Most of the time, Congressional hearings on federal education research are just an opportunity for various interested parties to plead for more money. A couple of weeks back, however, Rep. Duncan Hunter and the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held an unusually candid and (I hope) fruitful review of this crucial but not-very-sexy policy domain. Terrific witness list—ISUSand an outstanding testimony by former IES director Russ Whitehurst, now of Brookings, who did more than defend his own solid track record in that role. He pulled no punches regarding research quality (needs to be raised, not lowered), the American Educational Research Association (another self-interested and greedy lobby), the (complex but crucial) relationship between IES and the rest of the Education Department, and the hopelessness of the regional education laboratories. He also urged Congress not to “try to dictate how states and LEAs should use findings from research,” about which he’s mostly right. What he might not be right about are the late, lamented Reading First program and the future relationship between IES and the National Center for Education Statistics. Have a look for yourself.
Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Testimony on the Federal Role in Education Research: Providing Relevant Information to Students, Parents, and Educators (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, November 16, 2011).