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) sponsors research regarding special education designed to expand the knowledge and understanding of infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities. NCSER was established in 2004 by that year’s reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (pdf). That statute transferred responsibility for research in special education within the Department of Education from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to the Institute of Education Sciences. The NCSER has 31 grants and a research center valued at $82 million and, as of FY 2010, had invested more than $72 million in research to support young children with or at risk of developing disabilities. The NCSER is run by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current commissioner is Deborah Speece.

 

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) promotes informed educational decision making by providing easy access to databases and user-friendly reports that review the effectiveness of replicable educational interventions (programs, products, practices, and policies) intended to improve student outcomes. WWC selects topics on which to complete and disseminate its reviews. Dr. Jill Constantine is the project director of the What Works Clearinghouse. She is senior economist, education area leader, and associate director of research at Mathematica Policy Research Inc., which has a contract with IES to run WWC.

 

The National Board for Education Sciences (NBES) consists of up to15 voting members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The principal duties of the NBES include approving the research priorities of the IES, advising the director of the IES generally, reviewing the organization’s work to ensure quality, approving procedures for technical and scientific peer review of the activities of the IES, and serving as a conduit between the IES and the field of education research. The chair of the NBES is Dr. Bridget Terry Long, and the following serve as nonvoting ex officio members: the director of IES, the four commissioners of the National Education Centers, the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the director of the Census, the commissioner of Labor Statistics, and the director of the National Science Foundation. The NBES appointed Dr. Monica Herk as its executive director in 2011.

 

From the Web Site of the Institute of Education Sciences

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Where Does the Money Go:

Major stakeholders include the many colleges and universities that have won grants (pdf) from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the private organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, that have obtained IES grants, the millions of students and their parents who are affected by the policy implications and changes inferred from IES research projects, teachers, educational policymakers and administrators, and taxpayers generally.

 

The IES has spent more than $941.1 million on nearly 900 contractor transactions since its establishment in FY 2002, according to USAspending.gov. The top four types of products or services purchased by the IES during that 10-year period have been education and training ($631,153,393), non-scientific study/data ($87,289,437), educational services ($61,284,274), and technical assistance ($27,893,329). The top five contractors that have been the recipients of that contractor spending are:

 

1. Oak Ridge Associated Universities Inc.                                                     $630,830,511

2. American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences                    $159,615,859

3. Pennsylvania State University                                                                       $19,172,045

4. Education Northwest                                                                                     $15,196,238

5. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning                                             $12,152,502

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Controversies:

Home-Schooling

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) reported in 2012 that more than one million students in the U.S. were home-schooled, drawing attention to a highly controversial topic in education.

 

The home-schooled movement in recent years has been driven by many Christian families who objected to the secular curriculum in public schools. The IES reported that home-schooling was more prevalent among white families than Black or Hispanic ones, with Caucasian families making up about 77% of the total.

 

Advocates have gotten a boost from some prestigious universities, including Harvard, which not only recognized home-schooling as a legitimate alternative to traditional classroom education (despite its costs to parents who home-school), but even lauded its achievements in teaching children.

Home-Schooling Grows More Popular (by Michael Robinson, Philadelphia Tribune)

Home Schooling Should Be Banned (Debatewise)

What Are the Disadvantages of Home Schooling? (All About Parenting)

Ron Paul Rolls Out New Homeschool Curriculum (Freedom Outpost)

 

Effectiveness of Charter Schools — IES Evaluation

The IES released a study in 2010 evaluating the effectiveness of charter schools and offering numerous findings.

 

The IES reported that as of November 2009, there were more than 5,000 charter schools in the U.S. serving more than 1.5 million students—about 3% of all public school students—in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

 

After examining 36 charter middle schools located in 15 states, the IES concluded:

 

  • Charter middle schools that hold lotteries were neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.

 

  • The impact of charter middle schools on student achievement varied significantly across schools.

 

  • In the study, charter schools that served more low income or low achieving students had statistically significant positive effects on math test scores, while charter schools serving more advantaged students—those with higher income and prior achievement—had significant negative effects on math test scores.

The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts (U.S. Department of Education)

What Makes Urban Charter Schools Effective? (by Eric Jaffe, Atlantic Cities)

Shuttering Bad Charter Schools (New York Times)

Charter School Experiment a Success: Our View (USA Today)

 

Controversy over Education Research and Randomized Trials

In the wake of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind law, educators were instructed by policymakers to rely more on “scientifically based” research. But by the end of the Bush era, officials in education found themselves confronted with a mixed bag of methods and research that often was labeled inconclusive, politically charged or less than useful for classroom teachers.

