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Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (1992)

Chapter:THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT

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Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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3
The Office of Educational Research and Improvement

The Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) in the U.S. Department of Education is the federal government's lead agency for educational research and development. Its goals are to promote quality and equity in education. OERI collects statistics on the status and progress of schools and education throughout the nation; funds basic research aimed at enriching fundamental understanding of learning, teaching, and schools; supports applied research to improve curriculum, teaching, schools, and assessment; develops new learning aids, teaching techniques, and means of organizing and administering schools; demonstrates and evaluates promising educational approaches; disseminates information; and provides technical assistance to those who seek to improve education.

OERI's immediate predecessor was the National Institute of Education (NIE). Because NIE had essentially the same mission as OERI, and shared similar problems, it is included in the discussion in this and the next chapters.

There are other offices within the Department of Education that conduct research and development on education issues, and there are other federal agencies that also do so, but each has a much narrower mission than OERI. For instance, the National Science Foundation supports work on mathematics and science education, and the Department of Defense supports some basic research on learning and considerable work on the applications of technology to training. Within the Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services supports work on retardation, specific learning disabilities, and physical impairments, and the

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs funds some R&D within its areas of responsibility. But only OERI's mandate spans all subject areas; all grade levels, including preschool and postsecondary education; and all providers of education, including parents, private schools, and employers.

HISTORY

Federal sponsorship of education research began in 1867 with the creation of the Office of Education (USOE). Its mission (An Act to Establish a Department of Education, 1867) was to:

collect such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several States and Territories, and of diffusing such information respecting the organization and management of schools and school systems, the methods of teaching as shall aid the people of the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems.

For its first nine decades, USOE's research activities were primarily restricted to the routine collection and dissemination of statistics, and the federal investment in education research was minimal.

Centers, Laboratories, and the Educational Resources Information Center

The Cooperative Research Act of 1954 first authorized USOE to provide funds for field-initiated research, primarily at universities, much as other federal agencies were doing for research in the natural sciences. The budget for this work was $1 million in 1955, but grew rapidly, particularly in the mid-1960s: $17 million in 1965 and $70 million in 1966 (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1969b).

Under the Cooperative Research Act, individual projects were funded through proposals initiated from the field, with little opportunity for federal officials to shape a national research agenda (Guthrie, 1989). This approach eventually led to concerns about the fragmented and noncumulative nature of the many studies. Furthermore, the project approach was not closing the gap between research and practice and was not attracting the range of disciplinary talents believed necessary for advancing the field. A system for improving the performance and productivity of educational processes was still lacking.

These concerns led to the development of three major initiatives to upgrade the USOE's research and development (R&D) activities during the mid-1960s. The first was the establishment of national R&D centers for conducting large-scale, long-term programmatic work directed toward solving education

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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problems. The second was the creation of regional educational laboratories to move research results into practice through development and demonstration of new curricula and teaching approaches and dissemination activities. The third was the creation of an information system for the dissemination of research results—the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC). All three institutions exist today, although their activities have changed somewhat over the years. (Their current activities are discussed below.)

The congressional authorization of national R&D centers in 1963 was the first attempt to overcome the shortcomings within the education R&D system by organizational changes. It was believed that an institutional approach would provide the "critical mass" of effort—a forum for researchers from a variety of disciplines to investigate contemporary problems in education. The R&D centers were to provide the intellectual leadership in a chosen field of work through a program of basic and applied research, supplemented by development work and dissemination activities (National Institute of Education, 1976). The centers were also supposed to serve as a mechanism for ensuring that education R&D was responsive to federally identified needs (Guthrie, 1989).

As the first R&D centers were created, federal priorities for education research had not been developed. As a consequence, the ten original centers, established between 1964 and 1966, proposed their own missions. By 1966, the federal appropriation for the ten centers was $6.6 million (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1969b).

Educational laboratories were created in response to the report of a national Task Force on Education, chaired by John Gardner, which had conducted a sweeping examination of American education. The task force concluded (President's Task Force on Education, 1964:34) that the research was a necessary component for change, but

the efforts of the past ten years have not brought about the far-reaching changes that one might wish, partly because neither the efforts to innovate nor the arrangements for disseminating innovation have been on a scale adequate to the need.

The task force recommended the development of a "system designed for continuous renewal, a system in which reappraisal and innovation are built in" (President's Task Force on Education, 1964:33). It also proposed the creation of "at least a dozen major laboratories and perhaps two or three dozen more that are specialized or less ambitious in scope." Activities of the proposed laboratories were supposed to expand on those of the existing centers in three major ways: greater emphasis on demonstration and dissemination activities, the use of experimental schools and testing of innovations in regular schools, and provision for in-service teacher education as an integral part of the program.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Shortly after the release of the Gardner report, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was passed, and the proposed laboratories were authorized. From their inception, however, there was little consensus on the appropriate role for the laboratories, their geographic orientation (regional or nationwide), the type of services they were to provide, or the appropriate mechanism for evaluating their activities. Nonetheless, 17 months after the passage of ESEA, contracts had been awarded for the establishment of 20 laboratories (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1969a).

The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) was proposed as a mechanism for disseminating federally sponsored R&D: information on individual projects and programs was accumulating as a result of expanded research, but teachers and school administrators were largely unaware of this body of knowledge. Patterned after the Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, ERIC was to be an information retrieval system that would abstract, index, store, retrieve, and disseminate research information. All USOE-sponsored research was to be included. In 1966 the USOE provided $2 million for ERIC's operations with 12 clearinghouses (National Institute of Education, 1976). Like the laboratories and the centers, ERIC was soon a target for critics of federally funded R&D in education: users complained that the system concentrated on quantity rather than quality, information was difficult to access, and requests were often delayed (Trester, 1981).

The National Institute of Education

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 proved to be a major milestone in federal sponsorship of education and education R&D. It authorized unprecedented levels of federal financing: appropriations for field-initiated research, centers, and training within the USOE leaped from $19.3 million in fiscal 1964 to $100 million in fiscal 1966 (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1969a).

The Office of Education was reorganized in response to the increased funding and new research programs. A separate Bureau of Research was established in "recognition of the need for concentrated expertise in the use of research for systematic improvements in education" (Ianni, 1965:14). However, the projected budget growth did not occur during the late 1960s, and this proved particularly debilitating to the network of 20 regional educational laboratories that had just been established. Federal funding was discontinued for five laboratories in 1969 and for four more in 1971 because of budget limitations and dissatisfaction with their performance. Centers, too, were affected by the budget squeeze: federal appropriations declined from $14.7 million in fiscal 1968 to $10.7 million in fiscal 1970 (National Institute of Education, 1976).

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

It was within this inauspicious climate that the National Institute on Education (NIE) was created in 1971. The legislation (Public Law 92–318, 1972) charged NIE with providing "leadership in the conduct and support of scientific inquiry into the education process" and with the building of "an effective educational research and development system." The preamble to the legislation declares (General Education Provisions Act, Sec. 405):

It is the policy of the United States to provide every person an equal opportunity to receive an education of high quality regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or social class.... To achieve equality will require far more dependable knowledge about the processes of learning and education than now exists or can be expected from present research and experimentation in this field.

The mandated focus on equity led NIE to focus much of its work on those groups facing the greatest educational and social barriers to success—the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, and women. The problems of these groups were some of the hardest issues facing educators and the least amenable to quick and easy solutions, and NIE was frequently criticized for its ineffectiveness in satisfying the needs of these populations.

From its inception, NIE was rarely free of turmoil. Many supporters of education in Congress and throughout the country expressed concern that President Nixon was using NIE as a ploy for reducing the federal government's commitment to the costly education initiatives of the Johnson administration. Inadequate levels of funding hampered NIE's ability to sponsor major, long-term research projects that many people believed were key to illuminating major education problems. Six directors and four acting directors in 13 years did not allow a strong, consistent leadership to be established. Moreover, as a research agency dealing with education—a poorly understood and profoundly value-laden social enterprise—NIE was always vulnerable to charges that its research programs were influenced by the political and ideological concerns of the administration, congressional sponsors, and agency managers (Sproull et al., 1978). As the U.S. General Accounting Office (1987) noted, members of Congress and presidential administrations politicized NIE by frequently intervening in the determination of its research priorities and activities.

Although its mission was conceived on an ambitious scale, the NIE was always a rather small federal agency. In 1973 NIE's budget was $136 million; in the next year the budget had been drastically reduced to $65 million, and it never again rose above $80 million. In comparison with NIE's $65 million, in 1974 the Agriculture Research Service had a budget of $205 million, the National Science Foundation had a budget of $567 million, and the National Institutes of Health had a budget of $1.86 billion.

NIE inherited both staff and programs from the Office of Education and the Office of Economic Opportunity. Those programs—including career

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

education model development, the experimental schools program, the tuition voucher experiment, and satellite broadcast of instruction—represented, roughly $79 million of the fiscal 1973 budget and $26 million of the following year's budget. After covering the ongoing commitments to the laboratories, centers, and ERIC, there was relatively little in the budget for new initiatives.

The Office of Educational Research and Improvement

When the Office of Education was replaced with a Department of Education in 1979, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) was also created. OERI was originally seen as a "holding company" for NIE, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Library Programs, and some other discretionary and dissemination activities. OERI was to provide some overall guidance and coordination, but to allow the main entity to operate semi-autonomously.

OERI's mission was specified in the authorizing legislation, (Public Law 96–88) which begins with the following:

Sec. 405 (a)(1) The Congress declares it to be the policy of the United States to provide to every individual an equal opportunity to receive an education of high quality.... Although the American educational system has pursued this objective, it has not attained the objective. Inequalities of opportunity to receive high quality education remain pronounced. To achieve the goal of quality education requires the continued pursuit of knowledge about education through research, improvement activities, data collection, and information dissemination ... the Federal Government has a clear responsibility to provide leadership in the conduct and support of scientific inquiry into the educational process.

(2) The Congress further declares it to be the policy of the United States to—

(A) promote the quality and equity of American education;

(B) advance the practice of education as an art, science, and profession;

(C) support educational research of the highest quality;

(D) strengthen the educational research and development system;

(E) improve educational techniques and training;

(F) assess the national progress of this Nation's schools and educational institutions, particularly special populations; and

(G) collect, analyze, and disseminate statistics and other data related to education in the United States and other nations.

OERI was reorganized in 1985. The restructuring eliminated the semiautonomous operating units, including NIE, and placed their functions in five OERI offices: the Office of Research, the Center for Education Statistics, Programs for the Improvement of Practice, Library Programs, and Information Services. This organizational structure has remained with only

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

two modest changes. Management of the R&D centers and field-initiated research was assumed by the Office of Research; the laboratories were managed under Programs for the Improvement of Practice; NCES remained intact as the new Center for Education Statistics, a short-lived appellation; and ERIC was administered by Information Services. In 1988 the HawkinsStafford School Improvement Amendments authorized the Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching (FIRST), and a separate office was created within OERI to administer the program. In 1990, the Office of Information Services was abolished and its activities distributed to the remaining offices: ERIC was transferred to the Office of Research, and most publication activities were placed in the Office of Assistant Secretary.

ORGANIZATION AND ACTIVITIES

OERI is currently organized into six offices: the Office of the Assistant Secretary, the Office of Research, Programs for the Improvement of Practice (PIP), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching (FIRST), and Library Programs; see Figure 3-1. OERI's offices and major activities are described and briefly critiqued in the rest of this chapter; a number of concerns that apply to several offices or activities are discussed in Chapter 4.

It is important to note that very little R&D is conducted within OERI. The agency plans the work to be done, solicits and reviews proposals, and monitors progress. Most of the work is performed by university-operated centers, free-standing nonprofit laboratories, the ERIC clearinghouses, and scholars and educators across the country in universities, professional associations, state agencies, local school districts, and nonprofit organizations.

The National Advisory Council on Educational Research and Improvement

OERI is advised by the National Advisory Council on Educational Research and Improvement. Five specific functions of the council are described in its authorizing legislation (General Education Provisions Act, Sec. 405(c)(3)):

  1. advise the Secretary and Assistant Secretary on the policies and activities carried out by the Office;

  2. review and publicly comment on the policies and activities of the Office;

  3. conduct such activities as may be necessary to fulfill its functions under this subsection;

  4. prepare such reports to the Secretary on the activities of the Office as are appropriate; and,

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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Figure 3-1 Organization, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1991.

