Question & Answer: New O.E.R.I. Head Sees Top Priority Ways To Marry Research and Practice

July 31, 1991 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Diane S. Ravitch, the well-known education historian, was sworn in last week as assistant U.S. secretary of education for educational research and improvement and counselor to the secretary.

The author of numerous books and articles, most recently The American Reader, an anthology of writings and speeches that illustrate American history, Ms. Ravitch has been a leading voice in the debates over history instruction, multicultural education, and other issues.

She also served as a principal author of California’s new curriculum framework in history and social studies, and as co-director of a study sponsored by the National Academy of Education that set an agenda for education research. The academy’s study, “Research and the Renewal of Education,” was released this month.

Approved unanimously by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and the full Senate, Ms. Ravitch’s nomination comes as the Bush Administration has pledged a major research effort as part of its education strategy, America 2000. But these efforts have also sparked some concern in the Congress, which has moved to restrict the ability of the office of educational research and improvement to act on the strategy without Congressional approval.

Speaking on her first full day on the job, Ms. Ravitch discussed her agenda with Associate Editor Robert Rothman.

Q. The Bush Administration’s major research initiative is being conducted by the private sector through the New American Schools Development Corporation [established in conjunction with America 2000]. What is oeri’s role in the Administration’s effort?

A. Oeri will be assisting the New American Schools Development Corporation. These are not competing efforts; they are cooperative and collaborative. We’re not working toward different ends; we’re working toward the same ends.

I will be working with the rand Corporation [which is assisting the new-schools corporation], and other people at oeri will be as well.?

I see what we’ve gotten as additional resources to accomplish common goals.

Q. The new National Academy of Education study, which you co-directed, called for a major increase in funding for research and a greater emphasis on comprehensive studies. Now that you are in a position to make policy, how do you plan to implement those recommendations?

A. The main thing that came out of that report was that there is a sense of vision needed. I’m going to try to bring what I see as a comprehensive strategy [to] research: connecting research to practice.

One of the lessons of the study is that research and practice should be tied together. Researchers should be asking all the time: Why are we doing this? What can it bring to practice? I will be asking those questions, and I will encourage people at oeri to be asking them, too.

Q. Do you share the priorities for the research agenda listed in the academy’s report [including active learning over the lifespan, assessment, bolstering achievement of underserved groups, school organization, and connecting research to teaching]?

A. I don’t know whether I can say those are exactly mine. I’m now in a different situation. There are specific things I want to accomplish, [how ever].

I want to initiate a dynamic pro gram of disseminating research findings. I see this today as one of the urgent priorities oeri has. We know a lot, but it’s not getting across. We need to make clear what we know, and bring it to much broader audiences.

I envision a dynamic program of developing videotapes, audiotapes, and interactive software, all the technology necessary to communi cate today. This is something we do not now have. The need is not to produce more reports, but to find other media to disseminate research findings. In the past, what was considered a success was to reach tens of thousands. I will consider it a success if we reach tens of millions. We’ve never had that goal.

The ability to do this depends on getting an increase in funding. It is not presently in our budget. I can’t say whether I can turn it around. But I will make the case, and say the purpose of additional money is for new research, and be visionary in how we communicate it to the general public.

Q. Is disseminating knowledge the major problem, or is there also a need to create new knowledge?

A. There is some knowledge that needs developing, but we have not had the funding to communicate it. There is a lot of knowledge here, in the public domain, but it has not been put in formats [in which] people can understand it and use it. There is also an ongoing commitment to develop new knowledge.

A version of this article appeared in the July 31, 1991 edition of Education Week as Question & Answer: New O.E.R.I. Head Sees Top Priority Ways To Marry Research and Practice


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
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.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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 Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP