• Funding for Priority Programs

    Knowledge Alliance FY 2017 Appropriations Recommendations

    Knowledge Alliance strongly supports vigorous, sustained Federal support for education research and its use, centered on the priorities listed below. These programs have improved learning opportunities for millions of students across the country by enabling educators at the state, district and school levels to make informed, research-based decisions on which programs are the most effective, how to implement evidence-based practices, and how to help the lowest-performing schools. Policymakers at all levels of government rely on the findings of these programs to target taxpayer resources to the most effective programs and techniques.   Knowledge Alliance thus supports the following appropriations levels for these programs that are not only evidence-based, but drive the continued growth of an evidence base for many federal education programs. A greater federal investment in research-based programs will help states and districts better respond to rapidly increasing needs and lead to improved outcomes for students and schools.

    The Comprehensive Centers provide technical assistance that builds the capacity of state education agencies to help school districts and schools improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, and increase the quality of instruction. These Centers include Regional Centers that work closely with states in their regions on implementation of critical reforms in elementary and secondary education, as well as Content Centers that provide high-quality materials and services for use by states and districts across the country. Like the Regional Educational Laboratories (see below), these Centers will be essential to helping districts and schools implement ESSA programs and requirements and meet State targets for student achievement. Given the essential role that the Centers play in enabling and facilitating the implementation of these kinds of evidence-based education reforms, we recommend that their FY 2017 funding be at least $55.4 million, as requested in the President’s budget.

    Within the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs), operating under five year contracts with the Department of Education, each serve a different set of states and districts. The RELs produce tools for educators that reflect the best available research findings, as well as provide training to states and districts to aid their school improvement efforts. RELs are uniquely positioned to provide expertise and capacity to help states implement the new requirements of ESSA, including designing and implementing statewide accountability systems, identifying assessments that meet the new requirements, and developing interventions for low-performing schools. To give RELs the resources to serve as effective partners with states during the implementation of ESSA, we support an allocation of at least $70.7 million, restoring RELs to the level at which they were funded prior to sequester cuts.

    The Research, Development, and Dissemination line item within IES is an important source of support for efforts to make education a truly evidence-based endeavor and for providing educators and policymakers with the information they need to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps. The RD&D program funds basic research using strong research methodologies, including random control trials and quasi-experimental approaches, which have led to improvements in curriculum and instruction in many areas.  This line item also funds the What Works Clearinghouse, an essential tool consulted by policymakers and practitioners for information on evidence-based programs and practices.  Knowledge Alliance strongly recommends funding the program at the Administration’s requested level of $209.3 million.

    The new Education Innovation and Research program created by ESSA supports efforts by school districts and nonprofit organizations to develop, validate, and scale up innovative solutions to the challenges facing America’s schools. Similar to its predecessor, the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, EIR supports programs, practices, strategies, and approaches that have clear evidence of effectiveness (as demonstrated through rigorous research) or a design that shows promise of effectiveness based on previous research findings. Also like its predecessor, EIR will rigorously evaluate grant applications to determine the most effective investment of federal dollars; under the i3 program, the U.S. Department of Education received almost 5,000 applications or pre-applications over five years, but made only 156 grants, for a total application-success rate of 3.1 percent.

    Again, in the context of ESSA and an increasing focus on evidence-based strategies overall, there is a significant demand from the field to test innovative strategies, to examine how promising strategies work in different settings, and to scale-up effective strategies. We are glad the President recognized the importance of the EIR program and requested $180 million in funding for FY17. We recommend that Congress allocate at least this much.