The Federal Role in Education Research: Four Big Points

November 30, 2011

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education earlier today, Grover (Russ) Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution discussed the federal role in education research and why it is critical to the nation’s effort to deliver better education and future opportunities to Americans. Whitehurst testified that the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) is overdue for reauthorization and suggested four principles that should underlie the law’s reauthorization.  Here are his top four points:

  • If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It ― Advocates of any significant changes in the language in the bill’s language should be asked: "What evidence do you have you that the current language has had bad effects?"
  • Independence Is Fundamental― One of the most important advances in ESRA was to create a greater degree of independence between the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm and the department’s political leadership.
  • The Regional Educational Lab Program (REL) Is Broken and Should be Fixed ― REL has pulled down a significant proportion of the total federal investment in education R&D with little to show of value. Whitehurst argued Congress should eliminate REL and substitute for it a research voucher program for state education departments.
  • You Get What You Pay For― Although federal budgetary support for education research has increased in the last decade, it remains a pittance when compared with levels of investment in research, evaluation, and statistics in other areas of the economy. In the U.S. Department of Education, the corresponding investment is less than 1%.

Whitehurst also argued that Congress' focus should be on creating incentives for practitioners and policymakers to incorporate findings and practices of the best education research around school performance--so it can be utilized in school.

Read his whole testimony in the link below.