  1. submit, no later than March 31st of each year, a report to the President and the Congress on the activities of the Office, and on education, education research, and data gathering in general.

The council is composed of 15 members appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The nominees are to be selected to ''ensure that the Council is broadly representative of the general public; the education professions, including practitioners; policy, makers and researchers; and the various fields and levels of education'' (General Education Provisions Act, Sec. 405(c)(1)). The members serve staggered 3-year terms.

For at least the last 3 years, the council has had few or no active education researchers or social scientists among its members. None of the 1989, 1990, or 1991 council members is listed in the directories of any of the following associations: American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, American Economics Association, American Political Science Association, and American Sociological Association. In addition, none was found in Who's Who in American Education.

The council's annual report is its formal mechanism for transmitting

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

advice to OERI, the President, and Congress. According to the council's fiscal 1989 annual report, its first meeting focused on OERI's current literacy activities and the second focused on members' visits to innovative literacy programs in Miami. The report makes nine recommendations, primarily aimed at preventing school dropouts, including the following (National Advisory Council on Educational Research and Improvement, 1989): "retention of students to graduation should be a primary policy objective of elementary and secondary schools" and "restructuring should focus on the goal of seeing students through to graduation." Only one of the recommendations is explicitly directed to OERI: "the Office of Educational Research and Improvement [should] fund research into learning styles for middle and secondary schools that incorporate cooperative learning strategies and make learning a shared experience..." Only one other recommendation specifies research: ''research [should] be undertaken into programs that assist dropouts to reenter school or otherwise complete the requirements for their diplomas."

The council's fiscal 1990 annual report indicates that its first meeting centered on school leadership and discussed the members' visit to the National Center for Educational Leadership in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The second meeting focused on dissemination strategies. No recommendations were included in this report.

Office of the Assistant Secretary

The assistant secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement oversees agenda setting, the budget process, staffing of the agency, contracts and grants, publications and communications, general administrative functions, and congressional relations. The Office of the Assistant Secretary provides support for all these functions. In fiscal 1991, the office had about 88 employees and a program budget of $623,000. This small budget was mostly used for some of the printing expenses and to establish an electronic network linking the laboratories, centers, and the agency.

The assistant secretary of OERI is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. There is a history of frequent turnover among the heads of OERI and its predecessor agency, NIE. As noted above. there were six directors confirmed by the Senate and several interim ones during NIE's 13-year existence; the average tenure of service by the confirmed appointees was just 19 months. During the 11-year life of OERI, overlapping the last 5 years of NIE's existence, there have been five assistant secretaries confirmed by the Senate; the average tenure of service by the confirmed appointees was 28 months. Altogether, only 3 of the past 11 confirmed directors and assistant secretaries have served for more than 2 years. There was more continuity of leadership at the deputy and associate

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

director levels at NIE in the 1970s, but from 1980 to 1986 at least 16 people served in the five top positions immediately below the director or assistant secretary (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1987).

The assistant secretary is required by law to publish proposed research priorities in the Federal Register every 2 years, invite comments and suggestions, allow 60 days for public response, reconsider the priorities, and then publish the final priorities. OERI's agenda is also influenced by a large number of standing advisory groups. These include the Laboratory Review Panel, the Fund Board of the FIRST program, the Technical Review Board of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and the Schools and Staffing Survey Technical Review Board. For NCES alone, there are 38 advisory groups with a total of 779 members, operating at an annual cost of about $3 million. Each laboratory has a governing board, and each center and ERIC clearinghouse has an advisory committee. In addition, prior to contracting for major R&D activities, OERI is required to publish a preliminary announcement of the competition and solicit advice before releasing the formal announcement.

It is one thing for a federal agency to set an agenda and another for it to secure congressional authorization and funding for the planned activities. OERI's proposed budget, prepared by the assistant secretary, is reviewed and revised by the Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, and the President's Domestic Policy Council before being incorporated into the President's budget and submitted to Congress. Since OERI is a very small agency and seldom perceived to be involved with issues of major importance, the President rarely defends its budget vigorously. Most members of Congress also accord OERI's budget little importance for the same reasons and because few constituents contact their Representatives or Senators about OERI. As a result, most of the substantive input on OERI's budget is provided by a few Senators and Representatives and their staff.

Congress influences OERI's agenda in several ways. It mandates new programs, such as the Rural Education Initiative for the laboratories, Star Schools, and the Javits Gifted and Talented program. It mandates specific studies, such as the 1980s Chapter I Assessment and the new National Assessment of Vocational Education. Congress also expands or contracts existing activities by increasing or deceasing their annual budget with directives in the appropriation reports or with "earmarks" in the budgets. For instance, the appropriations reports have regularly provided directives about funding levels for centers, laboratories, ERIC, and field-initiated research. Yet the assistant secretary does have moderate discretion over implementation of the authorized programs. Although Congress regularly specifies the minimum funding levels for the R&D centers and laboratories, it rarely specifies the number of centers and laboratories, their focus, their activities, or how they are to be managed.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Office of Research

The Office of Research administers most of the research supported by OERI except for the collection and reporting of nationwide statistics, which is managed by NCES. The Office of Research supervises the 25 national R&D centers, field-initiated research (when funding is available for it), ERIC, some discretionary research, and various special projects, which currently include the National Board for Teacher Standards, follow-up activities to the "education summit," School Year Extension Commission, National Writing Project, and education reform evaluation.

In fiscal 1991 the Office of Research had about 69 employees and administered programs with a total budget of $51.7 million, of which only $4.9 million was for discretionary research activities. It has subunits for higher education and adult learning, learning and instruction, schools and school professionals, education and society, and ERIC.

National R&D Centers

As noted above, the centers and laboratories were first created in the mid-1960s in response to concerns that the research being conducted by university faculty members failed to address national priorities, was of small scale and not cumulative, and was not being applied to education practice. Since their inception the R&D centers have engaged primarily in basic research, applied research, and development; in contrast, the regional laboratories have engaged primarily in development, demonstrations, dissemination, and technical assistance. This division of labor is not mandated by law, but it has prevailed, with variations, since the 1960s.

OERI's authorization specifies that the agency shall support "research and development centers established by institutions of higher education, by institutions of higher education in consort with public agencies or private nonprofit organizations . . ." The number and substantive focus of the centers has generally been left to the discretion of the assistant secretary, although there have been occasions when Congress has encouraged or mandated the establishment of a center on a specific topic. The number of centers has grown from 11 in 1966 to the current 25:

Center on Families, Communities, Schools, and Children's Learning

Center on Education in the Inner Cities

Center for Research on Educational Accountability and Teacher Evaluation

Center on Adult Literacy

Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce

Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools

Center on Science Teaching and Learning

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Center on Assessment, Evaluation, and Testing

Center on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning

Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy

Center on Student Learning

Center on For Research on Teacher Learning

Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Center for Policy Research in Education

Center for Research in Mathematical Sciences Education

Center on Education Finance and Productivity

Center on Literature Teaching and Learning

Reading Research and Education Center

Center for Research on the Context of Secondary School Teaching

Center on the Learning and Teaching of Elementary Subjects

Center for Technology in Education

Center on Educational Leadership

Center on School Leadership

Center for Research on Effective Schooling for Disadvantaged Students

Center on the Gifted and Talented

All the centers operate with 5-year contracts or cooperative agreements; 17 of the current 25 were awarded in 1990. OERI's funding of each center averaged $861,000 in fiscal 1991: this is a very small sum for a R&D center. For example, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health fund some individual projects at higher levels than OERI funds its centers.

The low levels of funding have hindered the centers' ability to create and sustain a "critical mass" of diverse staff working in close proximity. This lack of concentrated work has been exacerbated by OERI's encouraging consortia of universities to bid on the centers. In most cases, the work of a center is now conducted at two or three separate institutions. The principal investigators at the centers, excluding the directors, work an average of only one-quarter of their time on center studies. Much of their work is devoted to individual research on topics related to the center's mission, rather than to team projects. Large-scale or long-term studies have not been common during the past decade, though there have been some.

The R&D centers have been the subject of several policy assessments and organizational reviews since their establishment in 1964. Most of the evaluations were performed by panels who conducted site visits, interviewed staff, reviewed pertinent agency documents, and talked to people in the education research community. These reviews affirmed the original concept of the educational R&D centers—that is, institutions conducting large-scale, long-term, mission-focused programs of research—but found problems in staffing, needs assessment, the nature of the work undertaken, and the im-

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

pact of research on schools. Most of them also noted that the early intentions for the centers have been compromised by failure to fund them at the levels originally anticipated.

In 1973 the U.S. General Accounting Office issued a report on products developed by both the centers and the laboratories—books, audiovisual materials, and publications on procedures and organizational structures that could be used in schools. The study focused on products from 3 of the 9 centers and 5 of the 11 laboratories in existence at that time. The report did not distinguish between findings applicable to the centers and those applicable to the laboratories, apparently because GAO found little difference between the two. The major findings were quite negative: the institutions had developed some products and disseminated them to the intended users—particularly products for the training of teachers—but the suitability and impact of the products was in doubt; the objectives of the products were often ambiguous, and they seemed to have been developed with little concern for potential marketability; the evaluations of the products' effects in the classrooms were generally so weak as to be inconclusive; and little interest in the products had been generated among commercial publishers. The report concluded that the Office of Education's own policies and frequent changes in management were responsible for much of the problems, and the report recommended greater consultation with commercial publishers in determining market needs and stricter regulations for the testing of innovative products.

In 1975 a group of ten consultants, headed by Ronald Campbell, was commissioned by NIE to conduct a 3-month review of its funding policies. By that time NIE had switched from institutional funding of the centers and laboratories to a "program purchase" arrangement: each institution had to prepare proposals for clusters of activities. Funding decisions were made in respect to each cluster, with little consideration to the overall plan of each institution. The Campbell group report (Campbell, 1975:79) suggested that:

[NIE] review and revise all present policies that contribute to the present situation, where it is substantially supporting a relatively large number of special institutions, of diverse quality, with varying lengths of contract terms, subject to uncoordinated NIE management and review, and inconsistently related to NIE priorities.

The group recommended a thorough evaluation of each center and laboratory, and that NIE fund a "smaller number of institutions ... with improved quality and relevance of effort ... NIE must give priority in planning and procurement to dealing holistically with each" (Campbell, 1975:71). The group suggested that each center have a single mission and stable funding for 3–5 years at a minimum of $3–$4 million per year ($7–10

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

million, in 1990 dollars) and close ties to NIE through periodic review and evaluation.

The Campbell group also identified several strengths and weaknesses of the centers. The group observed that university-based centers constituted an important structure for supporting basic social science related to educational issues and that such work should not be judged by its immediate application to solving educational problems. In contrast, it noted that the norms of universities, where all but one center were located, were in many ways unsuited to the demands of specified objectives and rigid timelines that accompany most federal R&D funds. It warned that problems in education are often millennia old and not likely to be solved quickly. It also stated (Campbell, 1975:18) that "pressures for rapid development and evidence of 'impact' have probably forced many centers to neglect basic research ..."

In the 1976 reauthorization of NIE, Congress mandated the establishment of a 15-member Panel for the Review of Laboratory and Center Operations. The panel members visited all 17 laboratories and centers, met with NIE's policy-making council and interviewed members of the educational R&D community. In its final report, the panel "endorsed the concept of R&D centers and regional educational laboratories and affirmed the importance of maintaining and improving the stability and quality of the existing institutions" (Panel for the Review of Laboratory and Center Operations, 1979:6). The panel agreed that past federal support policies were partially accountable for weaknesses in the centers' work. Cuts in NIE appropriations and the provision of federal funds under the program purchase policy rather than on an institutional basis "tended to dilute laboratory and center institutional missions, unduly favor federally determined priorities, compromise planning capabilities, and encourage some institutions to become educational 'job shops'" (Panel for the Review of Laboratory and Center Operations, 1979:v).

The panel recommended that NIE enter into long-term institutional agreements with seven of the nine existing centers and seven of the eight laboratories. To enhance the setting of priorities, centers were to be primarily responsible for establishing priorities in pursuit of their missions, after consulting with scholars, practitioners, and NIE staff. To ensure stability and accountability, the panel recommended a 5-year funding agreement, renewable for an equal period on condition of a favorable external review in the third year of the institutional agreement.

