Dr. Rebecca Maynard joined IES as the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance on June 14. A distinguished scholar from the University of Pennsylvania and a national leader in education and social policy research, Dr. Maynard shares some of her thoughts about the role of NCEE.
How can NCEE help improve the nation's education system?
We have at least three very important roles. One is to evaluate programs, policies and practices both to determine their effectiveness and to inform theory and identify possible strategies for improving effectiveness. A second is to sort, sift, and synthesize the education research literature in ways that inform policymakers, practitioners, and researchers about what is and is not known on a particular topic and with what degree of confidence. A third major role of NCEE is to stimulate and facilitate the translation to inform policy and practice—to increase the relevance of research and evaluation.
The administration has devoted tremendous resources to new school reforms, with stimulus funds and the Race to the Top program. What kind of opportunities and challenges does this present, especially from the perspective of program evaluation?
We have a responsibility to help the administration judge the merits of the projects funded under the stimulus funds and Race to the Top. We also have tremendous opportunities to learn from the massive infusion of funds for innovation by state and local education agencies. Any time there are major changes in policies and practices, there are opportunities to learn.
What role should the RELs plan in connecting education research to state and local education agencies?
The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) can play a number of important roles, ranging from being central agents in the translation of research into policy and practice to being active agents in identifying and implementing research and evaluation initiatives—small and large—to address issues of regional, and often national, significance.
What is the one thing you would like the public to better understand about the work of NCEE?
It's hard to select one thing. However, I certainly want folks to understand that a primary role of the Center is to enhance the scientific basis for important decisions about how best to improve our nation's education system. This includes not only supporting new studies but also making the best possible use of existing research to support decisions about educational policies and practices.
Learn more about Dr. Rebecca Maynard on the IES website.
IES has moved forward with an expanded set of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) evaluations, thanks in part to additional funds awarded this year and projected for next year.
A panel of distinguished scholars helping to guide the overall effort has met twice, most recently last month, to discuss progress on the focus and methods of the planned evaluations. Members of this panel also will be included in the advisory panels for the individual studies.
The contract for the Impact Evaluation of Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants will be awarded by this September, while the Impact Study of Math Professional Development for Elementary Teachers will be awarded by September 2011 if there is money available in the FY2011 budget.
The set of ARRA evaluations for which IES has received funding also includes three additional studies, each with different designs.
The information from these independent evaluations will be synthesized into IES reports. The contracts for these evaluations will also be awarded in September 2010.