School & District Management

AERA: Reauthorization Should Separate IES Research, Statistics

By Sarah D. Sparks — April 11, 2011 3 min read
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The American Educational Research Association is calling for Congress to decouple education statistics and education research in the next reauthorization of the Institute of Education Sciences, arguing that the National Center for Education Statistics should have the same equal, independent status as the Education Department’s research agency.

AERA released its recommendations for the reauthorization of IES at AERA’s annual convention on Sunday, calling for lawmakers to give the IES director more control over the agency’s research budget and to charge IES to study how its research is used. The research group’s top recommendation is to return NCES to equal status with IES, as it was before Congress passed the Education Sciences Reform Act in 2002, which created IES.

“The statistics program now has to be approved by the director of IES, who is not a statistician—and no reason he would be a statistician—and by an advisory board that has no requirement that there be anyone with a knowledge of statistics on it,” said Gerald E. Sroufe, AERA’s government relations director.

Kenji Hakuta, the chairman of AERA’s reauthorization task force and an education professor at Stanford University, argued that the federal education statistics agency predates the Education Department’s education research projects and has different goals and methods than education research. The group is calling for NCES to develop its own quality standards and be given clearer responsibility for working with states to develop their longitudinal data systems.

In addition to asking that NCES report directly to the Education Secretary, rather than to the IES director, AERA called for Congress to reinstate the advisory board that supported NCES before it joined IES, and to make the NCES commissioner an honorary member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

While adamant that NCES should come out from under the IES umbrella, AERA voiced support for the the decision to bring in the National Center for Special Education Research, which was previously housed in the Education Department’s program offices. However, members argued Congress should ensure the center, which still operates under an acting commissioner, finally gets an official leader.

In addition to its recommendations for NCES, the task force is calling for Congress to provide more money for IES, equal to .5 percent of the Education Department’s budget during the next decade, and to give the IES director more authority over which research projects get funded and what research methods can be used. As it stands, much of IES’s research is directed my specific programs approved by Congress.

The research group deliberately did not include legislative language for the recommendations, in part because it is not certain whether IES will be updated under its current law, the Education Sciences Reform Act—which has been overdue for reauthorization since 2008—or will be wrapped into the next authorization of the larger Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The group has also wanted to limit Congress’s role in determining small daily decisions at IES.

“Some of the problems you might hear about in the [current ESRA] legislation are administrative matters that wouldn’t be dealt with very well by legislation,” Mr. Hakuta said.

However, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine said the group would put out a separate series of briefs on ESEA reauthorization later this year, presenting the research base for various parts of the law.

The reauthorization recommendations will be posted on AERA’s Web site.

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