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New Report Aims to Improve IES and Education Research

Two IPR researchers served on the committee that authored a report outlining new priorities in education sciences

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The Committee was overall impressed with the work of IES in the past two decades. At the same time, we could see several important gaps that need to be addressed, especially in response to questions of equity raised during the pandemic.”

Elizabeth Tipton
IPR statistician

Students in classroom

As the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) approaches, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) convened a committee to review current practices and consider the future needs and goals of education research.

This report focuses on projects that fall under two of the four IES centers, the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

IPR statistician Elizabeth Tipton and education sociologist Cynthia Coburn were part of the 15-member committee that authored the new report with 19 recommendations, developed through a six-month-long consensus process. A Northwestern undergraduate data science student, Elizabeth Hora, designed the cover graphic for the report. 

“The Committee was overall impressed with the work of IES in the past two decades,” Tipton said. “At the same time, we could see several important gaps that need to be addressed, especially in response to questions of equity raised during the pandemic.” 

The committee shared their recommendations at a press conference on March 31. The proposals included five themes that they anticipate becoming top priorities in education over the next decade: 1) equity, 2) technology, 3) use and usefulness of education research, 4) heterogeneity in education, and 5) implementation.

At the press conference, Tipton also highlighted the committee’s recommendation to alter the types of research projects that IES funds.

Researchers would ask schools and communities about their most pressing needs in the first category, which the committee calls Discovery and Needs Assessment. Based on these needs, projects would move to the Development and Adaptation category, where new interventions, such as changes in curricula or teaching strategies, are developed and studied in a range of settings.

Promising interventions would then move to the third project type, Impact and Heterogeneity, where interventions would be studied in a broad range of contexts in order to determine if they improve outcomes, as well as under what conditions they work best. The committee proposes combining experimental and quasi-experimental, efficacy, and effectiveness studies into a single project type, which will allow for variation in how researchers approach different classrooms, schools, and teachers.

In the last project type, called Knowledge Mobilization, researchers would study connections between research and schools. This fourth project type would be an entirely new focus for IES.

“This new project type involves researchers studying head on what it takes to get research to practice,” Tipton said. “This includes the best approaches and avenues to conveying which interventions are scientifically tested, and which are not.”

These proposed four project types would help IES respond to the community’s needs, address research implementation challenges, allow for more robust inferences, and share research with policymakers and practitioners.

IES became a part of the U.S. Department of Education in 2002 after Congress passed the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA). It is a prominent source for education research, evaluation, and statistics.

“It’s clear that the needs of the education field have changed—and federal education research should reflect new priorities like advancing equity, understanding changing use of technology, and increasing the use and usefulness of education research,” said Adam Gamoran, the chair of the committee and president of the William T. Grant Foundation, in the press release.

NOTE: The Institute for Policy Research receives IES funding for research and knowledge dissemination.

Elizabeth Tipton is associate professor of statistics and an IPR fellow. Cynthia Coburn is professor of human development and social policy and of learning sciences and an IPR associate.

Image credit: Pexels (P. Danilyuk)

Published: April 19, 2022.