OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE OF EDUCATION RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
YOUTH AND FAMILIES
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 4, 2000
Serial No. 106-107
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
Table of Indexes
Opening Statement Of Michael N. Castle, Chairman, Subcommittee On Early Childhood, Youth And Families. *
The Opening Statement Of Dale E. Kildee, Ranking Member, Subcommittee On Early Childhood, Youth And Families. *
Statement Of C. Kent McGuire, Assistant Secretary For Educational Research And Improvement, U.S. Department Of Education, Washington, D.C. *
Statement Of Maris A. Vinovskis, Professor Of History, The University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan *
Statement Of G. Reid Lyon, Chief, Child Development And Behavior Branch, National Institute Of Child Health And Human Development, National Institutes Of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. *
Statement Of Robert E. Slavin, Co-Director, Center For Research On The Education Of Children Placed At Risk, Johns Hopkins University And Chair, Success For All Foundation *
Appendix A-The Written Statement Of Michael N. Castle, Chairman, Subcommittee On Early Childhood Youth and Families. *
Appendix B-The Written Statement Of Dale E. Kildee, Ranking Member, Subcommittee On Early Childhood, Youth And Families. *
Appendix C-The Written Statement Of C. Kent Mcguire, Assistant Secretary For Educational Research And Improvement, U.S. Department Of Education, Washington, D.C. *
Appendix D-The Written Statement Of Maris A. Vinovskis, Professor Of History, The University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. *
Appendix E-The Written Statement Of G. Reid Lyon, Chief, Child Development And Behavior Branch, National Institute Of Child Health And Human Development, National Institutes Of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. *
Appendix F-The Written Statement Of Robert E. Slavin, Co-Director, Center For Research On The Education Of Children Placed At Risk, Johns Hopkins University And Chair, Success For All Foundation, Baltimore, Maryland. *
Table Of Indexes *
HEARING ON OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE
OFFICE OF EDUCATION RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT
Thursday, May 4, 2000
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families,
Committee on Education and the Workforce,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:50 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Michael N. Castle [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Castle, Johnson, Hilleary, Schaffer, Ehlers, Goodling [ex officio], Kildee, Kucinich, Ford, and Wu.
Staff present: Linda Castleman, Office Manager; Victor Klatt, Education Policy Coordinator; Sally Lovejoy, Senior Education Policy Advisor; Patrick Lyden, Professional Staff Member; D'Arcy Philps, Professional Staff Member; Michael Reynard, Media Assistant; Jo-Marie St. Martin, General Counsel; Bob Sweet, Professional Staff Member; Kent Talbert, Professional Staff Member; Christie Wolfe, Professional Staff Member; Mark Zuckerman, Minority General Counsel; June Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; Alex Nock, Legislative Associate/Education; and Roxana Folescu, Staff Assistant/Education.
Chairman Castle. A statutory quorum being present, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families will come to order.
We are holding this hearing today to hear testimony on the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the Department of Education. Under Committee Rule 12(b), opening statements are limited to the chairman and the ranking minority member of the subcommittee. This will allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and to help members keep to their schedules.
Therefore, if other members have statements, they may be included in the hearing record. With that, I ask unanimous consent for the hearing record to remain open for 14 days to allow members' statements and other documents referenced during the hearing to be submitted in the official hearing record. Without objection, so ordered.
Opening Statement of Michael N. Castle, Chairman, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families.
My name is Mike Castle, and I serve as the chairman of the Early Childhood, Youth and Families Subcommittee, and I would like to welcome everyone here today to the hearing on the important issue of education research.
Currently, there are hundreds of federal education programs on the books, and each year new programs are created, often faster than the existing programs can be funded as intended. Unfortunately, a significant amount of federal funding flows to programs for which there is little or no scientifically based research to demonstrate that these full-scale initiatives will increase student achievement.
The fact is that there has not been enough value placed on the need for education research as a means to drive good policy. The reasons are simple enough: sometimes good research tells us things we don't want to hear and good research is expensive and time-consuming—attributes which don't always conform to the reality of Washington budgetary priorities and political expediency.
I believe we must act to restore education research to its proper role as a policy rather than a political tool if we are to fundamentally reform education. Today, the Office of Education Research and Improvement oversees a maze of programs and centers, as the chart over there indicates. And if you want to read it, I think you are going to have to get a little closer to it than I am. I think most of us here would agree that the current system is in need of some reform and restructuring, and that improving student achievement, not protecting the current research structure, should be our main objective.
That said, I am concerned with some of the findings in recent evaluations of the labs and research centers and disappointed that the Department has been less than forthcoming in providing Congress with timely information about the quality of their research and development. I believe we should hold education research to high standards, just as we strive to see our children meet high standards. Full disclosure is essential to ensuring that federally funded research is rigorous and effective.
Still, I was pleased to see that all the witnesses' statements for today's hearings highlight the need to set a higher bar for the quality of education research. There also appears to be consensus on the need to ensure that politics do not become involved in research activities.
Finally, and most important, we understand the importance of education research and the direct impact it can have on improving the academic success of all students. The bottom line is that if data and results cannot be trusted, we are not only doing a disservice to our taxpayers, but we are also doing a disservice to the children who will suffer academically as a result of faddish or ineffective improvement efforts.