 

During a meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), critics said education researchers too often focused on topics that didn’t help schools solve practical problems such as how to train teachers, improve skills, and lower dropout rates.

 

“Some good work is getting done, but the balance of influence in AERA is not with people doing rigorous, carefully designed, obviously important research,” Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, told USA Today.

 

Another point of contention revolved around randomized trials and their use in evaluating educational methods.

 

Critics labeled the trials as unethical, saying students in the experimental group were subjected to methods that were not only ineffective but harmful, while students in the control group were denied the benefits of new and useful methods.

 

Others argued that educational outcomes depended on more factors than could be controlled by a randomized trial, as in medicine, leading to doubts about whether the results were truly “scientific.”

 

Still others criticized the emphasis on randomized trials in the absence of additional funding for schools that agreed to implement them.

Usefulness of Education Research Questioned (by Greg Toppo, USA Today)

Searching for Science to Guide Good Teaching (by Maria Glod, Washington Post)

What can educators learn from the Red Sox? (by Beth Gamse and Judith Singer, Usable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School of Education) 

What Does Scientifically Based Research Mean for Schools? (by Lesley Dahlkemper, SEDL Letter)

 

Reading Programs Suffers Due to Conflicts of Interest

The Bush administration’s $6 billion reading program created by the No Child Left Behind law failed to help students better understand what they read in school, and unaddressed conflicts of interests may have played a role in the failure.

 

Contractors hired to advise states on which teaching materials to buy turned out to have financial ties to publishers of Reading First materials, according to congressional investigators and the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, John Higgins.

 

Higgins told lawmakers that the department failed to comply with the law when setting up panels that would review grant applications and establishing criteria for what teaching materials could be used.

 

Representative George Miller (D-California) said these problems could explain why the reading program wasn’t successful.

 

“Because of the corruption in the Reading First program, districts and schools were steered toward certain reading programs and products that may not have provided the most effective instruction for students,” Miller told USA Today.

 

Conflicts of interest also arose with the Education Department’s assessment of the reading program. RMC Research Corp., a contractor that had helped implement the Reading First program, turned out to have also performed the department’s study.

Buyers and Sellers of Education Research (by J.E. Stone, Chronicle of Higher Education) (pdf)

Study: Bush Administration's Reading Program Hasn't Helped (by Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press)

Bilingual Report Gets Shelved After 3 Years (by Greg Toppo, USA Today)

 

Privacy Rights

Privacy rights advocates complained in 2005 about a U.S. Department of Education plan that would require colleges and universities to log personal information on individual students into a national government database.

 

The change would mean the government expanding beyond collecting personal data for students receiving federal aid to include all college students.

 

The information would include Social Security numbers, gender, dates of birth, home addresses, race, ethnicity, college course histories, attendance records, and financial aid details. And the fear was that the FBI or the Department of Justice could access the information in violation of privacy rights.

 

Only two years earlier, the National Assessment of Educational Progress decided to cut back on collecting data about students, saying the surveys had become too intrusive, among other concerns.

 

During the Obama administration, the Institute of Education Sciences awarded grants to state education departments for the design and implementation of statewide longitudinal data systems—while adhering to laws protecting student privacy and confidentiality.

Plan to Gather Student Data Draws Fire (by Michael Janofsky, New York Times)

U.S. Officials Pull Questions From Surveys About Children (by Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times)

20 States Win Grants For Longitudinal Data Systems (National Center for Education Statistics)

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Suggested Reforms:

AERA Proposals for IES

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) urged Congress in 2011 to make changes regarding the independence of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the agency’s statistics-gathering office, the National Center for Education Statistics.

 

The AERA complained lawmakers placed too many restrictions in 2002 on the IES, as well as gave it too much control over the statistics center.

 

The association recommended the law be amended to allow the head of the center to report to the secretary of education, instead of reporting to the IES.

 

AERA officials also wanted the IES to receive more autonomy by eliminating mandates on the institute’s research priorities, including getting rid of certain research definitions and methodologies, broadening its scope by boosting the number of research topics the IES was allowed to study (in 2011, it was 13), and removing the restriction that it spend half its money on projects that would last at least five years.

Education Researchers Call for More Independence for Federal Agency That Supports Them (by Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Guest Post: A Better Prescription for Fixing Federal Higher Education Research (by Jon Oberg, New America Foundation)

 

Reauthorizing the ESRA

Russ Whitehurst, the founding director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill in 2011 to reauthorize the law that created the agency 10 years earlier.

 

Whitehurst, now the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, praised the adoption of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which led to the establishment of the IES and “made great strides towards improving the quality and independence of federally sponsored education research. Prior to that legislation, the federal stewardship of education research was widely viewed as a failure,” he told the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

 

In calling for the ESRA to be renewed, Whitehurst argued that the IES had improved the “quality and rigor of education research within the Department of Education and increased the demand for scientifically based evidence of effectiveness in the education field as a whole.”

