Riley Appoints Independent Board To Set Research Agenda

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Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley last week named 15 members to an independent advisory board that is intended to guide the Office of Educational Research and Improvement through its most massive restructuring since it replaced the National Institute of Education in 1985.

When Congress reauthorized the department's research functions last year, it established the board in an effort to bring a consistent focus to the O.E.R.I.'s long-term agenda and reduce what many observers said was a detrimental politicization of that agenda.

As called for by the new law, Sharon P. Robinson, the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, has reorganized the O.E.R.I. into five large research institutes. Each institute is oriented toward a single mission. In addition, a new office of reform assistance and dissemination will deliver research to the field. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1995.)

One of the central questions in the reauthorization last year was how much authority the new board--made up of researchers and practicing educators--would have over the O.E.R.I.

Over the years, many observers, including some members of Congress, have criticized the office's work for being overly influenced by the political aims of the administration in power.

Observers said last week that the makeup of the new board gives them reason to hope that those days are over.

"These are independent thinkers," said Gerald E. Sroufe, the executive director of the American Educational Research Association. "I think some of the members would be hard-pressed to recite the words to the systemic-reform hymn of this Administration."

Above the Fray

"It looks like the kind of group that Congress intended it to be," said Dena Stoner, the executive director of the Council for Educational Development and Research, which represents the federally supported education-research centers and regional laboratories.

The panel is not required by law to meet until May 15, but a department spokeswoman said they may convene sooner. Indeed, Ms. Robinson and Secretary Riley had hoped to have the board in place by last November. A number of factors--including the recent illness of Mr. Riley, who missed a month of work last fall because of surgery--made that deadline unworkable.

By law, the board is to help select permanent directors of the five research institutes, which are being run by acting directors.

Members of the panel, known as the National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board, will serve six-year terms and select a chairman from the board's ranks to serve for two years.

The department drew from nearly 300 nominations from a wide range of education groups in making its appointments. The board includes five educators and five people "knowledgeable about the educational needs of the United States," as required by law. The National Academy of Sciences helped nominate the board's five researchers.

The members include the following educators:

Patricia Ann Baltz, a teacher at Camino Grove Elementary School in Arcadia, Calif., and the 1993 Disney Outstanding Teacher of the Year; Ann Blakeney Clark, the principal of Alexander Graham Middle School in Charlotte, N.C., and the 1994 National Principal of the Year; Rudolph F. Crew, the superintendent of schools in Tacoma, Wash.; Robert W. Marley, an elementary school teacher at Pearl Kessler School in Wichita, Kansas; and Claire L. Pelton, the associate director of the Advanced Placement Program of the College Board and the vice chairwoman of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The following researchers were appointed:

Jomills Henry Braddock 2nd note our style.gc, the chairman of the department of sociology at the University of Miami; Kenji Hakuta, a professor of education at Stanford University who is known for his work on bilingual education; Sharon Lynn Kagan, a senior associate at the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University; Glenda T. Lappan, a professor of mathematics at Michigan State University; and Edmund W. Gordon, a distinguished professor of educational psychology at the City University of New York.

The board's other members include:

Gene Bottoms, the director of the High Schools That Work program for the Southern Regional Education Board; John T. Bruer, the president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation and an expert on cognitive science and education; Joyce A. Muhlestein, a specialist at the Utah Center for Families and a member of the National pta's health and welfare commission; Alba A. Ortiz, the associate dean for academic affairs and research of the college of education at the University of Texas at Austin, a bilingual- and special-education specialist; and Ted Sanders, Ohio's state superintendent of schools, who served as undersecretary of education in the Bush Administration.

Vol. 14, Issue 24

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