National Academies Press: OpenBook

Strategic Education Research Partnership (2003)

Chapter: Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History

« Previous: References
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History." National Research Council. 2003. Strategic Education Research Partnership. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10670.
Page 121
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History." National Research Council. 2003. Strategic Education Research Partnership. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10670.
Page 122
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History." National Research Council. 2003. Strategic Education Research Partnership. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10670.
Page 123
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History." National Research Council. 2003. Strategic Education Research Partnership. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10670.
Page 124
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History." National Research Council. 2003. Strategic Education Research Partnership. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10670.
Page 125
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Federal Investments in Education Research: A Sobering History." National Research Council. 2003. Strategic Education Research Partnership. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10670.
Page 126

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

FP ~ P r ~ ~ ~ n LIP Q ~ m P n ~ Q . ~ lotion nesen I Sobering History Huh: The federal government has been by far the largest supporter of education research in this country, and so the history of its investments is an important back- drop to thinking about SERP. The record of the government's continuing efforts over four decades to develop a significant role for research in the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessor agencies was summarized for the commit- tee by Emerson Elliott (2002~. The current leadership of the U.S. Department of Education and its Institute for Education Sciences (IES) has a strong presi- dential mandate to strengthen the agency's capacity to bring science to the service of education reform. This has also been true on two prior occasions: with the inauguration of President Lyndon B. lohnson's Great Society program and then again during the Nixon administration. In 1964 Johnson established a President's Task Force on Education, chaired by John Gardner, then president of the Carnegie Corporation and later to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. This group pro- duced the first formal and public vision for what research in education might accomplish and how that might be made to happen. The vision and the rhetoric with which it is expressed are in some regards remarkably similar to our own (Gardner, 1964~: When viewed against the $33 billion we spend annually on education at all levels, the support for research, even as aug- mented by foundations and private corporations, is a trickle. This has to be changed. We now know beyond all doubt that, educa- tionally speaking, the old ways of doing things will not solve our A P P E N D I X A 121

problems .... A massive burst of innovation is called for.... We need a system designed for continuous renewal, a system in which reappraisal and innovation are built in .... [A]bove all, what is taught and how it is taught must change. Like the SERP initiative, the 1964 task force was primarily inter- ested in making research useful to practice (Gardner, 1964~: The problem today is not only one of innovation, but of convert- ing new ideas into forms useable in the classroom, testing their applicability in the field, disseminating the proven ideas throughout the educational system. The Gardner report envisioned close (although, unlike SERP, not collaborative) links between research and practice (Gardner, 1964~: The laboratories would have to be intimately related to the educational system at all levels. They would have close ties with the State departments of education. They would establish links with numerous schools (or school systems) for the sake of teacher training and the field testing of new programs. It would also be essential that each laboratory have some kind of affiliation with a neighboring university. The major "innovation" proposed in the Gardner report was federal aid for the establishment of large-scare national educa- tion laboratories, which would develop and disseminate ideas and programs for improving educational practices throughout the country (Gardner, 1964~: There should be at least a dozen major laboratories and perhaps two or three dozen more that are specialized or less ambitious in scope. By "laboratories" we do not mean small-scale efforts, operating out of a corner of a department of education, rooted in the interests of a few faculty members, and having little connec- tion with the daily practice of education in the community. As we conceive them, the laboratories would be more closely akin to the great national laboratories of the Atomic Energy Commission and should share many of their features. Improvement or innova- tion in the education of our children is at least as important as the maintenance of our defense and deserves a similar effort. The whole package was estimated to reach a cost of S250 million (in 1964 dollars) annually after five years. "Unfortunately," writes Elliott (2002), "we never learned what national educational laboratories might achieve because ]22 STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP

they were never created." The career staff at the Office of Educa- tion (OK) neither read the Gardner report nor gave its recom- mendation for national laboratories serious consideration. The statutory prohibition on OF influence over the curriculum and management of schools occasioned deep concern about political fallout from anything in education with the word "national" attached to it. Moreover, the OF appropriations that could real- istically be anticipated for research were clearly not sufficient to the Gardner vision, even in the heady days of the Great Society education legislation of 1965. Instead, regional educational laboratories were created and are still with us. They are, in Elliott's judgment, "a set of small institutions with ill-defined missions," for which federal policy "has been reformulated by almost every head of education re- search since 1965 or perhaps a more accurate phrase, the heads of research have tried to reformulate Federal policy." The second great vision for research came from the pen of Daniel Patrick Moynihan early in President Nixon's administra- tion (Public Papers of the President, 1970~. The key feature of this reform proposal from the president to Congress was the creation of an education research agency, independent from the Office of Education of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, that would be known as the National Institute of Education (NIE). The idea was for NIE to link educational research and ex- perimentation across federal agencies to "the attainment of par- ticular national educational goals." The president's message made clear that the institute would devise its own agenda- setting priorities, taking the lead in measurement of education output, developing a coherent approach, serving as an objective national body, and evaluating new departures in teaching. In contrast to the Gardner report, the Moynihan document made no mention of "development." But it shared with Gardner a view about who should conduct research scholars from dif- ferent disciplines, largely through universities, nonprofits, and other organizations as well as a budget projection of S250 million annually (more than S1 billion in today's dollars). What happened? NIE was created two years later with, as Elliott puts it, a notable lack of enthusiasm, especially on the Senate side. Its operations began not with the singleness of purpose evinced in the president's message to Congress, but instead with the transfer of existing research programs from the A P P E N D I X A 123

