Where’s the Research in ‘Race to the Top’?

By Debra Viadero — September 03, 2009 1 min read
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There goes that swinging pendulum: Much was made of the fact that the phrase “scientifically based research” appeared more than 100 times in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But in the rules proposed last week for the U.S. Department of Education’s $4 billion Race to the Top competition, the terms don’t appear at all.

The omission hasn’t gone unnoticed by the research community. Both the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association and the Knowledge Alliance, which represents research organizations, federal laboratories, and technical assistance centers, submitted comments that make a case for adding a definition for scientifically based or scientifically valid research to the proposed regulations and for requiring grant applicants to rely more on research in crafting their reform plans.

The AERA, in particular, also urges federal policymakers to take the opportunity to address the fact that the research base on charter schools and on turning around persistently low-achieving schools is disappointingly weak.

But that group’s most controversial recommendation—one that is echoed by Helen Ladd and Dan Koretz, two researchers who also contributed comments—warns against basing evaluations of teachers and principals on student-achievement data alone. They write:

Neither research evidence related to growth models nor best practice related to assessment supports the proposed requirement that assessment of teachers and principals be based centrally on student achievement"

You can find a bit of counterpoint to that suggestion in this blog entry posted yesterday by Amber Winkler over at Flypaper. Check out the full text of the comments from AERA and the Knowledge Alliance, as well as those from the more than 1,130 other individual and groups who weighted in, at this link. To get the gist of what all those commenters had to say, I also recommend my colleague Michele McNeil’s story today in EdWeek.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.