ESRA Reauthorization

Ensuring the dissemination of education research findings has been one of the primary concerns in ESRA reauthorization discussions. This issue was raised by a GAO report, and again by witnesses testifying before the Education and the Workforce Committee in September of 2013. Both expressed concerns that, though the creation of IES has had an unambiguously positive effect on the quality of education research since its inception, it often creates research that is best suited for other researchers–not research that can be easily used by teachers, state and district officials, or other important stakeholders not well versed in research methods.

Reauthorization, which has been due since 2008, seems to be aiming to fix this dissemination issue in a few ways. First, the performance management portion of the bill would refocus its emphasis to address more directly the concerns of timeliness and accessibility for a wide range of stakeholders. And the bill adds two spots for “practitioners who are knowledgeable about the education needs of the United States” on the National Board for Education Sciences in order to better close the loop between research and practice. State policymakers have made many of the same missteps, with data that aren’t timely or that aren’t presented in a user-friendly interface. Some states are working to fix that, but it’s slow going for others. The bill would also extend support for state longitudinal data systems beyond their initial construction stage to a more practicable state that can better support instruction.

Finally, the bill also takes steps to address another hot topic of the last couple years. It would further allay privacy concerns by tightening protections on student data. The bill first underscores the importance of privacy concerns in the development and use of student data by making explicit in many places that specific provisions must be carried out consistent with the law’s privacy provisions. Also, the bill adds a requirement that any requests to NCES to use student data from federal agencies or other interested parties must include a description of the research purpose for which the data is needed–and their plan for keeping the data confidential.If NCES sees any threat to student privacy from a given proposal, the Center also has the authority to deny access to data.

Notes

Excerpted from: CJ Libassi, “The Little-Known Bill With a Big Impact on Education Research,” EdCentral, May 29, 2014. http://www.edcentral.org/little-known-bill-big-impact-education-research/