Letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee
November 15, 2011
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we would like to offer our views in advance of this week’s Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on “Education Research: Identifying Effective Programs to Support Students and Teachers."
NEA’s Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020: Achieving A New Balance in the Federal Role to Transform America's Public Schools policy paper highlights the critical role of the federal government in promoting independent, federally-funded education research. The need for significant, credible, empirical research on education methods, materials, and school organization has never been greater. We need a strong focus on identifying best practices that will make the most difference for students. In particular, we believe the appropriate federal role is to help sponsor practical research that can improve student achievement. For example, there is a critical need for independent research on:
• Turn-around strategies to help struggling schools,
• Specific instructional strategies and techniques and their impacts on student learning,
• The best practices regarding online instruction and learning, and
• The correlation between more comprehensive teacher evaluation systems linked to professional development and teacher practice and student learning.
NEA is actively involved in tracking and analyzing research on best practices in education. We invite you to learn more about such research on our website at http://www.nea.org/tools/17073.htm. We have also attached for your information several examples of education research particularly relevant to ESEA reauthorization debates — addressing Accountability Policies and Measures, School Reconstruction and an Education Reform Strategy, and Teacher Evaluation Measures and Systems.
We are very disappointed that this week’s hearing includes no educators on the panel. Teachers and other education employees are more than consumers of education research. Practitioners play an important role in framing the questions researchers examine. Good research takes into account the ground-level view and examines which aspects can be replicated and scaled up to schools, districts, and networks of schools and districts.
There needs to be a much stronger link between education research and what is happening in the classroom. If reforms and research-based methods are to succeed, it takes more than just telling people to change. Educators are professionals, not a sophisticated delivery system for a particular method, and changing practice cannot occur simply by informing them. Federal research and development projects should encourage high levels of collaboration and involvement with practitioners.
NEA believes that America should increase its investment in quality research. The investment in research can bring about enormous results — if educators and districts have a repertoire of research-based approaches. It is vital however; that the federal government ensure education research is objective and free from political bias.
Again, we believe there is a great need for increased investment in practical education research that will help improve student outcomes. We thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues.
Director, Center for Advocacy
Manager of Federal Advocacy