Education Opinion

More OMG From OMB

By Robert E. Slavin — October 18, 2012 1 min read
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Imagine that education leaders began to encourage or provide incentives for schools to use proven programs and practices. Imagine that instead of a confused patchwork of policies and grants, government had a simple rule: if it works, we’ll help you adopt it. If it hasn’t yet been proven to work, we’ll help you evaluate it. If it’s just a good idea, we’ll help you move it forward. But the purpose of education policy is to find out what works and then help scale it up.

In a speech this summer, Robert Gordon from the OMB laid out such a vision. He was among friends, speaking to recipients of Investing in Innovation (i3) grants designed to build up our nation’s “shelf” of proven programs. He spoke about OMB’s memo to all government departments encouraging policies to favor use of proven programs, which I’ve written about before.

Gordon’s speech provided an opportunity to reflect on how far evidence-based reform has come in recent years. No previous leader from OMB has ever shown any interest in educational research and development, although Robert Shay, OMB Director under President George W. Bush, has recently expressed support for investing in programs with evidence of effectiveness from rigorous evaluations. Until fairly recently, research in education was mostly done by and for academics, and no one expected it to make much of a difference. Today, as I noted in a recent blog, we have the distinguished Lisbeth Schorr worrying that evidence from rigorous experiments might soon make too much of a difference. I think her concern is premature, but isn’t it cool to even have such a conversation?

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