Research Should Focus on Improving Teaching, Educators Advise
Washington--The federal government ought to focus education research on improving teaching and fostering professionalism among teachers, a panel of prominent educators convened by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said at its final meeting last week.
The panel members, who gathered to offer advice on the Education Department's research priorities, touched on a broad range of issues in an all-day meeting last Thursday. They agreed that more money should be spent on statistics-gathering and research. They also said the department should undertake more syntheses of existing research and more international comparisons.
The group had met in April to advise the Secretary on the missions of the 11 research laboratories and centers sponsored by the National Institute of Education. Revised mission statements based on their comments were published in the Federal Register May 14. (See Education Week, May 22, 1985.)
The panel's second meeting was again chaired by Diane Ravitch, adjunct professor of education and history at Columbia University's Teachers College, and included Chester E. Finn, professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, who was nominated by President Reagan this month to the department's top research position, assistant secretary for educational research and improvement.
Bennett's Comments Examined
Before lunch, the panelists discussed research for special education, bilingual education, vocational and adult education, and the National Center for Education Statistics.
After lunch, they began a free-form discussion, based on Mr. Bennett's major public statements--specificially, his emphasis on parental choice, rigorous course content, and student character.
Mr. Finn and others observed that good teaching is intimately related to these topics, but said that what is important for research is to ''disag-gregate" the components of what makes one teacher or one teacher-education program better than another.
On the question of choice, Michael W. Kirst, Stanford University, professor of education, said that it might be more desirable to examine it on levels simpler than tuition tax credits and education vouchers, the two politically controversial means of promoting parental choice.
He suggested research on the effect of allowing parents to choose which teacher's class their children are assigned to.
Robert Glaser, director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, said one of the highest-priority items on the department's research agenda ought to be to "infuse a climate of research" in the field.
He was supported by Joseph Adelson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, who said the research budgets ought to be increased. The budget of the National Center for Education Statistics this year is $9 million; the National Institute of Education's is $51 million.
In closing the meeting, however, Wendell L. Willkie 2nd, Mr. Bennett's chief of staff, who represented the Secretary at the meeting, commented, "No promises on the budget of course."
As expected, Mr. Finn was nominated by President Reagan this3month for the post of assistant secretary of educational research and improvement, a position that requires Senate confirmation.
As the assistant secretary, Mr. Finn, 40, a native of Dayton, Ohio, and former aide to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan and President Nixon, would head the department's research effort and oversee the nie, whose authorizing legislation he helped draft a decade ago.
In 1981, he was former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell's choice to be deputy undersecretary of planning, budget, and evaluation, but was rejected by the White House, sources said, because he was not considered a strong enough supporter of the President's agenda.
Since then, he has been a profes-sor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University and a high-profile figure in the education-reform movement.--jh