Statement by Sue Betka, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Educational Research, Statistics, and Improvement, On the Fiscal Year 2002 Request for Education Research, Statistics, and Assessment
Before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations, Ralph Regula, Chairman
Archived Information

April 26, 2001

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the President's fiscal year 2002 budget request for Education Research, Statistics, and Assessment activities administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). The President has requested a total of $382.1 million for these activities in 2002. This is $66.6 million, or 21 percent, more than is available in fiscal year 2001 for the comparable activities. The request does not include funds for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs currently administered by OERI. Those programs are included in the consolidation proposals described by my colleague from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The President and the Secretary firmly believe that, in order to improve student achievement, educators must seek out and use effective, research-based practices and programs. They are not alone. For some years now, parents, teachers, and administrators have increasingly demanded specific, evidence-based guidance for improving schools. The Federal Government must invest in research and data collection and in developing, testing, and evaluating strategies and programs, in order to support the Nation's education improvement effort and ensure that the larger Federal investment in education is spent on programs that work.

The request for OERI is focused exclusively on what we consider the core OERI functions:

  • Research and development --To support research, development, and evaluation related to education;

  • Statistics and assessment -- To collect and analyze data and compile and report statistics on the condition and progress of education, including student achievement;

  • Dissemination -- To provide parents, educators, policymakers, and the public with information and research findings related to education; and

  • Technical assistance -- To provide assistance to educators and others in the use of research-based information to solve problems and improve education.

These functions comprise a vitally important Federal role in education as the Nation works to improve the quality of instruction and the level of achievement found in America's schools.

Research, Development, and Dissemination

We are requesting $188.1 million for research, development, and dissemination activities. This includes support for the activities of our five national research institutes, our interagency research efforts, our regional educational laboratories, and a variety of dissemination activities. Our request constitutes an increase of $2.5 million over the appropriation available in the current fiscal year for these activities.

The funds we are requesting will support the sustained, focused programs of research carried out by the university-based, national research and development centers we support. These centers are carrying out research in areas such as early childhood development, assessment of student achievement, teacher development, education policy and finance, and adult learning. The centers are a core component of our overall research program. Solutions to many of the critical issues in American education -- such as ensuring that all children, irrespective of their backgrounds and socio-economic status, learn to high standards -- are developed over time, as ideas are tried out, refined, and tested, and center funding allows for such sustained activity. One of our centers is presenting a seminar in the Longworth Building two weeks from tomorrow on the topic of fixing failing schools. I hope some of your staff might be able to attend. The work of another of our centers is the basis for much of an eight-hour public television series set to air next fall.

Another important component of our research portfolio is field-initiated research studies. The research topics and methods the investigators propose are subjected to high quality peer review and evaluation before funding decisions are made. In addition to encouraging and supporting ideas about new research from the field, this program helps to build capacity for education research.

Of particular note are our interagency research efforts. Recognizing the need to improve student achievement in reading, mathematics, and science, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have worked together to establish a program of methodologically rigorous research that advances our understanding of how schools can more effectively help students fully realize their potentials as learners. The interagency education research initiative places a high priority on research that focuses on understanding the practical complexities of large-scale implementation of effective instructional practices. As part of an overall effort to broaden the impact of education research, studies performed under the initiative typically involve large numbers of schools, students, and teachers. One project is currently collecting data on 4,500 students each year over a four-year period in order to examine the effectiveness of an instructional intervention designed to promote scientific literacy. Another study, using a longitudinal design, will track 3,600 students from 16 different schools across grades 3, 4, and 5 to examine the effectiveness of a specific reading comprehension program. More than any other federally-sponsored research effort to date, the interagency education research initiative is designed to increase our knowledge about how educational interventions are implemented in the complex environments of schools. In the two years it has been in existence, this initiative has supported 22 projects.