Despite that recommendation, beginning in 1985 the R&D centers were generally regarded as 5-year projects. In a few cases, awards were for just 3 years and for as little as $0.5 million dollars annually. As contracts expired, OERI changed the foci of subsequent centers, precluding the continuation of much of the prior work. Of the 12 centers operating in the

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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early 1980s, 6 were terminated and 5 were included in the 1985 competition; 3 were awarded to new bidders and 2 were awarded to incumbents. Of the 6 centers that were newly established in 1985, 2 were terminated in 1990, 2 were awarded to new bidders in the 1990 competition, and only 2 were awarded to incumbents. Of all 13 centers operating during the latter half of the 1980s, 3 were terminated, and 8 were included in the 1990 competition; 3 were awarded to new bidders and 5 were awarded to incumbents.

Unlike the R&D centers established in the mid-1960s, there has been no effort to institutionalize the current centers. In the 1960s the federal government helped build facilities for a few centers; expected the centers to be large in size, scope, and funding; encouraged them to pursue new initiatives during the course of their contracts; and committed to long-term support. None of that is currently the case.

Yet despite tight funding and the limited life spans of many centers, some centers have managed to pursue a sustained program of research. For 25 years the Learning Research Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, operating what OERI now calls the Center on Student Learning, has been a leader in the applications of cognitive science to education. For a similar period the Center for the Study of Evaluation at the University of California at Los Angeles, operating what OERI now calls the Center on Assessment, Evaluation, and Testing, has worked on testing, assessment, and evaluation. The Reading Research and Education Center at the University of Illinois has played a major role in improving reading instruction for 15 years. Two successive centers at Johns Hopkins, spanning 22 years, had been leaders in research and development on cooperative learning, but both have been terminated by OERI.

In addition, a few OERI centers are administered by larger education R&D institutions, also called centers, that have several different projects under way simultaneously, funded by various federal agencies and foundations. At these locations, notably the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Learning Research and Development Center, institutionalization was achieved under the earlier policies of the Office of Education and NIE and has since been maintained with diverse sources of funding. Even if either was to lose its OERI-funded centers, it could continue on as a leader in education R&D.

Field-Initiated Research

The Office of Research manages a small field-initiated research program. From 1983 through 1985 OERI did not announce support for field-initiated proposals, but some proposals were received anyway, and a very few of those were funded. OERI's 1986 authorization mandated that a minimum of $500,000 be used to support "meritorious, unsolicited propos-

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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als" each year. Since then Congress has never appropriated more than $1.3 million annually for field-initiated research.

In recent years OERI's field-initiated research program has represented 2–5 percent of the agency's R&D budget. In contrast, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invests about $1.9 billion in field-initiated research, approximately 94 percent of its R&D budget, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests about $4.2 billion, about 56 percent of its R&D budget. (Data on field-initiated research are not available from the Agriculture Research Service, the other agency with which we frequently compare OERI.)

In fiscal 1990 OERI funded 12 field-initiated studies at a total cost of $785,166. The funded topics included early language and literacy activities in the home, academic learning and critical reasoning, success factors associated with first-generation Mexican immigrant high school students, and the role of family values and behaviors in educational performance and attainment. Most of the grants were for $50,000–$75,000 and, in accordance with the legislation, none was for more than an 18-month period.

In fiscal 1991 OERI funded another 12 field-initiated studies at a total cost of $967,862. The topics for study included methods of assessing staff development projects, factors that lead to graduation or drop out among Native American students, assessment methods for accurately measuring the new mathematics education goals, and the provision of equity to minority students in small rural school districts. Most of the grant awards ranged from $75,000 to $85,000.

In each of the past several years, OERI's small field-initiated research program has attracted about 200–300 applications. Some OERI staff have suggested that many of the unfunded proposals were of low quality, although they have acknowledged that good proposals went unfunded. Other observers have pointed out that it is difficult to get good investigators to apply when there is so little money and so few awards. OERI funds about 3–5 percent of the proposals it receives; in contrast, NSF and NIH fund roughly 30 percent of the proposals they receive.

Field-initiated research has been crucial to advances in science. Several of the examples of important research and development cited in Chapter 2 were the direct result of such work, undertaken with funding from NIE or other federal agencies and private foundations.

Educational Resources Information Center

The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) was originally established to provide access to the large number of unpublished reports being generated by the Cooperative Research Program. Within 3 years journals were also covered. ERIC is an information retrieval system designed to index, abstract, store, retrieve, and disseminate information about

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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education. Most of the work is performed by subject-matter clearinghouses located throughout the country and a central processing facility in Maryland. Each clearinghouse covers a broad topic area and is responsible for identifying, indexing, and abstracting appropriate documents for input into the ERIC database.

The database primarily covers reports from federally funded education research and development projects and published articles on education culled from as many as 800 journals. Papers presented at conferences, curriculum materials, and other documents are also covered selectively. The ERIC system currently references a total of more than 750,000 documents and journal articles. In addition to the database responsibilities, each clearinghouse also produces reports, interpretive summaries, syntheses, digests, and other publications in its field. Most of these are designed to distill a large body of literature into a small and user-friendly format. Unlike most literature search systems, ERIC makes available the full text of most unpublished documents, by microfiche or photocopy.

The number and foci of the clearinghouses has varied over time. All the clearinghouses are up for renewal in 1992. There are currently 16 clearinghouses, with the following areas of concentration:

adult, career, and vocational education

counseling and personnel services

educational management

elementary and early childhood education

handicapped and gifted children

higher education

information resources

junior colleges

languages and linguistics

reading and communication skills

rural education and small schools

science, mathematics, and environmental education

social studies/social science education

teacher education

tests, measurement, and evaluation

urban education

There are also five adjunct clearinghouses, each with funding from other than the regular ERIC budget. They cover literacy education, art education, consumer education, Chapter 1 programs, and U.S.-Japan studies.

The ERIC database can be searched by computer through several commercial vendors, including BRS, DIALOG, and OCLC, all of which provide access to many different information systems. Most microcomputers, with a $150 modem, can be used for the on-line linkage. About 500,000 ERIC

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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searches were conducted on-line in 1990. Utilization studies indicate ERIC is the second or third most heavily used on-line system in the country–after Medline and sometimes Nexis (Tenopir, 1991). Several thousand universities, schools, and libraries also have ERIC on CD-ROM or hard copy, but there is no way to estimate how many searches are done with those resources. Approximately 90 foreign countries also use ERIC products. In addition, the clearinghouse received 90,000 telephone and mailed inquiries during 1990:17 percent were from professors and researchers, 15 percent from primary and secondary school teachers, 14 percent from school administrators and school board members, 14 percent from librarians, 8 percent from students, 8 percent from parents and the general public, and 25 percent from all others (Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1991).

Despite the high use of ERIC, there are complaints about the system. Teachers and administrators say the searches are difficult to conduct and the information caters to the needs of researchers. They also find that the searches often identify hundreds of citations, and it is difficult to judge which are the most authoritative. Many users complain that the system concentrates on quantity rather than quality. Researchers complain that the coverage of journals is not as thorough as they would like, that input of new citations often lags, and that ERIC does not cover most books.

Most of these complaints are common to other electronic index systems—both federally operated and commercially operated ones—although the relative severity varies from system to system. It is an inherently difficult task to provide diverse users with well-targeted access to a huge literature base. When we asked five National Research Council reference librarians who regularly use several electronic retrieval systems about ERIC, they indicated it was above average on ease of use, scope of coverage, and ability to find desired or useful citations; average on avoiding a large number of unwanted or useless citations; and slightly below average on the time lag in indexing materials and on duplication of citations.

The complaint that there is much low-quality material in ERIC is probably true, but there is reason to think the problem is not as severe as many think. Documents of no merit to one category of user, say, researchers, can be of considerable merit to other categories, say, teachers and parents. ERIC was originally created, in part, to index all reports from the Office of Education's contracts and grants for education R&D, and it generally does that regardless of the apparent quality of the documents. In the past few years ERIC has become increasingly selective in indexing documents that are sent to it from other sources; it now rejects about one-third of them. It has comprehensively indexed articles in a small number of journals and selectively indexed articles in other journals that are scanned. When there is a high level of selectivity, there is considerable risk that some useful materials will be omitted. ERIC does publish selective bibliographies and reviews

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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of the literature. They are popular, but some users never learn about them, and others prefer to examine the original sources.

Several enhancements to ERIC have been suggested by users, review committees, and the ERIC staff. Most could improve the system at a modest cost. For example, ERIC indexes education-related articles from about 800 journals, but this is done with minimum coordination; no one person is in charge of this part of the operation. As a result, some new journals are not reviewed for their utility, and established journals are not periodically examined to determine whether their current status should be changed. As the budget of ERIC dropped by almost 50 percent from the late 1970s to the late 1980s (in 1990 constant dollars), fewer and fewer journals have been indexed comprehensively, and users cannot tell which are indexed comprehensively and which are indexed selectively. Some of the leading journals in the various social sciences are not even being scanned for important education-related articles. For example, since 1986 the American Economic Review has published articles on the future supply and demand of teachers, the effects of state mandates on student performance, the teaching of economics in high school, the effects of student aid on college enrollment, and the relation of schooling to wage trends—and none was indexed by ERIC. Over the same period the Psychological Bulletin has published major reviews of the research literature on memory and information processing, gender differences in verbal ability, gender differences in mathematics performance, the structure of vocational interests, and the effect of divorce on the well-being of children—and none was indexed by ERIC.

Like most similar electronic information systems, ERIC does not make the full text of cited documents available electronically. The on-line and CD-ROM searches generally provide only citations and abstracts. A notable exception is the full-text coverage of the ERIC Digests—brief annotated bibliographies and reviews of the literature prepared by the clearinghouses. For unpublished documents, microfiche copies are available at 900 depository libraries in the country, and microfiche or photocopies can be ordered from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service. For journal articles, users have to retrieve the journal from a library, or they can order photocopies of some from a commercial vendor. It is widely thought that the next generation of reference information systems will provide full-text information. ERIC has begun probing this frontier by working with a commercial vendor who may provide the full text of ''key'' ERIC documents on CD-ROM.

Another enhancement currently being explored by ERIC is the possibility of an international English-language equivalent of ERIC. ERIC currently indexes some British, Australian, and Canadian documents and journal articles. A concordance of the thesauruses used by the retrieval systems in those three countries and the United States is being prepared. In addition, there is a commitment among these countries to move towards an uniform

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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format so that the data in each country's system can be shared by the others. Expanding ERIC's coverage to non-English documents would be more difficult because bilingual staff would be needed to index and prepare English language abstracts. Yet some other federally funded information retrieval systems, such as Medline, regularly index major foreign journals.

Although ERIC is a state-of-the-art literature search system, such systems are only one of many new forms of electronic communication. ERIC does not provide electronic mail and bulletin board capabilities, linking teachers to researchers and other teachers with specific interests for the exchange of queries and information. ERIC does not provide direct access to the NCES databases; nor does ERIC provide electronic access and retrieval of curriculum modules, teaching aids, and other materials for use in classrooms. An electronic communication mechanism has recently been established for the nation's university faculties through the National Science Foundation's Internet, now being upgraded to the National Research and Education Network (NREN), which provides electronic mail, access to digital libraries and databases, and remote use of scientific sensing instruments. None of these services is available to teachers and administrators except in a few statewide and local experiments.

Programs for the Improvement of Practice

Programs for the Improvement of Practice is responsible for fostering the development of innovative programs and approaches, disseminating them to teachers and administrators, and assisting with their incorporation into practice. It supervises the ten regional laboratories, the Program Effectiveness Panel and the National Diffusion Network, the Javits Gifted and Talented Program, the Leadership in Educational Administration Development program, the Mid-Career Teacher Training program, Educational Partnerships, the Star Schools Program (which uses satellite broadcasts to enrich local school instruction), and the School Recognition Programs. It also convenes and supports the Urban Superintendents Network. In fiscal 1991 the office had about 87 staff and program budgets totaling $75.2 million.

Regional Laboratories

Regional laboratories were established to bridge the gap between research and practice (National Institute of Education, 1983b). OERI's authorization (Public Law 99–498, 1986) specifies that it shall support "regional educational laboratories established by public agencies or private nonprofit organization to serve the needs of a specific region of the Nation under the guidance of a regionally representative governing board ..." Over the past

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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two decades, the number of regional laboratories has ranged from six to the current ten:

Appalachia Educational Laboratory

Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development

Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory

Pacific Regional Educational Laboratory

Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands

Research for Better Schools (mid-Atlantic region)

SouthEastern Regional Vision for Education

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

The laboratories operate with 5-year contracts, and all were awarded in 1990. OERI's funding of each laboratory, including special money for rural initiatives, averaged $3.0 million in fiscal 1991. A few of the laboratories have been quite entrepreneurial, raising substantial funding for special projects from other federal agencies and foundations and charging for some services provided to schools. This has allowed them to considerably expand the activities that would have been possible with OERI funding.

