Updated, 12:49 p.m., with additional reaction
After nearly four years, the U.S. Education Department’s research agency is at last on the verge of getting a new permanent director.
The Senate confirmed Mark Schneider for a six-year term as director of the Institute of Education Sciences late Thursday, though paperwork around the confirmation means Schneider still may not take the helm for weeks or months.
Schneider is now a vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research and College Measures and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank. From 2005 to 2008, he was the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, making him the first former top research official to return to a new post in the agency. Over the years, Schneider has been an outspoken proponent of education data use; he has voiced concern over differences in how states set accountability cut scores and praised the use of international benchmarks to provide more context for U.S. students’ achievement.
“It’s especially timely for someone like Mark to be able to lead,” said Felice Levine, executive director of the American Educational Research Association. “Not only is he a high-quality scholar and user and sophisticated leader of data assets ... most importantly he has served and is part of the IES family. ... Having someone who has been appointed to lead IES and confirmed provides us with a top-quality scientist who ideally will have access and opportunity to the administration that we have not had in quite some time.”
Schneider will arrive at an agency in transition. It still does not have enough confirmed members of its advisory group, the National Board for Education Sciences, to hold a meeting. While IES is likely to get some additional support in the fiscal 2018 budget, its authorizing legislation, the Education Sciences Reform Act, is now more than a decade overdue for an update. The law was last authorized before most states had developed massive longitudinal student data tracking, before the widespread debate over how best to measure students’ social and emotional development, and before the Every Student Succeeds Act called for significantly more state and district use and development of evidence in school improvement.
“My sense is that Mark is committed to clear and effective communication of research to state and local leaders. That’s great because IES has gotten a good start in that area, but there’s always more to do,” said Ruth Curran Neild, the director of the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium and a former delegated director of IES. “It will be a change to have an IES director with deep experience in the whole range of data and statistics work that NCES does. That is different from previous IES directors, and I’m excited to see how Mark is able to bring that perspective to all aspects of IES.”
Photo Source: American Institutes for Research
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.