Despite Increase in Research Spending, Number of FederalAwards Declines
Washington--Continuing a trend documented in 1987, the number of federal awards for independent research in education declined in the past two years, as did the amount of federal resources devoted to evaluating education programs, a General Accounting Office official reported last week.
The decreases occurred even though overall appropriations for education research increased in the same period, according to Lois-ellin Datta, director of human-services program evaluation for the gao She said the situation had improved only marginally since the agency reported a signficant decline in the quality and quantity of federal education data nearly two years ago. (See Education Week, Jan. 13, 1988.)
Testifying at the second of two hearings on education information held by the Senate Subcommittee on Government Information and Regulation, Ms. Datta reported that:
The "downward trend" in individual awards for education research has continued. The gao counted 79 such awards in 1989, compared with 168 in 1985.
The proportion of the Education Department's research budget devoted to "mandated activities," primarily support of research laboratories and centers, continued to increase.
The previous declines in the number and dollar value of awards made by the department's office of planning, budget, and evaluation4for evaluation of education programs reversed, although "these numbers remain small" compared with the number made prior to 1980. In addition, Ms. Datta said, total resources allocated to evaluation of education programs, including staff work, continued to decline.
Local Statistics Lacking
The gao official also said the agency's recent study on the effects of education reform in four urban school districts indicates that data available at the local level may be inadequate for the type of assessments being contemplated following the President's education summit with governors.
The study examined the effects on disadvantaged students of such measures as stiffer graduation requirements and high-school "exit tests.'' (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1989.)
Ms. Datta said the agency found that the districts kept limited background data on students, making it difficult to identify those at risk of failure; that data on dropouts were extremely limited; and that inad8equate academic transcripts in two of the districts made it difficult to track trends in the courses students took.
Two other witnesses at the hearing, Gordon M. Ambach, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, called for expansion of the federal data-collection efforts.
Mr. Ambach advocated more funding to expand the National Assessment of National Progress.
But Emerson J. Elliott, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers naep, urged caution.
Expanding naep to allow comparisons at the school-district level, or even at the state level, would entail enormous expense and "present major management difficulties," Mr. Elliott said, and could be attempted only as "a phased process."