Over the years the laboratories' activities have gradually shifted some, from applied research and large-scale development to technical assistance work with schools and, more recently, to dissemination activities and assistance to state agencies. These shifts resulted from NIE decisions to have research done primarily by the centers and field-initiated investigators, from cuts in the laboratories' budgets that almost precluded large development projects, from legislation in 1979 prohibiting the Department of Education from engaging in curriculum development (Public Law 96–88), and from the directive of the 1985 contract competition specifying (National Institute of Education, 1984:12):

[the laboratories should use] an improvement approach of working with and through an even wider range of client organizations than is now the case ... particularly ... organizations that provide improvement assistance directly to schools and classrooms, and State-level decision makers.

The first shift cost the laboratories some national visibility that results from large development projects—such as the Career Exploration and Planning Program that has been commercially distributed for 15 years and the Comprehensive School Mathematics Program, which anticipated the mathematics standards promulgated by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1989).

Since the initial recommendation in 1964 from the Gardner Task Force

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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to create "at least a dozen major laboratories," (President's Task Force on Education, 1964:iii) subsequent groups have been charged with evaluating the role of the laboratories in supporting change in education. These evaluations have been based on information gathered during site visits to the laboratories; interviews with staff in NIE, state agencies, and local school districts; and the review of the relevant literature and other documents. In general, the evaluations have found the laboratories to be an important instrument of the federal education R&D strategy, but they have also identified several problems.

Francis Chase, Dean of the School of Education at the University of Chicago, was asked by the Office of Education to conduct a review of the operations of the laboratories only 9 months after the first laboratory contracts had been signed. Twenty laboratories were starting up or in operation and were receiving sharp criticism from persons in and outside the educational establishment. The criticism focused on the appropriate number of laboratories, their purpose and orientation, the degree of overlap with the R&D centers, and the appropriate mechanism for evaluating their activities. Chase (1968) concluded that despite their newness, most of the laboratories that were operational at that time had developed reasonable goals, built the nuclei of promising staffs, and already made some contributions. He observed, however (Chase, 1968:3):

[only a small number] have moved with any definitiveness to supply the need for programmatic research, rigorous 'field testing' of research findings, or the engineering of components for the 'systems' approach to education ... [and] several laboratories are engaging in dubious activities and have become the prisoners of mistaken concepts of regionality, of self-defeating attempts to address themselves to everyone's perceptions of needs, and of 'entangling alliances' of various kinds.

Chase warned that in the haste to establish the laboratories, insufficient consideration had been given to mechanisms for avoiding duplication among the laboratories, for assuring coordination with other existing educational institutions and agencies, and for making the laboratories adequately responsive to both the Office of Education and their respective regions. Despite these problems, Chase thought the laboratories, as originally conceived, were a necessary component for the reform and strengthening of the education enterprise.

In the late 1960s Elwin Svenson studied the laboratories' relationships with state education agencies. Relying on intensive interviews and examination of records, he found the relationships ranged from close and mutually trustful to nonexistent (Svenson, 1969). He determined that state education agencies were open to working with the laboratories on needs assessments, product development, and dissemination, and they had the best perceptions

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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of laboratories when there had been considerable two-way communication and cooperation, but many were not well informed of the laboratories' resources and activities. He also found that consultation with the state education agencies made it more likely the laboratory products would be adopted for use in the schools.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Chase continued to study the laboratories in the context of the larger education R&D enterprise. He reported (Chase, 1970:300) finding "several characteristics and tendencies which promise to speed up needed improvements in education." These included an increasing tendency on the part of the laboratories to concentrate efforts on well-defined objectives, an emphasis on developing learning systems that strive to address all elements likely to affect the results, engagement in a continuing process of modification and refinement, and the building of organizational links to facilitate the flow of research knowledge into practice. Chase recommended that funding be increased to annual budgets of $3–10 million per laboratory ($12–40 million in 1990 dollars) and that conditions be established that would permit moderate autonomy with accountability.

In a 1972 report to the House Select Subcommittee on Education, Chase concluded that significant progress had been made in the preceding 5 years by the federal education R&D system in developing theories of planned change, training personnel for that purpose, and coordinating the activities of multiple agencies. He suggested further progress could be hastened by creation of a national agency to identify the most urgent educational needs, establishment of an agenda for addressing those needs, and coordination of efforts addressed to carrying it out. He supported President Nixon's proposals for establishment of what became the National Institute of Education. Chase reiterated that long-term and systematic research is valuable, but is seldom supported by legislators, executive branch officials, practitioners, and parents who are eager for immediate results.

The Campbell report (1975:58,70) also made some observations specific to the laboratories:

Laboratories seem to us a unique structure, poised between the university and the service-delivery system of education for a variety of purposes ....

Failure of the laboratories to reach some goals held for them at the outset seems to us chiefly a failure of the government to guide and encourage them towards those goals, not a failure of the concept. The concept of a specialized, separate ... [institution] in touch with schools but able to retreat from direct service to test ideas and develop new programs still seems distinctive and sound and worthy of extensive support.

The Campbell report also suggested that the program purchase approach to funding the laboratories and centers was dysfunctional and should be replaced with institutional support for those with favorable performance evaluations.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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The report of the Panel for Review of Laboratory and Center Operations (1979) also proved important to the laboratories future. It recommended long-term institutional funding agreements for most of the laboratories and centers, with systematic monitoring to assure accountability. This reinforced an earlier recommendation from the Campbell group. Following considerable discussion with members of Congress and their staffs, NIE's program purchase funding approach was replaced with 5-year commitments for both laboratories and centers.

In 1982 U.S. Department of Education staff conducted a service delivery assessment of the laboratories to determine how practitioners perceive the quality and usefulness of their activities and to identify barriers to more extensive use of research products in the classrooms. The investigators found that all laboratories served state education agencies, intermediate service agencies, and local education agencies, with state education agencies being the primary clients. They reported cooperative and effective relations with the laboratories, a marked improvement from Svenson's 1969 study. Most clients who could estimate laboratory impact rated it positively (Wade et al., 1982).

A Laboratory Study Group was assembled to advise NIE on the 1985 competition for laboratories, the first competition for all the laboratories since the mid-1960s. The group concluded that the laboratories should offer a range of services, but (National Institute of Education, 1983a:ii,iii):

focus resources for concentrated impacts ... emphasize transformation and delivery of research in forms that are useful for improving education policy and practice ... [and] foster cooperative educational improvement activities among various constituent groups in their regions.

It recommended more communication and coordination among the laboratories and centers, a system of assessment and accountability for the laboratories, an immediate 50 percent increase in federal funding, and exploration of opportunities for cost sharing among laboratories and their clients.

The most recent assessment of the laboratories was conducted by the Laboratory Review Panel, established in 1987 and chaired by Christopher Cross shortly before he was appointed assistant secretary of OERI. The panel was established to help OERI plan the 1990 competition for laboratory contracts. The panel reviewed the laboratories, commissioned several papers, and met with representatives of the laboratories and their governing boards. Its report (Cross, 1989) recommended a critical reexamination of the relationships among all of OERI's main institutional components—laboratories, centers, ERIC, and the National Diffusion Network—and encouraged improved communication and coordination among them. The panel also suggested that OERI not require the laboratories to work primarily "with and through" state and intermediate service agencies, as specified in

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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the 1985 laboratory request for proposals, but be allowed more flexibility in their service delivery strategies. A redistribution of funds was proposed to provide greater support to those laboratories serving regions with the most students. An evaluation of the laboratories' impact was recommended. And OERI was encouraged to rigorously encourage competition for the new laboratory contracts to be awarded in 1990.

In 1991 OERI awarded a contract to evaluate the laboratories' effectiveness. The contractor is to undertake three tasks: (1) examine the effectiveness of the laboratories' processes for assessing the needs in their respective regions; (2) study the effectiveness of laboratories' arrangements for collaboration with other providers of applied research, development, and improvement assistance; and (3) assess the adequacy of the outcomes of particularly significant laboratory activities. The evaluation is to be completed within 3 years.

The laboratories have probably been more disdained and more beloved than any other OERI and NIE institution. Researchers often criticize the laboratories, claiming they do mediocre or poor work. These judgments cannot be based on a systematic assessment of the laboratories' work, since none exists, and they may be colored by professional jealousies: the laboratories employ few researchers and have gradually gained an increased proportion of the NIE and OERI R&D budgets. Staff within OERI generally find the laboratories less responsive to the agency's needs and directives than are the centers, but this is at least partly a consequence of their congressionally mandated regional governance.

At the same time, the laboratories also have many supporters. A recent national survey of school districts' use of education R&D found that almost half the districts had used products or services of the laboratories during the past 16 months. When respondents were asked to list "one R&D resource from any source ... that has been particularly useful," more respondents cited resources from the laboratories than from any other source: 171 from the laboratories, 120 from state education entities, 106 from ERIC, and 96 from the National Diffusion Network (National Center for Education Statistics, 1990). Satisfaction, of course, does not constitute clear evidence of effectiveness in improving the quality of education, but it is important in any service industry, and the laboratories are now primarily service providers.

Taken as a whole, prior reviews and recent evidence suggest that the laboratories are weaker and less effective institutions than originally hoped, but stronger and more effective than their detractors have claimed. Since their founding in the mid-1960s, there have been proposals to make the laboratories national institutions (each serving the entire country), and, conversely, to establish a laboratory in each state (see Guthrie, 1989). If laboratories are primarily to do development and demonstration work, a few national laboratories, each with a distinctive focus, would permit larger

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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efforts, with a wider range of staff expertise, but this arrangement would result in less contact with school districts across the country. If the laboratories are primarily to assist local districts and schools with improvements and reform, then state laboratories would enhance the close ties and face-to-face interactions so important to this work, but they would have smaller staffs and less breadth of expertise—unless there were huge increases in the budgets.

Program Effectiveness Panel and National Diffusion Network

The Joint Dissemination Review Panel and the National Diffusion Network (NDN) were established in the early 1970s to judge the effectiveness of innovative programs and to help disseminate those that are found effective. In 1987 some changes were made to the panel's procedures, and it was renamed the Program Effectiveness Panel (PEP). The current authorization (Public Law 100–297, 1988) states:

The Nation Diffusion Network shall be a national program that recognizes and furthers excellence in education by–

(1) promoting the awareness and implementation of exemplary educational programs, products, and practices to interested elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions throughout the Nation; and

(2) promoting the utilization of the knowledge, talents, and services of local staff associated with various educational excellence recognition efforts. The National Diffusion Network shall be designed to improve the quality of education through the implementation of promising and validated innovations and improvements in educational programs, products, and practices, and through the provision of training, consultation, and related assistance services.

PEP has approximately 60 members, all with expertise in program evaluation. About one-third are U.S. Department of Education staff; the rest are from universities, school districts, professional associations, and other organizations involved in education R&D. The panel serves primarily as a mechanism for validating the effectiveness of educational programs developed by schools, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. It reviews evaluation data collected by the developers and determines whether to certify a program or process as effective in respect to its stated objectives.

Applicant programs must first be nominated for PEP review by one of the nine assistant secretaries in the Department of Education, who makes a preliminary assessment of the program's evidence, conformity with "program office requirements," and conformity with PEP guidelines. If the program was developed with funds from the department, the assistant secretary of the funding office generally makes this preliminary assessment. If not, the assistant secretary of OERI does so.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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Each submission is examined by a randomly drawn subpanel of six reviewers, who generally conduct their work by mail. The subpanel members primarily review the evidence presented in the application. They do not visit the demonstration sites or otherwise collect data on the programs, but they may ask that additional information be requested from the developer when it is important for making judgments about the submitted claims.

The subpanel judges each submission on "whether the program is efficacious and transferable to other educational settings" (Public Law 100–297, 1988). It scores the applications on the basis of the results achieved by the program (0–50 points), the strength of the evaluation design used to assess the results (0–40 points), and the potential for similar results being achieved if the program were to be used by others (0–10 points). To be approved, a program must earn a median score of at least 40 points on the program results criteria and a median of at least 70 points on all three criteria.