Office of Education. Before NIE had established and staffed its own agenda, it had to take on direct management responsibili- ties for ongoing programs, and it never really recovered the initiative. In addition, political tensions between Congress and the administration in particular, the voucher program, a top administration priority had a rapid and ultimately crippling effect. In a dramatic signal of what was to come, the institute received an appropriation mark of zero from the Senate in 1974. Funding for NIE plummeted and continued to spiral down- ward when its functions were assumed by the Office of Educa- tional Research and Development. Between 1973 and 1989, the total decline (in constant 1990 dollars) was SS percent (National Research Council, 1992:95~. For all its problems, NIE did have enormous success in attracting talented people who went on to make important con- tributions to the advancement of education and social policy. NIE also planned and began lines of research that have made a continuing contribution to education, such as on capacity build- ing/effective schools; reading; teaching; the first Title I evalua- tion; and the National Education Library, which NIE literally resurrected from warehouse storage. But it did not become the independent and strategic re- search agency envisioned. Redecting on the period, Elliott writes that "those of us who were a part of those early years of NIE learned how personal views of the public, the Congress, and the Administration cannot be separated from an education research agenda in the U.S. Department of Education. The committee also learned that the Department of Education probably differs from other agencies through which the federal government in- vests in education research (e.g., the National Science Founda- tion, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Devel- opment, the Office of Naval Research, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in which the perspectives and actions of researchers appear to be a steadier guide to progress" (emphasis added). Summing up his 40-plus years as a participant in this his- tory, Elliott writes (2002~: "We have a Department of Education research effort that is the merest shadow of either the Gardner or the Moynihan/Nixon visions...." With at least 14 assistant secretaries and heads of research (and many acting assistant secretaries and directors) in the past 30 years, it has been diffi- '24 STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP

cult to sustain an investment in serious research and build momentum. Elliott finds, instead, a "four-decade long record of lack of continuity, or synthesis, or efforts to accumulate what has been learned from research and from practice; lack of strong research methodologies and of effectively implemented focus or priorities." He concludes also that "hot-button issues such as vouchers or curriculum development are nearly impossible to investigate through the Department of Education because the motives of any who propose such work are suspect." From this first-person account we take many lessons, not all of them cautionary. The success that NIE had in attracting first- rate talent to the cause of improving education with a strong vision and plan of action lends credibility to our aspirations for the SERP endeavor. Public concern about and belief in educa- tion is there throughout. Moreover, to know that the best and brightest in earlier generations saw the great potential for re- search to contribute to education practice is important, even if we have not yet realized that potential. One of our key judgments that we see confirmed in this history is that the needs and rhythms of politics and research are fundamentally different. Although the two cannot and should not be entirely divorced, distance is important. The ac- cumulation of knowledge that is needed to fuel change and innovation in complex systems requires coherence and continu- ity and staying power. Equally important, of course, is the matter of funding. Re- search is a cumulative process; advances in knowledge come incrementally and by building on what has gone before. No matter how good the plan or how talented the people, without long-term, stable funding, a powerful accumulation of research is simply not possible. The history of NIE shows how quickly the funding can disappear. Impact is also a function of level of effort (i.e., sufficiency of funding). As a 1994 National Research Council report on the Office of Education Research and Im- provement described in some detail, the funding available for education research and development has lagged far behind fed- eral funding for research in agriculture, health, defense, and transportation, based on whatever measure one might choose (National Research Council, 1992:95-106~. A P P E N D I X A 125

R E F E R E N C E S Elliott, E. 2002 Three Visionsfor Investment in Education Research: An Insider's Recollec- tionsfrom Four Decades in Federal Policy and Practice January, 2002~. Paper prepared for the SERP Committee, National Research Council, Washington, DC. Gardner, l. 1964 Report of the President's Task Force on Education. (November 14, 1964~. The report is available at the LB] Presidential Library, Austin, TX. National Research Council 1992 Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Re- search and Improvement. Committee on the Federal Role in Education Research. R.C. Atkinson and G.B. Jackson, eds. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Public Papers of the President 1970 Special Message to the Congress on Education Reform, March 3, 1970. Available from the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. 126 STRATEGIC EDUCATION RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP

Next: Appendix B: SERP Cost Projections: A Scenario for the Proof-of-Concept Period »
Strategic Education Research Partnership Get This Book
 Strategic Education Research Partnership
Buy Paperback | $41.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Envision a cadre of leading scientists and practitioners working collaboratively on a highly focused program of education research that is tightly coupled with practice. Much of the research is carried out in school settings. Research influences educational practice, and the outcomes in practice inform further research efforts.

The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) is designed to make this vision a reality. It proposes a large-scale, coherent program of research and development that would put the problems of educational practice at its center, and focus on all stages necessary to influence practice. These include theory testing, the development and evaluation of instructional programs, the study of practice in context, and attention to taking innovations to scale.

This book explains the features of SERP and the ways in which it would address the major challenges of linking research and practice. It is a call to mobilize the nation’s resources and political will, the power of scientific research, and the expertise of our educators, to create a more effective research and development program for improving student learning.


  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!