New Director of N.I.E. Views Role as 'Image-Building'
QWhat is your opinion of the quality of the work currently being done at nie?
AThis is my fourth day here, and I'm just beginning to get a feeling for the institute. I've not really had a chance to study the current projects carefully.
QWhat are your general opinions about the quality of the institute's work during the past 10 years?
AI think nie has done a number of very good pieces of research. And I think it's important always to think of the good things. My own predisposition is to be positive and to look at things in a constructive context. The research in effective schools has been very well received in the field, and I think it's a body of knowledge that is really helping us better understand the factors that may well lead to effective school systems in the country. In the basic skills also, nie's research has shown some good news and some bad news.
QRegarding the operation and management of the nie, are there some practices used during the past 10 years that you are committed to changing?
AQuite honestly, it's a little too early to tell at this point. I'm a researcher; my predisposition is to go in and gather data and try to understand the organization as well as I can before arriving at any kind of a decision. Certainly I see my task as a very challenging one right now: to try to understand the institute in every possible way I can. And to find ways to strengthen it and to build upon the strength that we have.
QOne of the most common criticisms of the institute is that its leaders have failed to build a strong image of the nie and of educational research in general. Will you try to improve that situation?
AAbsolutely. The key to that is going to be through constituency building. nie has been very effective in working with the educational community and the educational researchers--and the educational research community is an important constituent of nie, but it's not the only constituency. nie needs to reach out and serve the needs of parents, practitioners, and Congress. My efforts as director will be to engage in a strong effort at building those constituencies, at developing the relationships within the educational community, inviting the input of the practitioners and of the field to help us better understand how we can best define our research agenda and to serve the needs of Congress.
QHow will you build support for the institute's work on Capitol Hill, where educational research traditionally has been poorly supported and understood?
AI certainly don't profess to have any secret formula, but I am committed to spending a great deal of my energy developing the relationship with Congress and ensuring that the work produced by nie is disseminated in a way that can be clearly understood. It's at the dissemination level that we must find more effective ways of ensuring that the valuable research being done here is presented and packaged in a useful form. I believe that Congress shares a lot of the same concerns that the parents share at the local level, and a lot of the inquiries [legislators] receive from their districts are based on fundamental concerns from practitioners and parents about education.
QHow do you interpret the institute's statutory mandate to help schools "provide every person with an equal opportunity to receive an education of high quality?"
AI am very comfortable with the Secretary [of Education Terrel H. Bell]'s priorities. The Secretary's priorities in the areas of basic education and improving student achievement reflect the need for equal educational activities for all the youngsters in this country. The various concerns in the areas of mathematics and science, how to make our schools more effective, and how to improve the efficiency of the schools, are very compatible with the Congressional mandates for nie
QDo you agree with other Reagan-appointed officials of the institute that nie has done enough research in women's issues, desegregation, and bilingual education?
AI realize that nie has been involved in research in those areas. Quite frankly, I don't know the extent to which the research has been done, and that's what I hope to learn about here in the next few months.
QEvery nie director has come to the institute with his or her own agenda, own priorities. What are yours?
AMy priority is twofold. One, the institute itself should exemplify the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in educational research. I think it should be exemplary, both in the work we do and the way in which the institute presents itself. Number two is to build nie's image. I think that the institute must reach out and find ways of responding to the needs of the American people and of ensuring that the good research that is being done here is communicated effectively.
QWhat are your priorities for the substance of research? Is there an area of education that, based on your experience, you believe the institute should pay particular attention to?
AI'm very supportive of Secretary Bell's priorities. The basic skills, effective schools, effective teaching, mathematics and science achievement, the attrition of teachers in mathematics and science. ... Those are all areas in which the institute needs to continue to provide a great deal of leadership and a great deal more research.
QRegarding the staffing of the institute, there have been announcements that nearly one-third of the institute's professional staff--those hired under the so-called excepted authority--are being replaced. Will you continue that practice?
AI think that the Congress was very wise in instituting the excepted authority at nie because it is a research institute, an organization that requires [people with] new perspectives to come in and provide the kind of expertise required for the research to be conducted and supported. I also believe very strongly that the Congress's intention was not to have the excepted authority become a means of permanent employment at nie It is important that we keep reminding ourselves of the fact that the excepted authority is there to provide the means to bring in new perspectives. How that is translated into practice will depend on the needs at the division level, on the assessment of the associate directors of the [needs] of their part of the program.