About 20–30 new submissions are reviewed each year, and 47 percent have been approved over the past 4 years. Approved programs are considered "proven exemplary educational programs and practices." Since 1987 approval has been effective for 6 years.

Recertification and approval for another 6 years is possible. The requirements for recertification are: continued evidence of program effectiveness (0–50 points), evidence of success in dissemination (0–25 points), and evidence of success in program implementation and retention (0–25 points). Programs must earn at least a median of 70 points on all three criteria. Not all programs apply for recertification. Only about 5–10 apply each year, and 72 percent have been successful during the past 4 years. A few programs have undertaken substantial additional development work before recertification, and OERI's FIRST office programs have sometimes provided financial support for that work.

All PEP-approved programs become National Diffusion Network programs. NDN helps disseminate programs in three ways. First, a brief description of the program and contact information is printed in a comprehensive guide to NDN programs; small topical guides are also sometimes published. Second, NDN funds one or more facilitators, located in every state and certain territories, to assist local schools in defining needs, examining alternative NDN programs, and adopting programs. Some states supplement these funds so that the facilitators can conduct awareness conferences, assist local school districts with start-up costs, and provide technical assistance, monitoring, and evaluation during implementation of NDN programs. Third, the developers of approved programs are eligible to compete for NDN funds to assist in their efforts to publicize the program, train staff at adopting sites, and provide other technical assistance. These are called "developer demonstrator" or "dissemination process" projects. The criteria

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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for funding are "a workable plan for disseminating the program," "program's approach is innovative," and "program is accurate and up-to-date" (Public Law 100–297). About 12 new programs apply each year, and over the past 4 years 69 percent of new applicants were funded. Funding now averages about $75,000 annually for 4 years. Renewal grants for another 4 years are also available. About 28 applications for renewal are received each year, and over the past 4 years 81 percent of the applicants have been successful.

Since NDN's inception in the early 1970s, almost 500 programs have been approved, but nearly half of them are no longer providing services. The active programs address a broad range of educational needs. There are programs for preschools, grades K-12, and out-of-school adults. Some of the programs provide information, several are complete curricula, some offer training and professional development, and others assist in school restructuring.

There have been a few studies of PEP's predecessor, the Joint Dissemination Review Panel (JDRP), and of NDN. They have generally found that JDRP and NDN do help to put innovations into the schools, but that enduring improvements in student outcomes are seldom achieved.

In the second year of JDRP and NDN, the Stanford Research Institute was asked to conduct a major study of functions, costs, and success at achieving adoptions. It found major strengths in the validation process conducted by the JDRP, the linking activities of the facilitators, and the training and technical assistance provided by the developer demonstrators. Concerns were raised about insufficient guidelines for the JDRP applications, poor interface between NDN and state education agencies, inadequacies in the disseminated materials, problems in maintaining the integrity of the innovations, lack of good data on student impacts, and low adoption rates in urban schools (Emrick et al., 1977; Hall and Alford, 1978).

In the early 1980s a study was conducted of several educational dissemination strategies sponsored by the federal government. The authors concluded the NDN was the only federal delivery system that provided all the elements that appeared necessary for effective dissemination of exemplary programs (Crandall and Loucks, 1982; Huberman and Crandall, 1982). Strengths of NDN were seen to be the quality control provided by JDRP, the opportunities provided to schools for exploration of alternatives, and the face-to-face assistance that developer demonstrators provided to adopters. Weaknesses identified were relatively low adoption rates in urban schools, a general lack of follow-up training and technical assistance after adoption, and frequent failure to institutionalize the changes. In many sites the only evidence of effects on students were teachers' reports. When more formal data were available, about one-half of the sites showed substantial student gains.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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The U.S. General Accounting Office (1981) studied the Title I reading projects disseminated by NDN. It found some success, but low adoption rates, which were attributed to unconvincing evidence about the effects of allegedly exemplary programs and a lack of state incentives for local schools to demonstrate improvements in educational outcomes. The recommendations suggested NDN be required to provide complete information on program effects and costs.

PEP and NDN have been laudable attempts at quality assessment and dissemination of innovations, but there are serious weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. Innovations can earn PEP certification of effectiveness when they have been assessed in only a few sites, on only a few outcomes, and with no follow-up measurement of impact after termination of the ''treatment'' (Ralph and Dwyer, 1988). In addition, the guidelines to applicants and the review process focus exclusively on whether there is adequate evidence to substantiate positive claims of the developers. There are no instructions requiring submission of available evidence on possible disadvantages. For instance, if an innovation is tested for effects on students' skills and interests in reading, and the data show increased skills but decreased interest, the applicant is not required to report the latter. Developers' desire for NDN assistance would make them inclined to exclude such information, and the 15-page limitation for the application makes it almost impossible to provide full disclosure of a program's effects.

Although many researchers find that PEP standards fall short of rigorous evidence, many of the developers find them a major challenge. Sometimes the developers are not well trained in evaluation and do not understand how to meet the standards. PEP has published guidelines with extensive examples and has a contractor who will provide developers with technical assistance, but program evaluation involves complex skills that novices are not likely to master quickly. In other cases the developers are well-trained and experienced researchers, but they find it very difficult to secure the funding needed for the several years of data collection that is required for rigorous evidence of program effects in schools. NDN has no funds to assist with this work. Although some funds are potentially available through the FIRST office (described below), the maximum duration of grants from that office has been 3 years, which is often less than the time needed to accumulate strong evidence of program impact. It is feared, however, that if the PEP standards are raised substantially, innovation may be stifled, and developers will bypass PEP and disseminate their programs privately, with no quality assurance.

NDN's support for dissemination of innovative programs has used a two-tier approach: funding for facilitators to alert a statewide audience to the NDN programs and funding for developers to provide detailed information, materials, training, and follow-up support. The evaluations cited above

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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and other studies show that adoption of discrete innovations generally does not have a large and enduring impact on the quality of schooling (Fullan, 1991; Louis and Miles, 1990; Sarason, 1990). Many education experts now believe that substantial improvements require reform of the schools: coordinated changes across subject areas and grade levels and in the organization, management, and operation of a school. There is an important role for innovations in school reform, but only in the context of broader changes. NDN generally does not support such broad changes and operates independently from state and laboratory efforts that do so. The exceptions are the few NDN programs that involve processes designed to achieve school reform and some enterprising state facilitators who have forged strong linkages with other reform activities.

Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching

The Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching (FIRST) manages several programs designed to support local school-based reforms that are expected to have national significance. The programs include FIRST's namesake, the Fund for the Improvement and Reform of Schools and Teaching, the Fund for Innovation in Education, and the Eisenhower National Program for Mathematics and Science Education. All three of the programs were established in 1988. In fiscal 1991 the office had about 18 staff and a budget of $46.4 million.

There is a widespread perception that the FIRST office is controlled more by the Secretary of Education than is the case for other offices within OERI, and this appears to be true. All the FIRST office programs are authorized and appropriated as Department of Education programs, not OERI programs. They are managed within OERI because of administrative decisions made by the secretaries, and one of the programs includes discretionary funds for the secretary.

FIRST programs are directed toward promoting school-level changes. The Schools and Teachers Program provides grants to state agencies, districts, and schools, to increase the educational opportunities and performance of elementary and secondary school students. The Family-School Partnership Program awards demonstration grants to school districts with a substantial portion of low-income students for projects that help teachers to cooperate more effectively with parents, help parents support the education of their offspring in the home setting, and evaluate family involvement programs.

The Fund for Innovation in Education supports efforts in identifying and disseminating innovative educational approaches. It provides grants in four areas: comprehensive health education, computer-based education, technology education, and general innovation. The latter category includes

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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funds to be used at the discretion of the Secretary of Education. Since 1990 those funds have been used primarily for work directed at achieving the National Education Goals.

The Eisenhower National Program for Mathematics and Science Education supports innovative projects of national significance that enhance access to, and the quality of, mathematics and science education. Priority is given to strengthening state and local programs funded under the much larger Eisenhower State formula funds.

FIRST office projects are generally funded for 1–3 years for $50,000–$150,000. As the examples in Chapter 2 indicate, this is considerably less time than has usually been necessary to develop and evaluate "reforms of national significance." The primary exception would be cases in which applicants use the funds to finish or refine prior developments, but there is no reason that the programs should support only that work.

The FIRST office has established an informal collaboration with NDN. FIRST encourages its awardees to submit their innovative programs and processes to PEP and NDN. In addition, it has provided funding to some NDN programs for additional development and testing.

Most of the activities supported by these programs are not R&D, as commonly understood by those who monitor R&D activities. The "D" refers to developments built on research-based knowledge (U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 1990), but neither the legislation nor the administrative guidelines specify that the proposals under FIRST are to make use of relevant research.

National Center for Educational Statistics

Since the establishment of the Office of Education in 1867, the federal government has been the major source of statistical information on education in the United States. Most of this work is now conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES had about 139 staff and a budget of $63.4 million in fiscal 1991.

NCES is authorized under Section 406 of the General Education Provisions Act of 1986 (Public Law 99–498), which specifies:

The general design and duties of the National Center for Education Statistics shall be to acquire and diffuse among the people of the United States useful statistical information on subjects connected with education (in the most general and comprehensive sense of the word) particularly the retention of students, the assessment of their progress, the financing of institutions of education, financial aid to students, the supply of and demand for teachers and other school personnel, libraries, comparisons of the education of the United States and foreign nations, and the means of promoting material, social, and intellectual prosperity through education.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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NCES conducts a number of data collection programs to provide information on the status of U.S. education. These include annual collection of data on elementary and secondary schools, annual collection of data on higher education, several special studies of schools, the National Assessment of Education Progress, and a few large-scale longitudinal studies of students' progress through school and into the workplace. NCES, in conjunction with NSF, also supports most of the nation's activities in international studies of student achievement.

Many of NCES's long-established and well-known programs have been described in "Monitoring the State of Public Education" (in Chapter 2). Important improvements have recently been made to some NCES programs, and many new programs are currently being implemented. A few of these are described here.

A new National Household Education Survey was conducted in 1991 and will be done annually starting in 1993. It will collect information on children's school readiness and educational activities, the role of the family in students' learning, school safety and discipline, and adults' participation in adult and continuing education. An Early Childhood Longitudinal Study is also being planned to follow a cohort of young children, examining how their health, family, and educational histories affect their success in school. The Common Core of Data survey will soon include expanded data on school finances, in response to recommendations made by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Since 1990 NCES has annually surveyed all private schools.

Since 1983 the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has collected some data on school characteristics as well as students' knowledge and skills, but recently it has begun to collect more extensive data on schools' policies, objectives, services, programs, and practices and on teachers' training, experience, and instructional practices. This expansion permits analyses of how those characteristics are associated with student achievement. In 1990 the sampling for NAEP was also expanded, on a trial and voluntary basis, to provide reliable data on eighth grade mathematics skills for individual states. If the procedure is permanently adopted, it will permit states to monitor their own achievements, compare their results with other states, and observe state trends over time.

Preparation for the Third International Mathematics and Science Study is under way. Improvements will include collection of more detailed information on the curriculum and instruction received by the tested students and some innovative assessment procedures will be tried.

Early planning is under way for an assessment of postsecondary student learning. A longitudinal study of college students, the Baccalaureate and Beyond study, will follow graduates for at least 12 years to examine their progression through graduate school and into the workplace. Special em-

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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phasis will be given to participation in public service professions, including teaching.

NCES's operations were widely criticized in the 1970s and early 1980s. One major study (National Research Council, 1986) confirmed problems identified in several prior reviews. The accuracy of NCES's data on the status of education in the United States was compromised by heavy reliance on state administrative records, which were generated by incomparable procedures and with frequently poor quality control; NCES lacked appropriate operating standards for a statistical agency; and the agency was trying to do more than could be done well with its level of funding and staffing. The study also found chronic delays in the reporting of the data and conceptual obsolescence in some of the data series.

Since that report NCES has upgraded or replaced several data collection efforts, added several new data series, and diligently sought the advice of statisticians and researchers. Legislation in 1986 modified NCES's status, partly removing it from the direct authority of the assistant secretary for OERI (Public Law 99–498). As of June 1991 NCES was supposed to be headed by a Commissioner of Educational Statistics, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, who will serve for a 4-year term, but the appointment process has not yet been completed. Separate contracting and staffing authority was offered in the legislation, but the Secretary of Education chose not to implement that option. NCES does have independent report review and clearance authority. The arrangement, however, is the result of internal negotiations and agreements, not of a statutory mandate, and the Department's Office of Public Affairs must approve all printing.

