STRENGTHENING PEER REVIEW IN FEDERAL AGENCIES THAT SUPPORT EDUCATION RESEARCH
Lisa Towne, Jack M. Fletcher, and Lauress L. Wise, Editors
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. ED-00-CO-0088 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education, Grant No. 2002-7860 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Grant No. 200200225 from the Spencer Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, or the Spencer Foundation.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2004). Strengthening Peer Review in Federal Agencies That Support Education Research. Committee on Research in Education. L. Towne, J.M. Fletcher, and L.L. Wise, Eds. Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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COMMITTEE ON RESEARCH IN EDUCATION 2004
Lauress L. Wise (Chair),
Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), Arlington, VA
Baltimore City Public School System
Department of Community Health, Brown University
School of Education, University of Colorado, Boulder
Division of Educational Studies, Emory University
Jack McFarlin Fletcher,
University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center and Center for Academic and Reading Skills
Robert E. Floden,
College of Education, Michigan State University
Ernest M. Henley (emeritus),
Department of Physics, University of Washington
Vinetta C. Jones,
School of Education, Howard University
Brian W. Junker,
Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University
Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
Ellen Condliffe Lagemann,
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
College of Education, Arizona State University
Lisa Towne, Study Director
Tina Winters, Research Associate
The central idea of evidence-based education—that education policy and practice ought to be fashioned based on what is known from rigorous research—offers a compelling way to approach reform efforts. Recent federal trends reflect a growing enthusiasm for such change. Most visibly, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires that “scientifically based [education] research” drive the use of federal education funds at the state and local levels. This emphasis is also reflected in a number of government and nongovernment initiatives across the country. As consensus builds around the goals of evidence-based education, consideration of what it will take to make it a reality becomes the crucial next step.
In this context, the Center for Education of the National Research Council (NRC) has undertaken a series of activities to address issues related to the quality of scientific education research.1 In 2002, the NRC released Scientific Research in Education (National Research Council, 2002), a report designed to articulate the nature of scientific education research and to guide efforts aimed at improving its quality. Building on this work, the Committee on Research in Education was convened to advance an improved understanding of a scientific approach to addressing education prob-
lems; to engage the field of education research in action-oriented dialogue about how to further the accumulation of scientific knowledge; and to coordinate, support, and promote cross-fertilization among NRC efforts in education research.
The main locus of activity undertaken to meet these objectives was a year-long series of workshops to engage a range of education stakeholders in discussions about five key topics:
Peer Review in Federal Education Research Programs. This workshop focused on the purposes and practices of peer review in the federal agencies that fund education research. Federal officials and researchers considered a range of models used across the federal government to involve peers in the review of proposals for funding and discussed ways to foster high-quality scientific research.
Understanding and Promoting Knowledge Accumulation in Education: Tools and Strategies for Education Research. With a focus on how to build a coherent knowledge base in education research, researchers and federal officials considered several elements of the research infrastructure, including tools, practices, models, and standards. Fundamental questions about what such a knowledge base might look like were also considered in this context.
Random Assignment Experimentation in Education: Implementation and Implications. The evidence-based education trend has brought to the fore decades of debate about the appropriateness of randomized field trials in education. Far less consideration has been devoted to the practical aspects of conducting such studies in educational settings; this workshop featured detailed descriptions of studies using randomized field trials in education and reflections on how the current trend to fund more of these studies is influencing states, districts, and students.
Journal Practices in Publishing Education Research. Following the more general discussion of how to build a coherent knowledge base in education in a previous workshop, this event took up the specific case of journals that publish education research. Editors, publication committee members, and others involved in the production and use of journal articles considered ways to promote high-quality education research and to contribute to the larger body of knowledge about important areas of policy and practice.
Education Doctoral Programs for Future Leaders in Education Research. A final workshop focused on the professional development of edu-
cation researchers, with a specific emphasis on doctoral programs in schools of education. Deans, graduate study coordinators, foundation officials, and policy makers came together to share observations and chart potential paths for progress.
Additional information on each of these events can be found at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/core/.
This report is based on the first workshop in the series, on peer review in federal agencies that support education research, which took place on February 25-26, 2003, at the National Academies’ Keck Center in Washington, DC. It summarizes common issues and ideas that emerged from the presentations and discussion during the workshop (see Appendix A for the workshop agenda and Appendix B for biographical sketches of the committee members and speakers) and includes the committee’s conclusions and recommendations on how to strengthen peer review in federal agencies that support education research.
This report would not have been possible without the help of the speakers who shared their expertise with the committee. We would like to thank each of them for their contributions:
Diane August, August and Associates; Hilda Borko, University of Colorado, Boulder; Steven Breckler, National Science Foundation; Susan Chipman, Office of Naval Research; Domenic Cicchetti, Yale University; Louis Danielson, Office of Special Education Programs; Kenneth Dodge, Duke University; Edward Hackett, Arizona State University; Milton Hakel, Bowling Green State University; Teresa Levitin, National Institutes of Health; Penelope Peterson, Northwestern University; Edward Reddish, University of Maryland; Finbarr Sloane, National Science Foundation; Brent Stanfield, National Institutes of Health; Robert Sternberg, Yale University; and Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, Institute of Education Sciences.
Of course, without the generous support of our sponsors, neither the workshop nor this report would be possible. We extend our gratitude to the former National Educational Research Policy and Priorities Board and the Institute of Education Sciences, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.
We extend our thanks to each of the members of the Committee on Research in Education. We especially appreciate the efforts of the workshop planning group, led by Jack Fletcher, who designed an outstanding event that has made a unique contribution to an important debate. Several
NRC staff played critical roles in shaping the workshop and deserve special recognition here: Meryl Bertenthal led the staff effort, substantively supported by Tina Winters. R. Jason Rolsen provided the administrative and logistical support for the committee as well as for the event itself. And Patricia Morison offered general direction and guidance. Finally, we thank Chris McShane for her skillful editing of the manuscript.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Michael Allen, Teaching Quality Policy Center, Education Commission of the States; Rolf Blank, Education Indicators, Council of Chief State School Officers; Hilda Borko, School of Education, University of Colorado, Boulder; Robert Crangle, President, Rose & Crangle, Ltd., Lincoln, KS; Daniel L. Goroff, Department of Mathematics; and Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Norman Hackerman, Scientific Advisory Board, The Robert A. Welch Foundation, Houston, TX and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (emeritus), The University of Texas at Austin. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Lauress L. Wise, Chair
Lisa Towne, Study Director
Committee on Research in Education