WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) praised the HELP Committee’s passage of the Strengthening Education through Research Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA). This legislation 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, school leaders, and school administrators.
“Smart education policy is driven by access to the most recent and highest quality education research available and today’s bill will help to achieve that goal,” Harkin said. “This bill is the result of strong bipartisan negotiations between House and Senate leaders and I thank my colleagues for the work on this important measure and look forward to moving this bill forward to the full Senate for consideration.”
“The Strengthening Education Through Research Act reduces overlap and duplication, strengthens the protection of student privacy, and ensures federally-funded education research is independent of political influences or bias,” Alexander said. “It also strengthens the independence of an organization I recommended the creation of when I was governor, the Nation Assessment Governing Board—which oversees ‘The Nation’s Report Card.’ This has become the most reliable instrument in elementary and secondary education to enable Tennessee’s state and local leaders to make decisions about how to help the approximately 1 million students in Tennessee achieve academically—and this act will make it even better.”
H.R. 4366, the Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA), would amend and reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 through fiscal year 2020. This legislation makes a number of positive changes to the Institute for Education Sciences, an independent institute within the Department of Education that conducts and oversees education research as well as changes to the State Longitudinal Data Systems program and 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 our elementary and secondary schools, and increasing access to and completion of postsecondary education.
- Makes education research more relevant at the state and local levels.
- 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.
- 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.
- Makes it easier for states and school districts to access useful data that can help raise student achievement levels in the classroom.
- Increases the federal investment in research and technical assistance, including a substantial increase in funding for special education research.
- 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.
- Improves accountability and protects the taxpayers’ investment by requiring regular evaluations of research and education programs by independent entities.
- 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.
- Strengthens privacy provisions to ensure personally identifiable information collected by IES is secure and protected.
The bill passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on May 8, 2014. The Senate substitute to H.R. 4366 makes a number of changes to the House bill in order to ensure the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) authority to develop its own plans for NCES, ensure the public has access to NCES public use data sets, require IES and the Department to make outcome-based decisions about RELs and comprehensive centers, and require comprehensive centers to prioritize serving schools and school districts with the highest number of children living in poverty.
The Senate substitute to SETRA is supported by Knowledge Alliance, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Results for America, Alliance for Excellent Education, Education Northwest, Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), SEDL, WestEd, Education Trust, the Data Quality Campaign, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), Council for Exceptional Children, the Learning and Education Academic Research Network (LEARN), Code.org, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, and Computing in the Core (CinC), the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), RMC, CTAC, FHI360, SRI International, National Council of State Directors of Adult Education, Education Development Center, McREL, Measured Progress, and AdvanceED.