These changes were accompanied by a tripling of NCES's budget between fiscal 1987 and fiscal 1991. There is a widespread perception that NCES has improved its operations dramatically over this period. One business association wrote the committee that "NCES has matured well over the last several years and its data collection activities have been much more useful to a variety of stakeholders ..." This opinion is shared by many researchers and professional associations, and it has been affirmed to the committee by congressional research agency staff. Few observers would give NCES a perfect grade, and those who must analyze data collected over many successive years still suffer from the pre-1987 problems, but there is nearly unanimous agreement that the data and reporting of NCES have markedly improved.

Library Programs

The Office of Library Programs provides grants to support operations of state libraries, local public libraries, college and university libraries, and

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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"libraries of public and private organizations" (U.S. Department of Education, 1990). It is widely acknowledged that the library programs do not fit well within the mandate of OERI and were placed there by historical accident. The difficulty in relocating the programs is that there is nowhere else in the Department of Education that is a logical fit for the programs. The office has about 53 staff and a fiscal 1991 budget of $142.2 million, more than one-third of the total for OERI. Only about $350,000 of the budget is used to support research activities in library science.

OPERATIONS AND FUNDING

OERI's operations involve the numerous functions typical of any federal research agency. The committee focused its examination on three areas that came to its attention as being troublesome: staffing levels and opportunities for professional development; procurement of centers and laboratories; and the review and clearance of OERI reports.

Staffing

In the fall of 1991 OERI had a staff of 472. Of those, 287 were program professionals who solicit advice for research agendas, plan research, prepare requests for proposals, supervise and participate in the review of proposals, negotiate the substantive work of grants and contracts, monitor the latter, disseminate research results, and maintain liaison with professional organizations and the public. Only about three dozen of those staff members regularly conduct research, and most of those spend more than one-half of their time on managerial activities. The 472 staff are distributed among OERI offices as follows:

Office of Assistant Secretary

88

Office of Research

69

Programs for the Improvement of Practice

87

FIRST

18

NCES

139

Library Programs

53

Other (special councils and panels)

18

Some staff in OERI claim there has been a serious staffing shortage over the past few years, but others disagree. A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office (1987) found that between fiscal 1980 and fiscal 1986, the staffs at NIE and NCES declined 26 percent, and their program budgets declined 59 percent (in constant dollars). Between 1986 and 1991, OERI's data indicate that the staff increased by 13 percent and the program budgets increased by 47 percent (in constant dollars).

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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The ratio of program budget to staff has definitely increased over the past 5 years, but it had decreased substantially over the prior 6 years. In considering these numbers it should be noted that the staff salaries and expenses are covered in a "salary and expenses" budget, which is entirely separate from the program budget. The salaries and expenses budget is based primarily on the number of staff, their average grade levels, and their anticipated office expenses.

Many factors affect the number of staff needed for a given program budget. They include the extent and nature of the activities undertaken, whether they are new or routine, and the quality of the staff. According to the Office of Management and Budget (personal communication), there are no formal standards by which to judge the staffing levels of federal agencies. Over a period of years the responsibilities and activities of a federal agency usually change some, even though the agency retains the same mission. Without an intensive examination, which the committee was not able to conduct, it is not possible to judge whether OERI, as a whole, now suffers a serious staffing shortage.

There have been allegations that the staffing problem at OERI is not one of numbers, but rather one of quality. Many observers outside the agency find the staff to be unimpressive, as a group, although individual exceptions are frequently noted (Kaestle, 1991). One outside researcher wrote to the committee:

Establishing research priorities, drafting substantively sound requests for proposals, and effective monitoring of grants and contracts all require an understanding of the conduct and substance of educational inquiry. We have worked with a variety of project monitors, and the differences among them have been striking.

There does seem to be widespread agreement within the agency that there have been inadequate professional opportunities for the staff to remain up to date and involved with the research community. Some effort has been made recently to improve this situation, but a tight salaries and expenses budget has limited what can be done.

In contrast to OERI as a whole, data for NCES provide compelling evidence of substantial understaffing. In the early and mid-1980s, NCES's budget ranged from $12 to $14 million, and the allotted staff positions ranged from 107 to 155. In fiscal 1989, 1990, and 1991, the budgets jumped to $31 million, $40 million, and then $60 million, while the allotted staff positions were 133, 128, and 138, respectively. Even after accounting for inflation, the budget tripled between the mid-1980s and 1991, but the staff levels remained close to the average for the early and mid-1980s.

The budget increases at NCES have also been accompanied by major increases in administrative responsibilities. The National Assessment of

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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Educational Progress used to involve a single contract with one institution. It now includes a National Assessment Governing Board, a NAEP review panel, agreements with more than 30 states for the state-level data collection on a trial basis, and an evaluation of that trial. NCES has added many new studies, including a Household Education Survey of preschool and adult education, a Schools and Staffing Survey of the teaching work force, a National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, a longitudinal study of beginning postsecondary students, and a National Adult Literacy Survey. NCES has also expanded its involvement in international studies of education. In fiscal 1985 NCES had a total of 57 projects; in fiscal 1991 there were 167.

There have been a few changes that reduced NCES's staffing needs. For instance, beginning in 1985 most of the editing and production of NCES's reports were transferred to another office within OERI, reducing NCES's need for 4–7 staff positions. However, the total workload of NCES has obviously increased dramatically since the mid-1980s.

Among federal statistical agencies, NCES now has the lowest ratio of staff per $1 million of program budget. The Bureau of Labor statistics has 8.6 staff per $1 million of program budget, the National Center for Health Statistics has 6.9, and NCES has 1.9. Only one other federal statistical unit has a ratio of less than 6.0 staff per $1 million program budget: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which manages a small number of data collections that have remained mostly unchanged for many years.

As indicated above, program budget is not used to pay staff, but rather for outside work performed under contracts and grants. Thus, for a given set of activities, as the staff available to do the work increases, the needed program budget decreases. For instance, the Bureau of the Census does much of its work internally, with higher staff levels and lower program budgets than would be needed if it contracted out most of its work (its ratio is 15.3 staff per $1 million of program budget). But when the ratio of the staff to program dollars declines below a certain level, staff members must spend nearly all their time monitoring contracts, and that type of work does not attract the skilled researchers and statisticians who are needed for planning and analysis. This has now become the case at NCES.

As a result of the rapidly expanding responsibilities and constrained staffing levels, NCES is again developing one of the problems for which it was severely criticized in the early and mid 1980s—the delayed release of data and publications. Because of the nature of the work flow, longer delays can be expected in the coming years if staffing levels are not increased promptly.

Decisions about federal staffing levels are made in a complex manner. There is a single salaries and expense budget for all but two offices in the Department of Education. Each assistant secretary proposes numbers; the Office of Planning, Budget, and Evaluation revises and totals them; the Secretary of Education makes further changes; the Office of Management

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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and Budget makes recommendations to the President; and then the President submits a salary and expenses budget to Congress. Usually that budget is enacted by Congress with few changes (unlike the program budgets, which are often modified by Congress). After passage of the budget, the Secretary of Education makes a final allocation of the positions and dollars to the assistant secretaries, who in turn allocate them among their offices. Since NCES comprises less than 1 percent of the Department of Education's budget, its growing staff needs are easily overlooked.

Procurement

Rules and regulations guiding OERI's procurement process are found in several documents: legislative authority for OERI is provided in Section 405 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), which was amended by Section 1401 of the Higher Education Amendments of 1986. The Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), Title 34, specify the requirements for implementing grants. Procedures for awarding contracts are described under the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Individual programs axe also affected by specifications in their authorizing legislation.

Under OERI's current authorization, the Secretary of Education may enter into "grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements with institutions of higher education, public and private organizations, institutions, agencies, and individuals" for the purpose of "supporting scientific inquiry into the educational process" (General Education Provisions Act, Sec. 405(b)(3)(A)(i)).

The secretary is required to publish proposed research priorities in the Federal Register every 2 years, followed by a 60-day waiting period for receiving public comment and suggestions. In addition, when planning award competitions, the secretary must first "solicit recommendations and advice regarding research priorities, opportunities, and strategies from qualified experts, personnel of the regional education laboratories and of the research and development centers, and the Council, as well as parents and other members of the general public."

Funding of the Centers and Laboratories

In the mid-1960s the centers and laboratories were created to be largescale institutions conducting research and development and dissemination activities over an extended period of time, much like the Atomic Energy Commission laboratories. When NIE was created, it quickly switched from funding institutions to funding various programs of activity that were proposed by those institutions. The rationale for the program purchase policy had at least two parts. First, the top researchers recruited to NIE believed many of the centers and laboratories inherited from the Office of Education

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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were ineffective relics of the past; they sought more control over their activities and hoped to eliminate some of the institutions. Second, it was thought that NIE staff could better judge the merit of proposals for programs than the merit of proposals for institutions, and more effectively monitor program progress, because all proposals in a given area of activity would be handled by one or two people with considerable expertise in that area. Center and laboratory staffs feared that the program purchase policy would fragment their efforts and threaten their survival. During that policy's short life from 1973 to 1976, fragmentation did occur, but the institutions survived. Two centers and two laboratories experienced substantial reductions in their NIE funding, but one center and two laboratories experienced substantial increases.

The program purchase policy was renounced by the NIE board in 1976. The Campbell (1975) report, commissioned by the board, had recommended a return to institutional support. The center and laboratory directors had also vigorously expressed their displeasure with the policy to members of Congress, and the 1976 reauthorization of NIE suggested a return to institutional support. The reauthorization also mandated the Panel for the Review of Laboratory and Center Operations (1979), which strongly favored institutional support, with periodic evaluations, for those centers and laboratories that had already demonstrated high quality and productive work.

Despite the quick demise of the program purchase policy, neither NIE nor OERI really returned to long-term institutional support for the centers or laboratories. Rather, NIE muddled along for a few years, halfway between a policy of program purchase and one of institutional support, and then in the early 1980s began planning a competition for the institutions. Since 1985 the centers and laboratories have had to compete for funding every 5 years. The centers have essentially become 5-year projects, with the foci of their activities determined by OERI and with many having little past or future. In contrast, the laboratories have regained a semblance of institutional support over the past decade. Although they also had to compete in 1985 and 1990, only one incumbent laboratory was defeated in those two rounds. Laboratory awards are now almost three times larger than those of the centers, and the laboratories are funded with contracts, which allow them to receive a fee for general and administrative costs in excess of their direct expenses, permitting accumulation of some capital for new initiatives and lean times. The centers, on the other hand, are funded with grants and cooperative agreements that do not permit such a fee.

Peer Review

The 1985 competitions for center and laboratory awards were the first since the 1960s and raised concern in Congress and the research community about how expertly and fairly they would be conducted, particularly since

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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the multiple 5-year awards would make them the largest competitions in the history of the Department of Education. Judging by most accounts, the competitions in 1985 appear to have been administered commendably (Finn, 1986; Garduque and Berliner, 1986; Moorman and Carroll, 1986). A similar assessment is generally made of the 1990 competitions (Sroufe, 1991).

Planning for the 1985 competitions began with public hearings in 11 cities. To encourage a fair and open competition, grants of $15,000–$25,000 for planning and proposal preparation were awarded to 25 potential laboratory bidders and 36 potential center bidders. A total of 125 researchers, educators, and public representatives sat on 12 panels to review the proposals. Site visits were made to all bidders whose proposals were judged promising.

Planning for the 1990 center competition included several study group meetings, commissioned papers, a blue-ribbon panel to review the prior planning work, and the services of 130 reviewers. Planning for the 1990 laboratory competition included a review of the laboratories' self-evaluations and peer evaluations, establishment of an external laboratory review panel to advise on the competition, several commissioned papers, meetings with representatives of the major educational associations, and open hearings in three cities. Twenty-five people reviewed the proposals.

The one element of these competitions that has been subject to some continuing criticism is the manner in which the peer review was conducted. For that reason, the committee examined the peer review process in more detail.

Peer review of scientific merit has formally used at least since 1665, when the Royal Society required peer review of articles prior to their publication in Philosophical Transactions. Peer review of proposals for federally funded R&D work began in the United States with establishment of the National Advisory Cancer Council in 1937 and became commonplace as federal funding for science expanded rapidly in the 1950s (Chubin and Hackett, 1990). It is now used by many federal agencies when evaluating proposals for both field-initiated and institutional research, most prominently by NSF and NIH. However, some agencies, particularly within the Defense Department, rely instead on internal reviews by program managers.

