School & District Management

Bill Would Link Research, Classroom Practice

By Debra Viadero — April 07, 2004 3 min read
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With bipartisan support, a Democratic representative from New Jersey has introduced a measure aimed at constructing a stronger bridge between educational research and classroom practice.

If approved, the proposal—called the Knowledge Utilization in Education Act— would provide yet-to-be-determined sums of money for grants designed both to whet and to feed educators’ appetites for what experts in the field are calling “usable” educational research. (“Scholars Aim to Connect Studies to Schools’ Needs,” March 19, 2003.)

The grants would go, for example, to support consumer- oriented research conferences for teachers and administrators, to establish regional “knowledge utilization” coordinators to help schools implement research findings, and to create incentives for states and districts to put research-proven strategies to work in schools.

To oversee and promote those efforts, the bill would also establish an “office for knowledge utilization” in the Department of Education and an interagency task force that would coordinate education research-and-dissemination efforts across the federal government.

Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., the bill’s sponsor, said he views the bill as a complement to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“While the No Child Left Behind Act requires educators to use instructional practices based on research, such practices are not widely used,” Rep. Holt said in introducing the measure on March 25.

“Given that students in 25,000 public schools may not be making adequate yearly progress,” he continued, referring to a central measure of success under the 2-year-old law, “steps must be taken now to meet the demand for research-based instruction.”

Mr. Holt’s co-sponsors on the bill are Reps. George Miller and Lynne Woolsey, both Democrats from California; Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; and Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wis.

‘Missing Link’

The bill, HR 4030, is also getting strong backing from the National Education Knowledge Industry Association, a Washington- based trade group better known as NEKIA. It represents many of the federally supported research laboratories, technical- assistance centers, and clearinghouses that currently provide similar services across the country.

James W. Kohlmoos, the group’s president, said the proposal addresses the “missing link” between the federal government’s recent calls for schools to use scientifically based research and actual practice in the field.

In education, as in medicine and business, experts in recent years have begun pushing for better ways to build, develop, and disseminate research-proven knowledge that practitioners will use.

That was in part the purpose behind the Strategic Education Research Partnership, an independent organization being formed by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academies of Science. With a goal of raising $500 million to $700 million in start-up funds, the group aims to forge a research-and-development compact among states to collaborate on an agenda for credible research that educators would find useful and to sustain long-term studies in those areas. (“Research Group Taps Director; Sets Agenda on Studies,” Dec. 10, 2003.)

Mr. Kohlmoos said the proposed measure would add to that state-based effort by strengthening federal efforts to make better use of research knowledge. His organization is lobbying for the introduction of a bipartisan, companion measure in the Senate later this spring.

The chances are viewed as slim, though, that either bill will pass during this session of Congress.

“This really is the time to plant the seeds and to get the conversation moving,” Mr. Kohlmoos added, “and then to focus in the next session on cultivating and growing it and getting ready for some action.”

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