 

In addition to Whitehurst, the Council for Exceptional Children also recommended reauthorization and suggested reforms such as strengthening the mission of the ESRA by emphasizing lifelong learning, revising its standards, developing peer-review procedures for grant applications, and fostering more special/gifted educational opportunities in the IES.

The Federal Role in Education Research: Providing Relevant Information to Students, Parents, and Educators (by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Brookings Institution)

CEC’s Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (Council for Exceptional Children)

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Debate:

Should funding continue for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships?

The District of Columbia School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 established the first federally funded, private school voucher program in the United States.

 

Republicans, who have long advocated for school vouchers, hailed the new program, while Democrats expressed their displeasure at using taxpayer dollars to subsidize the sending of children to private schools.

 

From 2004 to 2012, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) awarded 4,900 scholarships, with 90% of the recipients coming from Black and single-parent, low-income households.

 

The OSP stopped accepting new applicants in 2009. Then in 2011, President Barack Obama signed legislation extending the scholarships as part of a broader budget deal that averted government shutdown.

 

But then in 2012, Obama called for eliminating all funding for the OSP, which angered Republicans and other conservatives.

Much-Debated Scholarship Program for D.C. Students Is Renewed (by Adeshina Emmanuel, New York Times)

 

Pro (Yes, the program has been a great success):

Supporters of the OSP have labeled it a great success, citing statistics from the Institute of Education Sciences showing 91% of students who used the opportunity scholarships graduated from high school. The IES also found a statistically significant positive impact on reading test scores as a result of the OSP.

 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) have been two of the more outspoken supporters of the program. Others have hailed it as a rare government programs that produces a positive return on taxpayer investment.

 

Boehner said in a prepared statement that the OSP “empowered low-income parents to choose the best learning environment for their children.” He also said there was “strong evidence that it’s both effective and cost-effective.”

Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (Institute of Education Sciences)

Obama Should Look to the Boehner Model for Improving Education (by Peter Roff, U.S. News & World Report)

D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: Opportunity and Return on Investment (by Brittany Corona, Foundry)

Study: D.C. Voucher Program ‘Opportunity Scholarship Program’ Shows Economic Benefit (Dr. Wilda)

 

Con (No, there’s no money in the budget, and something has to give):

Officials in the Obama administration had admitted their agency’s own numbers show the OSP’s success in helping disadvantaged students. But in these tough economic times, the government must make difficult and unpopular decisions in order to reduce federal expenditures, which is why they called for cutting OSP support.

 

Opponents of the program have not shed any tears over trying to defund it. They are ideological opposed to giving out taxpayer-supported vouchers, and the OSP’s success can only embolden Republicans to push more for such programs at the expense of the U.S. Treasury, critics say.

Obama Seeks to Eliminate D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (by Karla Dial, Citizen Link)

Obama Budget Ends Funding for D.C. School Choice Program (by Lindsey Burke, The Foundry)

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Former Directors:

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst              November 2002 – November 2008

 

Sue Betka (Acting Director)               November 2008 – May 2009

 

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Founded: 2002
Annual Budget: $621.2 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 200 (FY 2013)
Official Website: http://ies.ed.gov/
Institute of Education Sciences
Easton, John
Director

John Q. Easton has Education Secretary Arne Duncan to thank for his new job in Washington as head of the Institute of Education Sciences. A longtime specialist in education research from Chicago, Easton has known Duncan for nearly 20 years as a result of his work both in and for the Windy City’s public schools system.

 
A resident of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood since 1973, Easton, 59, attended college at Hobart College in Geneva, NY, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1971. He went on to graduate school at Western Washington University, earning his master’s in psychology in 1973, and his PhD in measurement, evaluation, and statistical analysis from the University of Chicago in 1981.
 
While finishing his dissertation, Easton worked as a consultant for the Department of Research and Evaluation in the Chicago public schools system. In 1981, he became the director of research at the Center for Teaching and Learning at City College of Chicago, and he left in 1984 to return to the public schools as a research specialist in the Department of Equal Educational Opportunity.
 
Five years later, Easton joined the Chicago Panel on School Policy as the director of monitoring and research, helping to evaluate programs for the public schools. While still in this position he helped found, in 1990, the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), an organization dedicated to analyzing the policies that govern Chicago Public Schools. CCSR is part of a larger initiative at the University of Chicago that’s part of the Urban Education Institute to improve urban education through research, creating charter schools, training teachers and improving curriculum.
 
