School & District Management

National Board: Sequestration Hinders Research Funding

By Sarah D. Sparks — June 03, 2013 3 min read
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The fallout of sequestration has made for some scrambling at the U.S. Department of Education’s research agency, with plenty of high-quality research proposals that cannot be funded.

The Institute of Education Sciences budget is $31 million lower in fiscal 2013, or more than 5 percent, lower than in fiscal 2012. IES Director John Easton reported at today’s meeting of IES’ advisory group, the National Board for Education Sciences, that the agency is working to prioritize funding in its remaining grants.

Among the changes:

• The National Center for Education Research took a $9.9 million budget cut, and was able to award 49 of the 80 applications which peer reviewers had deemed to be of “excellent or outstanding quality” in the fiscal 2013 grant cycle—about 16 fewer grants than it planned to award before sequestration.

• The National Center for Special Education Research awarded grants to 18 highly rated projects out of the 45 highest-rated proposals (of hundreds of total applicants) it received for fiscal 2013, following a $2.6 million cut. It had planned to award an additional three grants.

“It’s pretty sobering,” said Bridget Terry Long, the chairman of the advisory board. “We just have to be more strategic. There have always been limited resources; now they are just extremely limited. There were a number of outstanding proposals that were not funded, and that’s just the situation right now.”

Commissioners of IES’ research centers are in some cases “funding down the slate,” or continuing to award grants to highly rated proposals already received in the 2013 grant cycle, during the 2014 grant cycle. “I think if you applied this year, got very good feedback but were not funded, it makes sense to reapply,” said Long, who is also a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

But, she warned, “these applications take a substantial amount of time” and researchers with proposals rated lower this year or those with brand-new projects may want to hedge their bets by seeking other grants as well. “If you have a good project, the work can’t stop and you just do the best that you can,” she said.

The National Center for Education Statistics also was cut, by $5.7 million, leading to delays in data collection in its kindergarten longitudinal study, parental involvement, early education, and adult education studies, and also leading it to cancel the 2013 teacher compensation survey. Also, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was cut by $6.8 million, will not test 4th or 12th grade civics, U.S. history, or geography as scheduled in 2014, though NCES will test those subjects in 8th grade.

Deborah Speece to Leave Special Ed Center

This Monday’s meeting was also the last for Deborah L. Speece as commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research. She’s leaving the job after joining in August 2011, following a two-year search. Speece’s deputy commissioner, Joan McLaughlin, will step in as acting commissioner as of July 1.

“Joan has been a great asset to the National Center for Special Education Research. Her background and experience in special education and early childhood is extensive, and her willingness to take on this new role makes Joan the perfect choice to serve as acting commissioner,” Easton said in a statement. “The other commissioners and I look forward to working closely with Joan as we continue to advance IES’s mission to provide rigorous and relevant research aimed at improving education outcomes for all students.”

McLaughlin has also led IES programs in early intervening services—early education programs for young children at risk of being identified for special education—and, before coming to IES, headed evaluations of multiple federal education, early education, and food-aid programs for the research group Abt Associates Inc.

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