Bill makes research easier to access and more relevant at state, local levels
WASHINGTON, January 28 – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the respective Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate education committee, today announced that the committee passed legislation to improve the quality of education research in the United States and make research more relevant and usable for teachers, principals, school districts and states.
“Research on education can be very helpful to states, teachers, and school districts, but it has to be relevant and accessible, and this bill will go a long way to making it more useful for the people who need it most,” Alexander said. “It also strengthens the independence of an organization I recommended the creation of when I was governor, the National Assessment Governing Board—which oversees ‘The Nation’s Report Card,’ the most reliable instrument in elementary and secondary education to enable state and local leaders to make decisions about how to help students.”
"Strengthening education research will give teachers, school leaders, and policymakers valuable information on what works in the classroom, and it will help states and school districts raise achievement levels," Murray said. "This effort is the result of strong bipartisan work, and represents an important step toward ensuring our nation develops relevant and timely research on how to provide all students with access to a high-quality public education."
The Strengthening Education through Research Act would reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA), which authorizes funding for the research activities of the U.S. Department of Education, including the Institute for Education Sciences, and will help to improve the quality of education research in the United States and make research more relevant and usable for teachers, principals, school districts and states.
S. 227, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA), would amend and reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 through fiscal year 2021. This legislation makes a number of positive changes to the Institute for Education Sciences, a semi-independent agency within the Department of Education that conducts and oversees education research, as well as changes to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The legislation:
- Requires IES to identify research topics focused on ensuring that all students have the ability to obtain a high-quality education, improving access to and the quality of early childhood education, strengthening elementary and secondary schools, and increasing access to and completion of postsecondary education.
- Strengthens privacy provisions to ensure personally identifiable information collected by IES is secure and protected.
- Directs the Department of Education’s comprehensive centers, which provide technical assistance to states, to prioritize serving the needs of school districts and schools with higher numbers of low-income students and schools identified for improvement.
- Streamlines and reduces duplication within the federal education research system, by authorizing the consolidation or elimination of federal research laboratories and centers that are not effective, reducing the number of Comprehensive Centers from 22 to 17, and increasing coordination between laboratories and centers.
- Makes education research more relevant at the state and local levels.
- Improves accountability and protects the taxpayers’ investment by requiring regular evaluations of research and education programs by independent entities.
- Maintains prohibitions on federal funding being used to establish a nationwide database of individually identifiable information, as well as to mandate, direct, or control educational standards, curricula, or assessments.
- Requires collaboration between entities responsible for providing research analysis and technical assistance to states and school districts to ensure these efforts are more aligned and responsive to the needs of school districts and states.
- Strengthens the independence of the National Assessment Governing Board and its responsibility for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” which provides important information to state and local educational leaders on the academic achievement and progress of elementary and secondary school students.
- Enhances the relevancy of education research at the state and local levels by requiring federally-funded research to be relevant, utilized, and widely disseminated to teachers, students, parents, and policymakers.
- Authorizes increases the federal investment in research and technical assistance, including a substantial increase in funding for special education research.
- Allows States and school districts to access useful, relevant information more quickly to help raise student achievement levels in the classroom.
- A similar bill (H.R. 4366) passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on May 8, 2014. The Senate HELP Committee passed a Senate substitute to H.R. 4366 by voice vote on September 17, 2014 that is virtually identical to S. 227 and was developed as a bipartisan agreement between the House and Senate.