It was during the early 1990s that Easton first met Duncan, who was then involved in creating a Southside Chicago community school and sought Easton’s expertise on school data.
 
In 1994, Easton left the Chicago Panel on School Policy to again rejoin the public schools system, this time as director of the Department of Research, Evaluation and Assessment.
 
He then went to work for CCSR in 1997 as deputy director, and in 2002, he was elevated to executive director, where he remained until his appointment by President Obama to lead the Institute of Education Sciences. From 2001 to 2002, he also served for the second time as director of the Department of Research, Analysis, and Assessment for the Chicago public school system. In addition, he served on the National Assessment Governing Board (2003-2007), an independent board that sets policies for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”
 
Easton’s research at CCSR has focused on trends in achievement test scores and the use of test scores in school accountability efforts and improvement. He also co-authored a recent study on the relationship between the academic performance of freshmen and high school graduation.
 
While in charge of CCSR, Easton forged a productive relationship with Duncan, the one-time head of the Chicago public schools system. Duncan once said of specialists like Easton at CCSR: “They are not ivory tower researchers. These are people who roll up their sleeves and get out to the schools and conduct research that is applicable to real situations.”
 
Easton has served on several boards and committees, including: the American Educational Research Association’s Relating Research to Practice Award Committee (2007- current); vice chair of the Committee on Standards, Design and Methodology for the National Assessment Governing Board; the National Council on Educational Measurement’s Brenda Loyd Dissertation Award Committee (2005 – 2008); and as an advisory board member for the Center for Child Welfare and Education at Northern Illinois University (2001 - current).
 
Easton is the co-author of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, a book that studies Chicago’s 20-year-old experiment in public school decentralization, evaluating one hundred elementary schools that improved and one hundred that did not.
 
John Easton Biography (Department of Education)
John Easton Biography (Consortium on Chicago School Research)
John Easton Biography (The National Academies)
John Q. Easton (Who Runs Gov, Washington Post)
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Whitehurst, Grover
Previous Director
Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst became the first Director of IES in November 2002 and served until November 2008. Born and raised in Washington, North Carolina, he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at East Carolina University, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in child psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Whitehurst joined the faculty at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1970 and eventually rose to the position of Chairman of the Department of Psychology. He also taught at the University of New South Wales in Australia and was Academic Vice President of the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit.  In government, he served as assistant secretary for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the predecessor to the IES, where he established the What Works Clearinghouse. 
After leaving the IES, Whitehurst became the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.
 
“The view of education that may be ruled out is that education is an art and it will never be more than accumulated craft wisdom. These are very pessimistic views of education.”
-Russ Whitehurst, 2003
 
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the primary research arm of the Department of Education (ED), and comprises four “National Centers” devoted to supporting and disseminating scientific research related to education, which basically means the use of randomized trials in evaluating educational methods. Randomized trials always involve the comparison of results between an experimental group, which is taught using the new method under study, and a control group, which is taught using traditional methods. The idea behind the IES is to boost this sort of research while reducing political influence on that research. The four national centers fund, evaluate, and disseminate such research, while the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES) advises the IES Director on the agency’s policies, priorities, and procedures. IES works with the Office of Innovation and Improvement and the What Works Clearinghouse, which is designed as a resource for educational decision-makers in selecting programs and practices based on scientific research. IES also evaluates programs and grants for the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

more
History:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) was established by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (pdf), which President George W. Bush signed into law on November 5, 2002. This law eliminated the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) and replaced it with the IES[D1] . The reason for this action was that the federal education research field was seen as needing a shot in the arm, and the creation of IES was viewed as a solution, one that would inject that arena with a strong dose of “scientific rigor.” Bush signed the law claiming that the “act will substantially strengthen the scientific basis” for the ED’s work.

 

The legislation behind the law, HR 3801, was authored by Delaware Republican Congressman Michael N. Castle, then-chairman of the Subcommittee on Education Reform of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Castle claimed that his goal was to curtail what he perceived as a trend to follow "one education fad after another," and replace it with exhaustive studies that would make recommendations for improved teaching methods. The plan was to have IES exist as part of the ED but function as a separate entity under the watchful eye of the presidentially appointed 15-member NBES.

 

Although the new law received considerable support, critics expressed concern over how independent IES would actually be from the ED. Former ED Assistant Secretary of Research and Improvement Chester Finn said, “There’s less here than meets the eye. Odds are, most money will continue to go where it’s already gone.” In fact, funding for marginally successful R&D centers was reduced, to the dismay of researchers.

