Education Letter to the Editor

Director Defends Federal Institute’s ‘Portfolio’ of Investments in Research

April 12, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

In an otherwise perceptive Commentary on scientifically based practice (“‘Scientifically Based Practice: It’s About More Than Improving the Quality of Research,” Commentary, March 23, 2005.), Deborah Stipek made inaccurate statements about the Institute of Education Sciences.

She writes that the focus of research at the institute is “on identifying effective teaching practices.” The institute does fund research on teaching and instructional practice. However, it also funds research on curriculum, assessment and accountability, learning and cognition, the teaching and administrative workforce, resource allocation, and systems and policies.

Ms. Stipek indicates that the institute has “put its faith, and its money, in a particular methodology—randomized field trials.” She contrasts this with the National Research Council’s recommendation “that the fit between the method and the questions being asked is more important than the particular method,” and the National Academy of Education’s position that research should be “embedded in practice.”

The methods supported by the institute vary with the question being addressed. They include methods for producing sound descriptive summaries, including surveys, observational data, and administrative records; methods appropriate for isolating possible relationships, such as multivariate analysis; and methods designed to address questions concerning the effectiveness of particular policies or practices, including single-subject, quasi-experimental, and experimental approaches.

We strongly prefer, as do policymakers and the public, randomized field trials when the question is the effectiveness of mature programs and practices. Such trials virtually always include the collection of process data that can provide insight into why an intervention does or does not work and that allow an examination of the relationship between implementation and outcomes.

However, randomized trials are only a part of our portfolio. A substantial portion of our funding goes to upstream work in which researchers are developing new programs or identifying promising practices, using methods appropriate for those investigations. We also invest in the development and validation of measurement and assessment tools. All of the institute’s research programs are embedded in practice, requiring both the selection of topics that are highly relevant to practitioners and the conduct of research in authentic education-delivery settings.

Ms. Stipek writes that “policymakers will have to give more weight to research findings than they now do if evidence is to have an impact on practice.” We agree and are devoted to establishing the rigorous and relevant research base and the effective dissemination strategies that are a prerequisite to that goal.

Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst


Institute of Education Sciences

Washington D.C.


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by Learning.com
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: October 11, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 27, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 20, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week