organized at the federal and local levels, how it should and can be connected to policy and practice (National Research Council, 1999d), and the nature of scientific knowledge in education (Weiss, 1999; Murnane and Nelson, 1984). Throughout this report, we treat these complementary issues with varying degrees of depth depending on their proximity to our focus on the scientific nature of the field. Indeed, over the course of our deliberations, we have become aware of several complementary efforts focused on improving education research (e.g., NRC’s Strategic Education Research Partnership, RAND panels, Education Quality Institute, Interagency Education Research Initiative, and National Academy of Education-Social Science Research Council Committee on Education Research).
Finally, and critically, the committee believes that scientific research in education is a form of scholarship that can uniquely contribute to understanding and improving education, especially when integrated with other approaches to studying human endeavors. For example, historical, philosophical, and literary scholarship can and should inform important questions of purpose and direction in education. Education is influenced by human ideals, ideologies, and judgments of value, and these things need to be subjected to rigorous—scientific and otherwise—examination.
The remainder of this report moves from the general to the specific. We begin by describing the commonalities shared across all scientific endeavors, including education research. We then take up some of the specifics of education research by characterizing the nature of education and of studying it scientifically; describing a sampling of trusted research designs used to address key questions; and providing guidance on how a federal education research agency could best support high quality science. A description of the specific contents of each chapter follows.
In Chapter 2 we address the global question of whether scientific inquiry in education has generated useful insights for policy and practice. We describe and analyze several lines of work, both inside and outside of education, to compare the accumulation of knowledge in education to that of other fields. In doing so, we provide “existence proofs” of the