 

The OERI, the agency being replaced by the IES, had been created in 1979 by the same legislation that gave birth to the ED. Its function had been to develop and distribute education research via sponsorship of five national institutes, 10 regional laboratories, and a dozen research-and-development centers. The goal of the new law was to reconstitute many of the OERI’s functions under the umbrella of a reinvigorated, politically independent entity.

 

 

 

 

more
What it Does:

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is run by a director, whom the President nominates and the Senate confirms for a six-year term. The IES comprises the following major administrative components.

 

The National Center for Education Research (NCER) supports education research through grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. In FY 2010, $162.9 million was appropriated to the NCER by the IES for research, development, and dissemination. That year, the NCER received 1,000 grant applications, of which it issued 108 awards with a value of $282 million. Most recently, the NCER awarded 33 new grants in its FY 2012 Education Research Grants Program. Those programs address education practices, policies, and programs in the following areas: reading and writing, math and science education, teacher quality, education leadership, education policy and finance, cognition and student learning, high school reform, and postsecondary education. The NCER is administered by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current acting commissioner is Elizabeth Albro, who has served since 2011.

 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. The agency’s mission is to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally. The NCES conducts numerous broad surveys of education, issues annual reports, publishes a yearly Digest of Education Statistics, and provides an integrated collection of the indicators and analyses published in The Condition of Education between 2000 and 2012. The NCES is administered by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current commissioner is Jack Buckley, who has served since 2010.

 

The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) conducts large-scale evaluations of education programs and practices supported by federal funds; provides research-based technical assistance to educators and policymakers; and supports the synthesis and wide spread dissemination of the results of research and evaluation throughout the United States. It typically has about 30 evaluations underway at any given time, with topics ranging from college readiness and access, to math and literacy improvement strategies, school choice policies, and ways to improve low-performing schools and help students with disabilities. Its programs include the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), an Internet-based digital library—ongoing since 1966—that consists of more than 1.2 million indexed education research materials (journals, citations, abstracts, articles, books, conference and policy papers, technical reports); the Regional Educational Laboratory Program; and the National Library of Education. The NCEE is run by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current commissioner is Ruth Curran Neild, who has served since September 2012.

 

The National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) sponsors research regarding special education designed to expand the knowledge and understanding of infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities. NCSER was established in 2004 by that year’s reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (pdf). That statute transferred responsibility for research in special education within the Department of Education from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to the Institute of Education Sciences. The NCSER has 31 grants and a research center valued at $82 million and, as of FY 2010, had invested more than $72 million in research to support young children with or at risk of developing disabilities. The NCSER is run by a commissioner, who is appointed by the director of the IES. The current commissioner is Deborah Speece.

 

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) promotes informed educational decision making by providing easy access to databases and user-friendly reports that review the effectiveness of replicable educational interventions (programs, products, practices, and policies) intended to improve student outcomes. WWC selects topics on which to complete and disseminate its reviews. Dr. Jill Constantine is the project director of the What Works Clearinghouse. She is senior economist, education area leader, and associate director of research at Mathematica Policy Research Inc., which has a contract with IES to run WWC.

 

The National Board for Education Sciences (NBES) consists of up to15 voting members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The principal duties of the NBES include approving the research priorities of the IES, advising the director of the IES generally, reviewing the organization’s work to ensure quality, approving procedures for technical and scientific peer review of the activities of the IES, and serving as a conduit between the IES and the field of education research. The chair of the NBES is Dr. Bridget Terry Long, and the following serve as nonvoting ex officio members: the director of IES, the four commissioners of the National Education Centers, the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the director of the Census, the commissioner of Labor Statistics, and the director of the National Science Foundation. The NBES appointed Dr. Monica Herk as its executive director in 2011.

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

Major stakeholders include the many colleges and universities that have won grants (pdf) from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the private organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, that have obtained IES grants, the millions of students and their parents who are affected by the policy implications and changes inferred from IES research projects, teachers, educational policymakers and administrators, and taxpayers generally.

 

The IES has spent more than $941.1 million on nearly 900 contractor transactions since its establishment in FY 2002, according to USAspending.gov. The top four types of products or services purchased by the IES during that 10-year period have been education and training ($631,153,393), non-scientific study/data ($87,289,437), educational services ($61,284,274), and technical assistance ($27,893,329). The top five contractors that have been the recipients of that contractor spending are:

 

1. Oak Ridge Associated Universities Inc.                                                     $630,830,511

2. American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences                    $159,615,859

3. Pennsylvania State University                                                                       $19,172,045

4. Education Northwest                                                                                     $15,196,238

5. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning                                             $12,152,502

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Controversies:

Home-Schooling

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) reported in 2012 that more than one million students in the U.S. were home-schooled, drawing attention to a highly controversial topic in education.