Our budget also includes funding for a research initiative on language minority learners. An expansion in fiscal year 2002 will build on the early successes of a research initiative launched in fiscal year 2000 on developing English literacy in Spanish-speaking children. This effort was designed to increase understanding about the critical factors that influence the development of English-language reading and writing competencies among children whose first language is Spanish. The initiative, jointly organized and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, will be expanded in 2002 to address issues that affect other groups of students whose first language is not English. The fact that language development is affected by a range of social, familial, and linguistic factors is well established. Building on this knowledge, projects currently funded are working to understand how the factors influence the language development of young children, both prior to school and during their early school years.

Finally, I want to mention another of our major research efforts, our program of research and development in comprehensive school reform. We began this work several years ago in response to a desire on the part of the appropriations committees for capacity-building work to support the comprehensive school reform demonstration program the committees had initiated. We are currently supporting both the development and refinement of new models for the comprehensive reform of middle and high schools and research on the effectiveness of existing models. In an attempt to maximize the accumulation of knowledge from these investments, we are promoting opportunities for the contractors and grantees to expand collaborative efforts in this field of research and work together on common challenges and methodological issues.

Although research centers and many of our other research grantees carry out their own dissemination activities, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement also supports the National Library of Education and the Education Resources Information Center or, as it is more popularly known, ERIC. ERIC is a system of subject-based clearinghouses and other support activities that maintain the world's largest and most used education database. Our request includes funding for both the Library and ERIC.

Our request also includes $65 million in funding for our network of ten regional educational laboratories. The laboratories conduct applied research and development, disseminate research-based products and strategies, and provide training and technical assistance. In general, their particular priorities are determined by their own regional governing boards. They give priority to high-poverty school districts and to schools that most need to improve student achievement. The laboratories play a critical role in linking research, policy, and practice.

The National Center for Education Statistics

We are requesting $190 million for the activities of the National Center for Education Statistics and $4.1 million to support the National Assessment Governing Board. This represents an increase of $74.1 million over current funding, of which $69 million will be devoted to an expansion of the State-representative testing conducted as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Reliable data are critical to inform decision-making in efforts to improve education in America. The mission of the first Department of Education, created in 1867, was to "collect such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several States and territories." While today's education and the task of assessing its scope, quality, and impact are immensely more complex, the National Center for Education Statistics continues to carry out this core function for the Department and the Nation. The Center collects, analyzes, and reports data on all levels of education from pre-primary education through graduate study, including adult education. The education policy issues addressed by its data collections are equally wide ranging, including enrollment trends, access of minorities to postsecondary education, the academic achievement of students, comparisons of the U.S. education system with education systems in other countries, and the effects of education on employment and economic productivity.

For the activities of the Center, exclusive of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the request is $85 million, $5 million over the appropriation for this year. This increase is needed to maintain the current program of the Center. Without the increase, the sample for the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, to be conducted next year, will have to be scaled back to such an extent that it will be impossible to report results for small, but important, subgroups of the population.

The President's request for the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the National Assessment Governing Board is $109.1 million, an increase of $69.1 million over the current level. The National Assessment, also known as The Nation's Report Card, is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what American students know and can do. It has become an integral part of the Nation's measurement of educational progress. Nationally representative data are collected every two years for students in grades 4, 8, and 12, and State-representative data are collected for students in grades 4 and 8 in States that choose to participate.

One of the accountability proposals in the President's No Child Left Behind initiative requires States to participate in these State-representative assessments on an annual basis. As is the case with the current assessments, these annual assessments would involve only samples of students in each State. Students in the fourth and eighth grades would be tested in reading and mathematics. The results of these assessments would be used in conjunction with results from the States' own assessments to determine which States receive rewards or sanctions under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Because States will be required to participate, the Federal Government would assume all costs associated with this annual, State-representative testing of fourth and eighth graders. The increase in our request for the National Assessment of Educational Progress represents the increase in costs associated with this testing.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, my colleagues and I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have about the President's request for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Thank you.

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Last Modified: 07/30/2007