On September 10, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), including the work of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Established by the ESRA in 2002 (as the successor of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement), IES is a federally funded educational research agency, 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. This information helps parents, teachers, and school administrators make decisions about their children’s learning experience, as well as provides policymakers valuable data about the federal investment in education. Additionally, state and local education officials can use IES research to identify and implement successful instructional programs, curriculum, and school improvement strategies. The hearing provided committee members an opportunity to discuss ways to improve the quality, timeliness, and usefulness of education research. Members also examined opportunities to strengthen the IES through the upcoming reauthorization of the ESRA.
With a few exceptions, the Committee members present praised the work IES has done and the strides it has made in educational research. There was a consensus from both the committee members and the witnesses that IES has reshaped educational research, making it more rigorous and of a higher-quality, akin to scientific and medical research. It has also been successful in building trust from its stakeholders as an independent authority on educational research and practice. Despite the research successes IES has had, there are several significant issues with its work. The most mentioned problem was that of disseminating the research and reports to practitioners and policymakers in an accessible and timely way. There was also concern about making IES research relevant to programs and policies currently important for the nation and states. Despite these issues, there was an agreement among the witnesses to continue to have this independent, unbiased research authority examining the effectiveness of educational programs and policies. The Hearing concluded with Chairman Rokita and Ranking Member Miller both recognizing the strengths and contributions of IES, but also these areas for improvement. Chairman Rokita stated that he is looking forwarding to reauthorizing ESRA, but, given the current fiscal condition, the committee must keep these goals in mind. Click here for the full summary of the hearing.