 

The home-schooled movement in recent years has been driven by many Christian families who objected to the secular curriculum in public schools. The IES reported that home-schooling was more prevalent among white families than Black or Hispanic ones, with Caucasian families making up about 77% of the total.

 

Advocates have gotten a boost from some prestigious universities, including Harvard, which not only recognized home-schooling as a legitimate alternative to traditional classroom education (despite its costs to parents who home-school), but even lauded its achievements in teaching children.

Home-Schooling Grows More Popular (by Michael Robinson, Philadelphia Tribune)

Home Schooling Should Be Banned (Debatewise)

What Are the Disadvantages of Home Schooling? (All About Parenting)

Ron Paul Rolls Out New Homeschool Curriculum (Freedom Outpost)

 

Effectiveness of Charter Schools — IES Evaluation

The IES released a study in 2010 evaluating the effectiveness of charter schools and offering numerous findings.

 

The IES reported that as of November 2009, there were more than 5,000 charter schools in the U.S. serving more than 1.5 million students—about 3% of all public school students—in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

 

After examining 36 charter middle schools located in 15 states, the IES concluded:

 

  • Charter middle schools that hold lotteries were neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.

 

  • The impact of charter middle schools on student achievement varied significantly across schools.

 

  • In the study, charter schools that served more low income or low achieving students had statistically significant positive effects on math test scores, while charter schools serving more advantaged students—those with higher income and prior achievement—had significant negative effects on math test scores.

The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts (U.S. Department of Education)

What Makes Urban Charter Schools Effective? (by Eric Jaffe, Atlantic Cities)

Shuttering Bad Charter Schools (New York Times)

Charter School Experiment a Success: Our View (USA Today)

 

Controversy over Education Research and Randomized Trials

In the wake of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind law, educators were instructed by policymakers to rely more on “scientifically based” research. But by the end of the Bush era, officials in education found themselves confronted with a mixed bag of methods and research that often was labeled inconclusive, politically charged or less than useful for classroom teachers.

 

During a meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), critics said education researchers too often focused on topics that didn’t help schools solve practical problems such as how to train teachers, improve skills, and lower dropout rates.

 

“Some good work is getting done, but the balance of influence in AERA is not with people doing rigorous, carefully designed, obviously important research,” Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, told USA Today.

 

Another point of contention revolved around randomized trials and their use in evaluating educational methods.

 

Critics labeled the trials as unethical, saying students in the experimental group were subjected to methods that were not only ineffective but harmful, while students in the control group were denied the benefits of new and useful methods.

 

Others argued that educational outcomes depended on more factors than could be controlled by a randomized trial, as in medicine, leading to doubts about whether the results were truly “scientific.”

 

Still others criticized the emphasis on randomized trials in the absence of additional funding for schools that agreed to implement them.

Usefulness of Education Research Questioned (by Greg Toppo, USA Today)

Searching for Science to Guide Good Teaching (by Maria Glod, Washington Post)

What can educators learn from the Red Sox? (by Beth Gamse and Judith Singer, Usable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School of Education) 

What Does Scientifically Based Research Mean for Schools? (by Lesley Dahlkemper, SEDL Letter)

 

Reading Programs Suffers Due to Conflicts of Interest

The Bush administration’s $6 billion reading program created by the No Child Left Behind law failed to help students better understand what they read in school, and unaddressed conflicts of interests may have played a role in the failure.

 

Contractors hired to advise states on which teaching materials to buy turned out to have financial ties to publishers of Reading First materials, according to congressional investigators and the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, John Higgins.

 

Higgins told lawmakers that the department failed to comply with the law when setting up panels that would review grant applications and establishing criteria for what teaching materials could be used.

 

Representative George Miller (D-California) said these problems could explain why the reading program wasn’t successful.

 

“Because of the corruption in the Reading First program, districts and schools were steered toward certain reading programs and products that may not have provided the most effective instruction for students,” Miller told USA Today.

 

Conflicts of interest also arose with the Education Department’s assessment of the reading program. RMC Research Corp., a contractor that had helped implement the Reading First program, turned out to have also performed the department’s study.

Buyers and Sellers of Education Research (by J.E. Stone, Chronicle of Higher Education) (pdf)

Study: Bush Administration's Reading Program Hasn't Helped (by Nancy Zuckerbrod, Associated Press)

Bilingual Report Gets Shelved After 3 Years (by Greg Toppo, USA Today)

 

Privacy Rights

Privacy rights advocates complained in 2005 about a U.S. Department of Education plan that would require colleges and universities to log personal information on individual students into a national government database.

 

The change would mean the government expanding beyond collecting personal data for students receiving federal aid to include all college students.