At OERI the selection of awards is determined by the process and principles of peer review ''except where such peer review procedures are clearly inappropriate given such factors as the relatively small amount of a grant or contract or the exigencies of the situation'' (General Education Provisions Act, Sec. 1401(d)(3)(B). According to OERI (Chalker, 1990:19):

One of the main functions of a peer review panel is to ensure that decisions are informed by sound advice from multiple perspectives. Therefore, panels may include a mix of researchers, policy makers, practitioners, and members of the general public including individuals representing business and industry.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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The inclusion of people other than researchers in the review of R&D proposals is not unprecedented. Although NSF uses scientists almost exclusively, it should be noted that 94 percent of its budget goes to basic research, not applied research or development. And NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate does include teachers and other practitioners in the review of proposals for mathematics and science education research and development activities. At NIH there is a two-tier review process. The first review is done by an initial review group, composed of scientists with national stature in a particular discipline. The second review is done by the national advisory council for the particular institute. These councils are composed of 12 or more members drawn from both the scientific and lay communities. They review the initial judgments of the proposals and make recommendations for funding in light of program relevance and relationship to the institute's overall mission. In practice, the councils make few changes in the priority rankings from the initial review (Chubin and Hackett, 1990).

Education researchers generally suggest that practitioners be involved in defining the priorities for education research, but that researchers alone should advise on which proposals should be funded. A compromise sometimes offered by researchers is a two-tier system, with teachers and administrators first judging the practical merit of proposals and then researchers judging the technical merit.

OERI used a different two-tier system for the 1985 center and laboratory competitions. The first stage assessed the merit of proposals, with review panels composed mostly of researchers and practitioners familiar with research. The second stage was an oversight review of the first stage and advised the agency on opportunities for collaboration across proposals that could produce cumulative and coherent work, with a panel composed mostly of practitioners and policy makers. Although no changes in the decisions of the first-stage reviewers were suggested, OERI found this two-tier process cumbersome because the second stage reviewers often found it difficult not to second-guess the technical reviewers' decisions (Moorman and Carroll, 1986).

For the 1990 competitions, OERI moved to a single-tier process with panels of mixed expertise. Among the 130 reviewers of the proposals were local educators, state legislators, parents of Chapter I students, and representatives of local and state education associations, teacher unions, and the media. It is estimated that only about one-fourth to one-third of the reviewers were researchers. In these panels, all participants judged both technical and programmatic merit. Since one-third or less of the reviewers of the center proposals were researchers, two-thirds of the judgments about technical merit were made by people with little expertise on those matters.

Heterogeneous review panels have been criticized by researchers as constituting external review instead of peer review by scientists. It is said

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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that such panels include a predominance of people with no knowledge of research, and these people are likely to select proposals on the basis of personal preferences, interest group loyalties, and political allegiances, rather than scientific rigor. Given the ratio of researchers to others, this criticism appears to have some merit, but if review panels were comprised entirely of researchers, it could be argued that the selection of proposals would be biased towards their interests, disregarding the concerns of teachers, school administrators, and policy makers.

Report Review and Clearance Procedures

The Department of Education operates a report review and clearance procedure that applies to most of its subunits, including all of OERI except NCES. The Publication and Audiovisual Review System specifies that most reports and speeches prepared by department staff must be reviewed and cleared "to safeguard ED resources from waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement" (U.S. Department of Education, 1989). Several criteria are to be considered when deciding whether a report "is necessary," including "consistency with ED's mission and goals" and ''conformity with legislation, regulations, and policy." The clearance procedure requires sign-off by the head of the originating office, by the assistant secretaries in the department with responsibilities related to the substance of the report, and by the director of the editorial policy division of the department's Office of Public Affairs. This policy would allow the department to prevent the release of a report, even if well researched and documented, if it failed to support a department policy. The department's June 1989 Public Affairs Handbook even specifies that clearance is required for written speeches that:

[are] not prepared or delivered on official time, and even if no compensation is involved, and which:

  1. Deal with subject matter related to any Department program, even if the author or speaker is not identified as an employee of the U.S. Department of Education; or

  2. Identify the author or speaker as an employee of the Department of Education, regardless of whether the subject matter is related to a Department program.

The committee's conversations with more than a dozen OERI staff who have gone through the department's report clearance process suggest that it has been politicized on several occasions during the past decade. Political sensitivities within the department have resulted in many hours of negotiations, several delays, occasional modifications, and a few withdrawals, but apparently no outright suppressions. Some staff have been dissuaded from undertaking analyses on subjects sensitive within the department, and some have downplayed results that might be unwelcome by the department. These

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

critical views are not, shared by all the OERI staff with whom we talked, but the vast majority reported instances of difficulty. The responses indicate that the problems were generally more severe during the early 1980s, more severe with official OERI reports than with papers prepared by staff members for professional meetings and journals, and more severe for reports that deal with policy matters or characterize department programs.

Several OERI staff suggested there is merit in a nonbinding review by assistant secretaries in the department with responsibilities related to the substance of the report—they had received many helpful comments. Virtually all acknowledged that there is a need for a report review process, at least for official OERI reports and presentations, but most thought it should be conducted by OERI and should focus on scientific quality and editorial style, not consistency with department policy.

The National Science Foundation, as an independent cabinet-level agency, has full authority over its reports. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite being housed within the Department of Labor, also has such authority. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most reports are reviewed and cleared within the individual institutes, but a few, particularly those on politically sensitive issues, are forwarded for review by the director of NIH, the Assistant Secretary for Health, or the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Funding

NIE was established to enhance the federal role in education R&D, yet within a year its budget began spiraling downward. That trend continued when NIE's functions were assumed by OERI, reaching a low point in 1989 (Figure 3-2). The total decline between 1973 and 1989 (in constant 1990 dollars) was 88 percent. When the budgets of NCES are aggregated with those of NIE, the low point was in 1986, with an 84 percent decline. In contrast, over the same period, there was a 24 percent constant-dollar increase in total federal R&D expenditures and a 7 percent constant-dollar increase in total budget of the Department of Education (Figure 3-3). Since the low points, OERI budgets have increased (in constant dollars), mostly due to substantial increases for NCES's statistical activities and NAEP. Figures 3-2 and 3-3 reflect OERI funds for the centers, laboratories, field-initiated research, BRIC, NCES, and special studies and demonstrations; they do not include the FIRST office programs or the library programs, which are administered by OERI, but involve very little research or research-based development.

For many years, the congressional appropriation committees have determined the annual levels of support for the centers and laboratories by "directives" in the hearing report that specify amounts of funds to be given

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Figure 3-2 Funding for the National Institute of Education and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1973–1991 (in 1990 constant dollars). Source: Unpublished data from the Office of Education Research and Improvement.

to the centers (as a group) and to the laboratories (as a group). This has not been welcomed by the OERI administrators and many researchers in the field. The administrators prefer more discretion over the distribution of resources, and researchers hope such discretion would result in a larger portion of OERI funds being available for field-initiated research.

Researchers, watching resources for field-initiated work dwindle, have blamed the loss on the set-asides of funds for the laboratories and centers, which have taken up increasingly large percentages of the budgets. Some observers suggest a quite different view: that the centers and laboratories, especially the latter with clients spread across the country, have provided most of the constituent support for NIE and OERI, and without their efforts, the agencies would have disappeared. Both views may be correct.

The centers and laboratories, however, have also suffered from the declining budgets: in 1973 NIE provided $80 million for their operations (in

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Figure 3-3 Percentage change in funding for all federal R&D, all activities in the Department of Education, and NIE/OERI, 1973–1991 (in 1990 constant dollars). Sources: Data on federal R&D from National Science Foundation (1991a:Table 29); data on Department of Education from Congressional Research Service (1991:Table B.1); data on NIE/OERI from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, unpublished.

1990 constant dollars); by 1979 that had declined to $52 million; and in 1991 the amount was $47 million. For individual laboratories and centers, the effect has been more dramatic because there are now twice as many of them as there were in 1973.

The budget cutting has also been reflected in congressionally requested studies. For instance, in the mid-1970s Congress directed NIE to conduct a nationwide study of the administration and effectiveness of compensatory education. The equivalent of $34 million (in 1990 dollars) was appropriated for the 3.5-year study. In 1990 Congress directed OERI to conduct a nationwide study of school reform efforts—a much broader topic—but just $9 million was made available for the 3.5-year study.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

These budget cuts have had a marked effect on the work and products of OERI. A U.S. General Accounting Office report (1987:2) that reviewed the work of NIE, NCES, and the department's Office of Policy, Budget, and Evaluation concluded:

During the past decade, the production of federally sponsored research, statistical, and evaluative information on education has declined notably ... so much so that the availability of up-to-date information to disseminate to teachers and other practitioners may be threatened.

OERI's 1991 Budget

OERI's budget for fiscal 1991 totaled $379.5 million. Slightly more than one-third of it was for R&D, statistics, and NAEP. The distribution was as follows (in millions):

Research, development, and dissemination

 

$78.4

National research centers

$20.7

 

Regional laboratories

24.9

 

ERIC

6.6

 

Field-initiated research

1.3

 

Education reform evaluation

2.9

 

National Institute of Literacy

4.9

 

Education summit follow-up

4.9

 

National Board for Professional Teacher Standards

4.9

 

Other

7.3

 

NCES (statistics and NAEP)

 

59.6

School Improvement Programs

 

99.3

Libraries Programs

 

142.2

Total

 

$379.5

The 1991 OERI budget was a 21 percent increase from the prior year's level of $314 million. There were modest additions for many line items, but the big increases were for NCES, the addition of follow-up activities from the education summit, and the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards.

Comparisons with Other Fields

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the National Science Foundation are responsible for collecting and reporting data on federal and national expenditures for R&D. They use definitions that are somewhat narrower than those used for the data in Figures 3-2 and 3-3 for OERI. According to the National Science Foundation (1991a:3):

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Research is systematic study directed toward fuller scientific knowledge or understanding of the subject studied.

Development is systematic use of the knowledge or understanding gained from research, directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including design and development of prototypes and processes.

These definitions exclude all dissemination activities and routine statistics collection, both of which have long been considered important parts of NIE, NCES, and OERI activities. Although one might argue with the appropriateness of the NSF definitions, they are important because they provide a basis for comparisons across agencies and industries. In 1991, only an estimated $58.1 million of OERI's $380 million budget was spent on R&D as defined by OMB and NSF—just 15 percent of the total. In addition, although OERI is the Department of Education's lead agency for education R&D, in fiscal 1991 it accounted for only one-third of the department's R&D.

The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (1988:164) recently reviewed federally funded R&D for technology applications to education. It noted the following about the Department of Education:

Education's limited spending for R&D in the area of educational technology is not surprising when one looks at the overall low priority granted education research in general. Barely half of one percent of the Department of Education budget goes to research. By comparison, the Nation spends about as much annually on health care as on education, but it spends 60 times as much on health research. The military, where R&D has been increasing at an average increase of 7.8 percent per year since fiscal year 1984, devotes about 12.8 percent of its total DoD obligation to research.

A U.S. General Accounting Office (1988) report compared the Department of Education's R&D funding between 1980 and 1987 with that of other federal departments and agencies. Seven major departments and agencies showed declines in R&D budget obligations similar to the Department of Education, while five experienced increases. When observing the budgets for statistical activities, all but one agency experienced declines, but the decline for NCES was larger than the average. Program evaluation budgets, excluding the Department of Defense, showed declines, and the Department of Education's decline was similar to the average.

OMB and NSF collect and report federal R&D expenditures across agencies by 16 budget function categories, such as national defense, health, and transportation. Because each agency reports R&D expenditures in a maximum of 3 of the 16 functions, the data are not comprehensive. There is an "Education, training, employment, and social services" function, which has a subcategory of "Research and general education aids." None of the

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

substantial investments in education R&D by NSF or the Department of Defense is included, because they are precluded from reporting in that budget function. In 1991 the subcategory of education had projected R&D expenditures of $140 million by the Department of Education and $106 million by the Smithsonian Institution (National Science Foundation, 1991b), the only two institutions tabulated for that subcategory, and clearly little of the Smithsonian budget is actually used for education R&D. For these reasons, NSF's budget function data are inadequate for monitoring federal expenditures in education R&D.

