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Advancing the Rigor of Education Research

The Institute was established to provide rigorous evidence on which to ground education practice and policy. In its first 6 years, the Institute has made exceptional progress in improving the rigor of education research and evaluation. By design, the goal of improved rigor has driven the majority of staff activity to date, under the assumption that the threshold condition for making education an evidence-based field is producing findings that can be trusted. The Board concurs with the strategic decision to emphasize rigor. Our judgment of exceptional progress is based on the following evidence: (1) the high standards reflected in the peer review system; (2) the strong external ratings of the quality of the funded research grants; and (3) the high quality of the research designs of the evaluations contracted through the Institute’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE). To build the nation’s capacity to conduct rigorous education research, the Institute has launched predoctoral and postdoctoral research training programs. Based on the GRE scores of the predoctoral fellows and the research productivity of the predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows, as evidenced by the numbers of research publications to date, the Institute has made substantial progress in developing a new generation of education scientists who are well-equipped to conduct high-quality research. Finally, in light of concerns that the Institute has narrowly focused its research funding on projects that use experimental methods to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, the Board examined the Institute’s funding announcements and diversity of the research grant portfolio with respect to research questions and research methods employed. The Board found that the Institute clearly requests research projects that are diverse in purpose (e.g., exploring malleable factors, developing and validating assessments) and in methodological requirements (e.g., correlational, descriptive, observational, quasi-experimental, and experimental methodologies) and has developed a diverse research portfolio in which roughly one-fourth of the projects are experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations of the impact of interventions on education outcomes.