 

The information would include Social Security numbers, gender, dates of birth, home addresses, race, ethnicity, college course histories, attendance records, and financial aid details. And the fear was that the FBI or the Department of Justice could access the information in violation of privacy rights.

 

Only two years earlier, the National Assessment of Educational Progress decided to cut back on collecting data about students, saying the surveys had become too intrusive, among other concerns.

 

During the Obama administration, the Institute of Education Sciences awarded grants to state education departments for the design and implementation of statewide longitudinal data systems—while adhering to laws protecting student privacy and confidentiality.

Plan to Gather Student Data Draws Fire (by Michael Janofsky, New York Times)

U.S. Officials Pull Questions From Surveys About Children (by Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times)

20 States Win Grants For Longitudinal Data Systems (National Center for Education Statistics)

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Suggested Reforms:

AERA Proposals for IES

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) urged Congress in 2011 to make changes regarding the independence of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the agency’s statistics-gathering office, the National Center for Education Statistics.

 

The AERA complained lawmakers placed too many restrictions in 2002 on the IES, as well as gave it too much control over the statistics center.

 

The association recommended the law be amended to allow the head of the center to report to the secretary of education, instead of reporting to the IES.

 

AERA officials also wanted the IES to receive more autonomy by eliminating mandates on the institute’s research priorities, including getting rid of certain research definitions and methodologies, broadening its scope by boosting the number of research topics the IES was allowed to study (in 2011, it was 13), and removing the restriction that it spend half its money on projects that would last at least five years.

Education Researchers Call for More Independence for Federal Agency That Supports Them (by Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Guest Post: A Better Prescription for Fixing Federal Higher Education Research (by Jon Oberg, New America Foundation)

 

Reauthorizing the ESRA

Russ Whitehurst, the founding director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill in 2011 to reauthorize the law that created the agency 10 years earlier.

 

Whitehurst, now the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, praised the adoption of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which led to the establishment of the IES and “made great strides towards improving the quality and independence of federally sponsored education research. Prior to that legislation, the federal stewardship of education research was widely viewed as a failure,” he told the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.

 

In calling for the ESRA to be renewed, Whitehurst argued that the IES had improved the “quality and rigor of education research within the Department of Education and increased the demand for scientifically based evidence of effectiveness in the education field as a whole.”

 

In addition to Whitehurst, the Council for Exceptional Children also recommended reauthorization and suggested reforms such as strengthening the mission of the ESRA by emphasizing lifelong learning, revising its standards, developing peer-review procedures for grant applications, and fostering more special/gifted educational opportunities in the IES.

The Federal Role in Education Research: Providing Relevant Information to Students, Parents, and Educators (by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Brookings Institution)

CEC’s Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (Council for Exceptional Children)

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Debate:

Should funding continue for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships?

The District of Columbia School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 established the first federally funded, private school voucher program in the United States.

 

Republicans, who have long advocated for school vouchers, hailed the new program, while Democrats expressed their displeasure at using taxpayer dollars to subsidize the sending of children to private schools.

 

From 2004 to 2012, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) awarded 4,900 scholarships, with 90% of the recipients coming from Black and single-parent, low-income households.

 

The OSP stopped accepting new applicants in 2009. Then in 2011, President Barack Obama signed legislation extending the scholarships as part of a broader budget deal that averted government shutdown.

 

But then in 2012, Obama called for eliminating all funding for the OSP, which angered Republicans and other conservatives.

Much-Debated Scholarship Program for D.C. Students Is Renewed (by Adeshina Emmanuel, New York Times)

 

Pro (Yes, the program has been a great success):

Supporters of the OSP have labeled it a great success, citing statistics from the Institute of Education Sciences showing 91% of students who used the opportunity scholarships graduated from high school. The IES also found a statistically significant positive impact on reading test scores as a result of the OSP.

 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) have been two of the more outspoken supporters of the program. Others have hailed it as a rare government programs that produces a positive return on taxpayer investment.

 

Boehner said in a prepared statement that the OSP “empowered low-income parents to choose the best learning environment for their children.” He also said there was “strong evidence that it’s both effective and cost-effective.”

Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (Institute of Education Sciences)

Obama Should Look to the Boehner Model for Improving Education (by Peter Roff, U.S. News & World Report)

D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: Opportunity and Return on Investment (by Brittany Corona, Foundry)

Study: D.C. Voucher Program ‘Opportunity Scholarship Program’ Shows Economic Benefit (Dr. Wilda)

 

Con (No, there’s no money in the budget, and something has to give):

Officials in the Obama administration had admitted their agency’s own numbers show the OSP’s success in helping disadvantaged students. But in these tough economic times, the government must make difficult and unpopular decisions in order to reduce federal expenditures, which is why they called for cutting OSP support.

