Over at the National Journal‘s education blog, two top federal education officials have started a lively conversation on the role of innovation in education. The questions being posed by John Easton, the director of the department’s Institute of Education Sciences, and Jim Shelton, the chief of the office of innovation and improvement, are:
What are the essential components of an effective innovation, research, development, and dissemination infrastructure in education? How can we tap into the collective expertise of practitioners when designing and refining new school programs? Finally, what are the capabilities that need to exist at the local, state, and national levels and how should organizations that provide them fit together into a coherent whole?
The 17 responses so far run the gamut. Sandy Kress, President Bush’s former education adviser, argues for keeping rigorous research at the center of federal innovation efforts. Diane Ravitch, co-author of the Bridging Differences blog here at edweek.org, contends that too many education reforms are being imposed on schools by non-educators. Chad Wick, the CEO of KnowledgeWorks, blames the lack of a shared vision for education for the failure of the reforms tried so far. You’ll also find a pitch for charter schools, a call for more market-based incentives in education, and a critique of the focus on student test scores as a sole measure of education success in many new initiatives.
This is no idle conversation, though. Shelton’s office is overseeing a new grant program, funded with $650 million in economic-stimulus dollars, to promote and scale up innovative education strategies. Likewise, Easton’s office will soon be fixing new priorities for the research that gets funded by his institute and setting a new direction for the 10 education laboratories around the country that work with states and districts. The federal Education Sciences Reform Act, the law that gave birth to the institute, is also overdue to be reauthorized. Some of the ideas from this conversation may find their way into federal policy.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.