• Funding for Priority Programs

    Knowledge Alliance FY 2018 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 SEAs to help school districts and schools improve educational outcomes for all students. This program includes 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.

    Comprehensive Centers have an essential role to play in the successful implementation of ESSA. The greater autonomy granted to States and districts under the new law will place even greater demands on already limited resources. Comprehensive Centers are an essential bulwark – helping States and districts increase their capacity as they plan for and implement new, evidence-based policies and practices, and decreasing the burden on officials, educators, and students at the local level across the country.

    Given the essential role that the Centers play in enabling and facilitating the implementation of evidence-based education reforms, we recommend that their FY2018 funding be at least $55.4 million.

    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 Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is one of the major sources of federal funding for education research and includes the National Center for Education Evaluation (NCEE) and the National Center for Education Research (NCER). IES supports a wide range of research projects that provide vital information on charter schools, teacher preparation, and strategies for improving college and workforce readiness, among other topics.

    NCEE serves two critically important functions. First, it conducts independent evaluations of education programs supported with Federal funds, helping to ensure that Federal funding supports better outcomes for students, families and educators, and that programs struggling to achieve intended outcomes are improved or replaced. Second, NCEE houses the Regional Educational Laboratory Program (REL), which includes ten regional labs across the country. RELs produce relevant and useable research, develop tools for educators that reflect the best available research findings, and offer training and other supports to states and districts to aid their school improvement efforts. Particularly in the context of ESSA, which has returned significant flexibility to States and local districts, programs like the RELs are critical to ensuring that States and districts have the resources to design and implement evidence-based practices and interventions responsive to student needs that the law calls for. NCEE also houses additional resources for SEAs and districts: the What Works Clearinghouse, the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), and the National Library of Education.

    NCER houses the Research, Development, and Dissemination (RD&D) program which funds basic research using rigorous research methodologies, including random control trials and quasi-experimental approaches, which have led to improvements in curriculum and instruction in many areas. NCER also funds predoctoral and postdoctoral research training programs to invest in the training and development of the next generation of education researchers.

    Reliable Federal funding is essential to continuing the important work of IES; we urge you to include at least $675.9 million for IES overall, $209.3 million for the RD&D program and $54.4 million for the REL program.

    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.

    If funded properly, the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program, authorized by ESSA, has the potential to drive substantial and lasting improvements in student achievement by supporting the development and scale-up of successful innovations at the state and local levels. EIR uses a tiered-evidence approach that has two important design principles: it provides more funds to programs with higher levels of evidence, and it requires rigorous and independent evaluations so that programs continue to improve. Speaker Paul Ryan, in his “A Better Way” agenda, expressed support for the tiered evidence structure stating, “by following this process, federal dollars will be directed to the development and support of programs that truly promote opportunity.”

    Prioritizing approaches proven to work means that EIR grants are more likely to achieve impact while still encouraging innovation in the field. The requirement to evaluate results provides a basis to improve programs all along the spectrum of effectiveness. In addition, we believe the EIR program will drive private sector investment in innovations that continue to improve outcomes for students and families.

    To help ensure the new program lives up to its promise, we recommend that EIR receive at least $120 million in funding in FY2018.