Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

New Federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Approved by Obama

By Andrew Ujifusa — March 31, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Cross-posted from the Inside School Research blog

By Sarah D. Sparks

President Obama has signed a bipartisan bill creating a 15-member commission to figure out how to coordinate and use federal data without risking personal information privacy.

The commission could help to give broader and more permanent approval to the White House’s push to use more tiered-evidence systems—like those used in the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Investing in Innovation program—to evaluate federal programs. It could also provide a context to hash out longstanding arguments over protecting data privacy which have complicated moves to update the 40-year-old Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

The commission will have $3 million and at least initial support from both major political parties—the bill was championed by GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington. “As we work to create jobs, grow the economy, and tackle all of our deficits fairly and responsibly, it is so important that we understand what is working in federal programs and the tax code, and what needs to be fixed,” Murray said in a statement.

So, what exactly would the commission do, and what does it mean for education?

What Will the Commission Do?

First and foremost, it will take a massive inventory of all administrative, survey, and statistical data as well as tax-spending information from all federal programs. It’s expected to consult with the heads of most of the federal agencies with research sections, including the Education Department.

The group must come up with ways to integrate rigorous evaluations of effectiveness—including randomized controlled trials—into the design of federal programs. At the same time, members must figure out what structures and policies must be in place to protect personal data during those evaluations.

From there, the group will decide whether and how to create a clearinghouse of federal data across agencies and how the data could be released to public or private researchers for “program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses.”

It has 18 months to make final recommendations to Congress.

Who’s on the Commission?

Ever had to solve one of those logic problems, where you have to sit five people at a table but boys in yellow t-shirts couldn’t sit next to girls in red dresses and anyone wearing a green hat had to sit at the front? Choosing the commissioners will be a little like that.

All of the 15 commissioners will be expected to have expertise in economics, statistics, program evaluation, data-security, confidentiality, or database management, but the White House and Congress will have the opportunity to put their own slants on the issues.

In the next 45 days, President Obama will appoint three of the 15 members, including: the director of the Office of Management and Budget or one of the OMB’s top aides; an academic researcher, data expert or administrator; and an expert on protecting personally identifiable data and limiting the amount and length of time that data are stored. President Obama also will appoint the chariman of the commission.

Speaker Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority and minority leaders will appoint another three commissioners each—for a total of 12—including two academic researchers or data experts each and one data-privacy expert each. Ryan will also appoint the co-chairman of the commission.

What Should Educators Look for?

Thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act’s evidence standards, the commission may look to the Education Department to model program evaluations for other agencies, rather than suggesting many changes for evaluating education programs.

However, the debate over student data privacy has only intensified in the last year, and the commission’s recommendations are likely to inform the long-awaited FERPA reauthorization. It will be interesting to see what education-related researchers end up on the commission, and how much access social-science researchers can get to data needed to evaluate politically sensitive programs, such as private-school vouchers.


Related:

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP