The quality of education research has greatly improved since the Institute for Education Sciences was launched almost fifteen years ago. Its research studies and evaluations are having an impact on the national policy debate—such as the reaction we’ve seen to IES’s recent analysis of the D.C. school voucher program.
Yet when it comes to informing the actual design and implementation of sound policies, from charter schooling to pre-school expansion to statewide accountability systems and much else, today’s research base remains quite limited. We have evidence, for example, on whether school choice “works”—but not much solid evidence about which policy levers to pull to make it work better at scale. Likewise, we know that “teachers matter”—but aren’t quite sure how to translate that finding into smart state policies around teacher preparation, evaluation, and much else.
How might this gap be narrowed? Should IES support different kinds of studies that get closer to the design questions that policymakers are asking? Is such research feasible? Or must we accept that research-based evidence has limitations when it comes to the nitty-gritty of policymaking?
Michael J. Petrilli
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Dale Chu Vice President of Policy and Operations America Succeeds
Dan Goldhaber Director, CEDR, University of Washington Director, CALDER Vice President, AIR
Liz Farley-Ripple Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy University of Delaware
Nora Gordon Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy Georgetown University