Occasionally, comprehensive analyses across agencies have been undertaken to estimate federal expenditures in a given area. OMB conducted a special survey for the National Education Goals Panel in the summer of 1991 and estimated that the federal government spent $310 million on education R&D in that year (National Education Goals Panel, 1991). This committee undertook a similar analysis, talking to budget office personnel and key program administrators and examining listings of funded projects. We estimated total expenditures in 1991 to be $364 million. Most of the difference in the two totals result from estimates for education R&D by the Department of Defense, with the OMB estimate being considerably lower.

Despite the shortcomings in the budget function data, they are the best available for making comparisons across broad areas of research such as education, health, and agriculture. And there is reason to think they work better for most functions than they do for education. For instance, the budget function data for health are only 8 percent lower than data from NIH's own comprehensive analysis. Given the manner in which the budget function data are generated, they will almost always underestimate the total federal investment in a specified area.

Table 3-1 presents data for several broad areas that correspond with the budget functions. It shows federal funds for R&D in each area, total federal expenditures for all activities in each area, and all expenditures in the country for all activities in each area.

Federal expenditures for education R&D are one-third those for R&D in agriculture and transportation and only 4 percent of federal expenditures for R&D in health. Because the data for education R&D are from comprehensive analysis across agencies and the data for the other areas are from NSF's budget functions and therefore underestimates, the disparities are even greater than they appear from these data.

The low investment in education R&D is not a function of the federal government's overall involvement in this area. It invests less than 1 percent of its total education expenditures on R&D, but it invests 3.2 percent of its total transportation expenditures on R&D, 6.9 percent of its total

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

TABLE 3-1 Expenditures by Area of Activity for Federal R&D, Total Federal Expenditures, and All National Expenditures, Fiscal 1990 (in billions)

Area of Activity

Federal R&Da

Total Federal Expendituresb

All National Expenditures

Education

$ 0.3c

$ 38.7d

$ 365e

Agriculture

1.0

14.5

100f

Transportation

1.0

30.9

163f

Energy

2.7

4.9

406g

Space

5.8

14.6

n.a.

Health

8.3

60.9

616h

Defense

39.9

303.3

328i

All activities

63.8

1,368.5

5,464j

NOTE: n.a., not available.

SOURCES:

a National Science Foundation, 1991a:Table 1 (for all areas of activity except education)

bBudget of the United States Government, 1992, Part 4:Table A-2 (for all areas of activity except education).

c National Education Goals Panel, 1991:Exhibit 79.

d National Center for Education Statistics, 199lb:Table 338. Table shows total federal expenditures for education of 50.4 billion; we excluded $12.1 billion for research programs in all disciplines at universities and related institutions, except the estimated $0.3 billion for education R&D.

e National Center for Education Statistics, 199lb:Table 29.

f U.S. Department of Commerce, 1992, Part 4:Table 699 (fiscal 1988).

g U.S. Department of Commerce, 1992, Part 4:Table 951 (fiscal 1988).

h U.S, Department of Health and Human Services, 1991 :Table 1 (fiscal 1990).

i U.S. Department of Commerce, 1992, Part 4:Table 541 (fiscal 1990).

j National Center for Education Statistics. 199lb:Table 29. (Total is gross national product.)

agriculture expenditures, and 13.6 percent of its total health expenditures; see Figure 3-4.

The low investment in education R&D also is not a function of total national expenditures for each activity. Federal education research is just 0.1 percent of total national expenditures for education. Federal transportation research is almost 0.6 percent of total national expenditures on transportation; federal agriculture research is 1.0 percent of total national expenditures on agriculture; and federal health research is 1.3 percent of total national expenditures on health care; see Figure 3-5.

By all the above comparisons, federal funding for education R&D lags far behind federal funding for R&D in other broad areas of activity. From Table 3-1 one can compute that only one-half of 1 percent of all federally funded research and development is directed to education.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

Figure 3-4 Federal R&D in selected areas as a percentage of total federal expenditures in each area, 1990.

Figure 3-5 Federal support for R&D in specified areas as a percentage of total national expenditures in each area, 1990. NOTE: n.a., not available.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×
Other Funding of R&D

There are no data on total nationwide expenditures for education R&D, including expenditures by private organizations and state and local governments. NSF is responsible for monitoring national expenditures for R&D, but it does not do so for education R&D. As a consequence, it is difficult to assess how the declines in OERI's and NIE's support for education R&D may have been magnified or offset by trends at other levels. The data show that there has been a large decline in federal support for education R&D over the past two decades, and incomplete information suggests that there have been small and moderate increases in support from several other sources.

A comprehensive analysis of total federal expenditures for education R&D in 1975 found a total of $1.1 billion (in 1990 constant dollars) (National Institute of Education, 1976). Somewhat less comprehensive analyses conducted by the Office of Management and Budget for the years 1974, 1975, and 1976 indicated federal expenditures of $1.1 billion, $1.0 billion, and $1.3 billion, respectively (in 1990 constant dollars). The above-noted 1991 analyses suggest the federal total is now only $310 to $364 million. All data on funding levels are based on OMB's and NSF's narrow definitions of R&D.

Only four federal agencies invested more than $5 million in education R&D and their activities are briefly noted below. The Department of Education is the largest funder, spending about $193 million in 1991. Of that amount, OERI accounts for only an estimated $58 million. The largest share of the department's funding, an estimated $94 million, is for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, which conducts R&D on various learning disabilities, special education approaches, and the handicaps of children and adults. Smaller amounts of R&D are accounted for by R&D on Chapter 1 programs ($10 million), international education and foreign language ($3 million), bilingual education ($3 million), and other subjects. Some of this work is administered by the respective program offices, but some, particularly evaluations of demonstration efforts, is handled by the department's Office of Planning, Budget, and Evaluation.

The National Science Foundation spent an estimated $54 million in education R&D, mostly through its Education and Human Resources Directorate. It supports work on the teaching and learning of mathematics and science; the applications of advanced technologies, particularly computers, to science and mathematics education; the development of improved curricula, materials and strategies for primary and secondary school instruction in mathematics, science, and technology; improvements in undergraduate college instruction in mathematics, science, and engineering; and studies of science, mathematics, and engineering education.

The Department of Health and Human Services supported about $39

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

million of education R&D in 1991. Its efforts focused on the biology of learning, cognitive processing, the relationships between health and learning, and the education of health professionals.

The Department of Defense funded an estimated $16 million of education R&D in 1991, according to the OMB data; the committee's estimate is $75 million. The department supports psychometric research; basic research on cognition, learning, and problem solving; computer-assisted learning through intelligent tutoring, simulations, and other means; and the development of computerized expert systems to assist in complex decision making.

In April 1991 President Bush announced a wide-ranging America 2000 education reform strategy. It proposed world-class standards and national achievement tests; several efforts to improve teaching and leadership in schools and recognition and rewards for excellence; the promotion of school choice; one-time $1 million grants to 535 schools that the undertake specified reforms; cooperation with the new New American Schools Development Corporation (see below); and job skills training and continuing education for adults. Substantial funding increases have been proposed for each area of effort except the latter two. Legislative proposals in support of the program appear bogged down because there is considerable disagreement in Congress over the advisability of national achievement tests, school choice, and the one-time grants to 535 schools.

There is widespread anecdotal information indicating that many state departments of education and large school districts have added research staff over the past 20 years, but the information also suggests that these personnel are primarily used for routine student assessment programs and evaluations of local demonstrations. NSF surveys indicate that state agencies spent $26 million of state funds on education R&D in fiscal 1973 and $21 million in fiscal 1988 (both in 1990 constant dollars) (National Institute of Education, 1976; National Science Foundation, 1990).

These state agency expenditures do not include substantial state support for thousands of faculty in public colleges and universities who spend a portion of their time doing education research. This is not the release-time paid by foundation and federal research awards, but rather the part of faculty members' normal weekly activities that is expected to be devoted to scholarly pursuits. There is similar private support for the scholarly activity of faculty in private colleges and universities. Lieberman (1991) estimated that the two accounted for about $300–$400 million worth of education research. The committee was not able to determine how this amount may have changed over the past several decades. Most of this university-supported work is believed to be discipline oriented, rather than problem oriented, because promotion and tenure are judged primarily by contributions to the disciplines. The work is also thought to involve mostly small-scale studies, because universities have very limited funds to support the research

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

assistants, original data collection efforts, and data processing that large-scale studies usually involve.

State education policy centers have been created in about 25 states during the past several years. Their purpose is to help inform the policy-making process with nonpartisan research. Most operate on a very small scale: in 1990 only four had an operating budget in excess of $100,000 (McCarthy, 1990). University funds and foundation grants are their main sources of support.

Foundation support for education research has increased modestly from 1981, the first year for which totals are available. It rose from $20 million then (in 1990 dollars) to $36 million in 1990, according to the Foundation Center's database. The latter figure is less than 1 percent of total foundation spending for that year.

Professional education associations are reported to have expanded their R&D staffs over the past two decades, but aggregate data are not available. Most of these associations rely substantially on federal and foundation funds to support their research and development activities, and thus they contribute limited additional funding for those activities.

Several major business associations became involved with education reform during the 1980s and have commissioned or conducted education policy studies. Their interests vary, but they generally focus on work force preparation, business-school partnerships, and the Job Training Partnership Act programs. Together, the work does not appear to exceed $10 million annually, and a substantial portion is funded by foundations and corporations. The latter has not previously been a common source of funding for education research.

The New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) was created recently by business leaders at the request of President Bush. NAS-DC hopes to raise $200 million from private sources for a one-time 5-year effort to ''create and test designs for schools that achieve national education goals and meet world class standards for all students'' (New American Schools Development Corporation, 1991:13). NASDC is deliberately seeking ideas from sources not traditionally associated with education. Though some have interpreted NASDC as a "vote of no confidence" in OERI, the President apparently sees it as a supplemental "jump start" effort (Alexander, 1991:27). The administration's fiscal 1992 and 1993 budget requests have sought to increase funding for OERI's research, statistics, and school improvement efforts.

Whether NASDC will succeed remains to be seen. Only about $40 million of the $200 million has been committed over the past 9 months. NASDC officials say they have not really started their fundraising, but some corporate leaders have voiced reluctance to contribute. Equally important, the ambitious goals of NASDC are on a very tight schedule. The

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
×

designs are to be developed during the first year; implemented, tested, and refined during the next 2 years; and then disseminated to local communities during the following 2 years. The examples of education development efforts cited in Chapter 2 suggest that much more time would be needed to achieve NASDC's goals. At the end of 5 years there is likely to remain much need for fine-tuning the models, rigorous testing of them, and supporting their adoption.

Private organizations, such as Bell Laboratories and the Educational Testing Service, undoubtedly invest in education R&D, but again there are no aggregate data. Commercial textbook and software publishers may also do so, but their work has long been criticized for lagging far behind advances in research knowledge.

Several professional associations of educators and scholars have recently become heavily involved in curriculum improvement efforts. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics developed objectives for mathematics curricula and assessment that have been well received and widely endorsed. Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is developing several alternative approaches to teaching science. Whittle Communications has announced the Edison Project to invent new schools that will then be operated privately around the country. All of these undertakings are development efforts, not research, and it is unclear how much they have been based on research findings or will use research in refining their work and testing it.

There has been some conjecture that because of increases in nonfederal funding of education R&D, the federal role now can be considerably reduced. The committee finds no evidence for that conjecture. Solid evidence indicates that total federal investment in education R&D has declined by $700 million (in 1990 constant dollars) since 1975. Although there are some indications that school districts, professional associations, business organizations and foundations have increased their support of education R&D, the spotty available evidence suggests these increases almost certainly fall short of the amount of the decline in federal support. The evidence also suggests that the expanded nonfederal support is directed towards local testing and assessment programs and some limited topics of research, rather than the broad spectrum of research and development that has traditionally been the mission of OERI and NIE.

Suggested Citation:"THE OFFICE OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT." National Research Council. 1992. Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1973.
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Research and Education Reform: Roles for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement Get This Book
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The Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) in the U.S. Department of Education has a mandate for expanding knowledge of teaching and learning and for improving education in this country.

This book focuses on how OERI can better fulfill that mission in light of what is known about why prior education reforms have often failed, what is needed to enhance the effectiveness of such efforts, and what education research and development can contribute to better schools.

The history, mission, governance, organization, functions, operations, and budgets of OERI are analyzed. Recommendations are made for restructuring OERI, expanding funding, involving scholars from many fields, and engaging teachers and school principals in improvement efforts.

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