Washington Update

Bipartisan Bill Would Strengthen Educational Research

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The House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act, funding the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a semi-independent research arm of the Department of Education that conducts research, in part, on higher education. The bipartisan bill, known as the Strengthening Education through Research Act (HR 4366), was introduced by the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). The bill now awaits action in the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

HR 4366 addresses several challenges with the IES. A recent Government Accountability Office study found that the Institute of Education Sciences often took far too long to disseminate key research findings to states. The bill would make educational research more relevant at the state and local levels, streamline the federal education research system, and require regular evaluations of research and education programs to reduce redundancies and improve accountability for taxpayer funds.

The bill also replaces “scientifically based research standards” with the term “scientifically valid research” (SVR). The move to SVR upholds a strong standard of research, but is more inclusive than the current definition of the range of valid research methodologies utilized by IES. For example, the new definition allows IES to focus on those studies beyond experimental design and randomized controlled trials that help increase the relevance of the agency’s work. Moving to SVR also provides for consistency across definitions in the Higher Education Act and the Education Sciences Reform Act.

Legislative authorization for the Education Sciences Reform Act formally expired in 2008, although it has been funded through the appropriations process every year since then.

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