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Published in Print: April 12, 2000, as Research Update

Research Update

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Proposals Sought by Interagency Group


The federal government has begun soliciting grants for the second round of large-scale, interdisciplinary studies of "what works" in education. The Interagency Education Research Initiative—a joint partnership of the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development—announced the request for proposals last month.

Officials of the three agencies hope to support up to $38 million in grants in the current fiscal year, and up to $50 million in fiscal 2001, in two areas: innovative approaches to helping young children acquire math, reading, and science skills; and strategies to help older children understand more complex ideas in math and science.To qualify for grants, projects will have to involve experts from a variety of disciplines; employ rigorous research methodologies; use technology to implement or evaluate the learning approach; and specifically address the issue of how to "scale up" their programs to work in a variety of classrooms with students from diverse backgrounds.

Widespread Uses Sought

The initiative, which began last year, marks the first time that the three federal agencies have collaborated to provide funds for research into learning. It is based, in part, on the assumption that some of the best ideas lie on the boundaries between disciplines. ("$30 Million in Grants Will Support Research Across Diverse Fields," March 10, 1999.)

The $28.5 million in grants awarded last year supported activities ranging from a longitudinal study tracking the success of "whole school" improvement efforts in 20,000 schools to tests of an automated reading tutor with the ability to "listen" to students as they read aloud.

One of the program's goals is to determine how practices found effective in smaller, relatively controlled environments—or with small cohorts of teachers—can be implemented successfully by a wide variety of teachers in different educational settings.

"We're looking for practices that are really going to lead to improvement in student learning and achievement," said Jim Griffin, the program director for the initiative within the Education Department.

For that reason, he said, the emphasis will be on research that takes place in real-world classrooms, builds on the existing knowledge base, and has the potential to go to scale.

The initiative grew out of a 1997 report from the President's Committee of Advisers for Science and Technology, which recommended that the federal government "dramatically increase its investment in research aimed at discovering what actually works" in elementary and secondary education.

Planning grants will be for a maximum of $100,000 for up to 12 months; research grants could be up to $6 million for up to 60 months.

Prospective applicants must submit a letter of intent by April 19, for funding in fiscal 2000, or by Oct. 2, for funding in fiscal 2001. Proposals must be submitted by June 9, 2000, or Feb. 2, 2001. Letters of intent can be submitted by e-mail at ieri@nsf.gov.


Coverage of research is underwritten in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation. Send suggestions for possible Research section stories to Debra Viadero at dviadero@epe.org.

Vol. 19, Issue 31, Page 10

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