As a result, although IES—uniquely among Departmental agencies—has the institutional expertise to ensure the scientific rigor and independence of such evaluations, its role as the lead agency for these evaluations is susceptible to administrative change.
The Senate Appropriations Committee report accompanying its FY 2007 Labor-HHS Education Appropriations bill (S. 3708, as approved by the Committee on July 20, 2006) summarizes reasons why IES should have the lead role in such evaluations, as follows:
The Committee strongly supports the Department's efforts to carry out congressionally authorized evaluations of Federal education programs using rigorous methodologies, particularly random assignment, that are capable of producing scientifically valid knowledge regarding which program activities are effective. To ensure that authorized evaluations are conducted in a rigorous manner that is independent of the program office and includes scientific peer review, the Committee believes that the Institute of Education Sciences should be the lead agency for the design and implementation of these evaluations. The Committee believes further that it is essential for program offices to work collaboratively with the Institute to include a priority or requirement in program solicitations for grantee participation in such evaluations, including random assignment, to the extent the Institute deems appropriate and where not specifically prohibited by law. (Sen. Rept. 109-287, July 20, 2006, p. 287)
Such Committee report language provides direction to the Department, and is generally followed, but does not have the same authority or permanence as statute. Thus it, too, is potentially susceptible to change in a way that statutory language is not.
Precedent for this recommendation: IES is explicitly designated in statute as the lead agency for the national evaluation of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Specifically, Section 173 of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-279) states that "The Evaluation and Regional Assistance Commissioner [within IES] . . . shall administer all operations and contracts associated with evaluations authorized by part E of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 . . . and administered by the Department . . . ."
The Title I evaluation is one of the largest and most important Departmental evaluations. Our recommendation is that Congress enact a legislative provision extending this same requirement to all Congressionally-authorized evaluations of Department programs.
This recommendation would apply to: All Departmental program evaluations conducted with explicit Congressional authorization.
This would include evaluations mandated by Congress as well as those authorized but not mandated (e.g., through national activities, evaluation set-aside, or similar statutory provisions). This recommendation would not apply to evaluations conducted without explicit Congressional authorization (e.g., evaluations that the Department might conduct with its discretionary funds for Program Administration).