 

Opponents of the program have not shed any tears over trying to defund it. They are ideological opposed to giving out taxpayer-supported vouchers, and the OSP’s success can only embolden Republicans to push more for such programs at the expense of the U.S. Treasury, critics say.

Obama Seeks to Eliminate D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (by Karla Dial, Citizen Link)

Obama Budget Ends Funding for D.C. School Choice Program (by Lindsey Burke, The Foundry)

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Former Directors:

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst              November 2002 – November 2008

 

Sue Betka (Acting Director)               November 2008 – May 2009

 

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Founded: 2002
Annual Budget: $621.2 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 200 (FY 2013)
Official Website: http://ies.ed.gov/
Institute of Education Sciences
Easton, John
Director

John Q. Easton has Education Secretary Arne Duncan to thank for his new job in Washington as head of the Institute of Education Sciences. A longtime specialist in education research from Chicago, Easton has known Duncan for nearly 20 years as a result of his work both in and for the Windy City’s public schools system.

 
A resident of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood since 1973, Easton, 59, attended college at Hobart College in Geneva, NY, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1971. He went on to graduate school at Western Washington University, earning his master’s in psychology in 1973, and his PhD in measurement, evaluation, and statistical analysis from the University of Chicago in 1981.
 
While finishing his dissertation, Easton worked as a consultant for the Department of Research and Evaluation in the Chicago public schools system. In 1981, he became the director of research at the Center for Teaching and Learning at City College of Chicago, and he left in 1984 to return to the public schools as a research specialist in the Department of Equal Educational Opportunity.
 
Five years later, Easton joined the Chicago Panel on School Policy as the director of monitoring and research, helping to evaluate programs for the public schools. While still in this position he helped found, in 1990, the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), an organization dedicated to analyzing the policies that govern Chicago Public Schools. CCSR is part of a larger initiative at the University of Chicago that’s part of the Urban Education Institute to improve urban education through research, creating charter schools, training teachers and improving curriculum.
 
It was during the early 1990s that Easton first met Duncan, who was then involved in creating a Southside Chicago community school and sought Easton’s expertise on school data.
 
In 1994, Easton left the Chicago Panel on School Policy to again rejoin the public schools system, this time as director of the Department of Research, Evaluation and Assessment.
 
He then went to work for CCSR in 1997 as deputy director, and in 2002, he was elevated to executive director, where he remained until his appointment by President Obama to lead the Institute of Education Sciences. From 2001 to 2002, he also served for the second time as director of the Department of Research, Analysis, and Assessment for the Chicago public school system. In addition, he served on the National Assessment Governing Board (2003-2007), an independent board that sets policies for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card.”
 
Easton’s research at CCSR has focused on trends in achievement test scores and the use of test scores in school accountability efforts and improvement. He also co-authored a recent study on the relationship between the academic performance of freshmen and high school graduation.
 
While in charge of CCSR, Easton forged a productive relationship with Duncan, the one-time head of the Chicago public schools system. Duncan once said of specialists like Easton at CCSR: “They are not ivory tower researchers. These are people who roll up their sleeves and get out to the schools and conduct research that is applicable to real situations.”
 
Easton has served on several boards and committees, including: the American Educational Research Association’s Relating Research to Practice Award Committee (2007- current); vice chair of the Committee on Standards, Design and Methodology for the National Assessment Governing Board; the National Council on Educational Measurement’s Brenda Loyd Dissertation Award Committee (2005 – 2008); and as an advisory board member for the Center for Child Welfare and Education at Northern Illinois University (2001 - current).
 
Easton is the co-author of Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, a book that studies Chicago’s 20-year-old experiment in public school decentralization, evaluating one hundred elementary schools that improved and one hundred that did not.
 
John Easton Biography (Department of Education)
John Easton Biography (Consortium on Chicago School Research)
John Easton Biography (The National Academies)
John Q. Easton (Who Runs Gov, Washington Post)
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Whitehurst, Grover
Previous Director
Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst became the first Director of IES in November 2002 and served until November 2008. Born and raised in Washington, North Carolina, he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at East Carolina University, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in child psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Whitehurst joined the faculty at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1970 and eventually rose to the position of Chairman of the Department of Psychology. He also taught at the University of New South Wales in Australia and was Academic Vice President of the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit.  In government, he served as assistant secretary for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the predecessor to the IES, where he established the What Works Clearinghouse. 
After leaving the IES, Whitehurst became the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.
 
“The view of education that may be ruled out is that education is an art and it will never be more than accumulated craft wisdom. These are very pessimistic views of education.”
-Russ Whitehurst, 2003
 
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