I look forward to hearing the testimony from today's witnesses and having a dialogue on what exactly can and should be done to address the issues I have just raised. I wish to thank each of you for taking time to be with us. In just a few minutes I will proceed with instructions. Mr. Kildee is not here right now. I don't know if Ms. Woolsey wishes to do the opening or wait for Mr. Kildee to come, and he can do it when he arrives, if that would be preferable.
See Appendix A For The Written Statement Of Michael N. Castle, Chairman, Subcommittee On Early Childhood Youth and Families.
Ms. Woolsey. Mr. Kildee is on his way, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Castle. Okay, we will wait for Dale.
Let me just say, aside from the formal opening here, that I doubt if there is anything much more important happening on Capitol Hill today than the subject matter of this hearing, and I think we have excellent witnesses. And I believe that, by and large, across Capitol Hill and across the United States of America, the knowledge about and interest in education research is very, very limited—way too limited as far as I am concerned.
I have had the opportunity to go to every single public school in my State—it’s a small state—and generally when you go to a school, they take you to their sort of experimental programs. I have also visited a number of schools with members of this subcommittee, and I’ve also visited other schools around the country in general. I have seen a lot of what I referred to earlier as "faddish type programs" in the schools, and I have got to tell you, oftentimes, I am not impressed.
I am also not impressed that in our education research how we are making sharp distinctions between programs which work and don't work, that we are defining our research as objective in terms of evaluation and then making definitive decisions as to whether something is working or not. I am not impressed because I think the political aspects of it do have a factor in this. There are favored programs of us up here as Members of Congress, favored programs of people back home—perhaps of a particular principal, teacher, or administrator—and to me that is a problem.
If there is an area in which we need to address change and give some significance to what we are doing, I think it is in education research. I have talked to Dr. McGuire about this at some length. I think he shares some of those feelings, and I appreciate that, because he could take all this as a personal affront if he wanted to, even though he hasn't been there that long. So I appreciate that he has taken a more open attitude about it.
Quite frankly, I would like to see legislation passed this year, and I want it signed by the President. I have no interest in just passing a bill in the House of Representatives. If we are going to do that, the leadership is going to have to come here, to the House of Representatives, and we are going to have to work together, Republicans and Democrats, to try to get this done. In order to do that, we are going to have to work extraordinarily fast.
Now maybe that is illusory. Maybe we can't get there. I do not know. But it is my goal to really push this as rapidly and as well as we can. Perhaps some people aren't going to like it, but my view is, it is something that we should do.
So I just wanted to say that, and I am sure that Chairman Goodling shares the sentiment. He and I may have different ideas about exactly what has to be done, but I don't think we are much different on this. I hope the other members of the committee will feel the same.
I think at this time, unless there is any other objection, I think at this time we will go ahead and introduce the witnesses. If Mr. Kildee is not here by the time that is done, then we will reserve time for him to make an opening statement later if he wishes. If the witnesses could come to the table—I see you out there, so I know you are here—and take their respective places.
The first witness will be Dr. C. Kent McGuire, who is currently serving as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. A native of New Jersey, his background includes program officer of the education portfolio for the Pew Charitable Trusts; program director of education for the Lilly Endowment; and he served as director of the Finance Collaborative at the Education Commission of the States.
Dr. Maris Vinovskis has been with us before. He is an A.M. and H.B. Bentley Professor of History at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With a Master's degree from Harvard University, he has become one of the foremost experts with regards to educational research at the Federal level. He has a significant background not only as a consultant to various parts of the government, but also with numerous fellowships. On top of all that, he has been involved with countless articles, essays, books, and presentations.
The third witness will be Dr. Reid Lyon, who is a research psychologist and the Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institutes of Health. He has served as Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Vermont, and also on the faculties of Northwestern University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Once a third grade teacher, Dr. Lyon has authored, co-authored, and edited over 85 journal articles, books, and book chapters addressing learning differences and disabilities in children.
And the final witness will be Dr. Robert Slavin, who is currently the Co-Director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk at Johns Hopkins University, and the Chair of the Success For All Foundation. He has, as well, authored or co-authored numerous books and articles on at-risk students.
I would like to congratulate the person who prepared these introductions, because this was taken from 60 pages of biography that details all of the various things that you have done in your careers. So we are pleased to have all of you here.
We are also pleased to welcome Mr. Kildee, and if he wishes to make an opening statement at this time, I certainly will yield time or defer that until later, whichever he chooses.
The Opening Statement of Dale E. Kildee, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families.
Mr. Kildee. I will make it in the record, and I apologize for being late, Mr. Chairman. We had a Whip meeting in which I had to participate, but I am ordinarily on time, the school teacher in me. Thank you.
See Appendix B For The Written Statement Of Dale E. Kildee, Ranking Member, Subcommittee On Early Childhood, Youth And Families.
Chairman Castle. Well, thank you, sir. I assume that you thought it was at 10 o'clock. I had a little problem with the time this morning myself.
We will now turn to our witnesses. I think you know the rules. You have a little light there. It is green for 4 minutes, it is yellow for 1 minute, and it is red thereafter. We would hope that you would feel very comfortable talking during the first 4 minutes, a little less comfortable during the yellow minute, and then when the red minute comes, that you are thinking about, perhaps, wrapping it up.
And I don't want to exclude anything you want to say because I think what you have to say, as I have already indicated, is extraordinarily important. But there are a number of members here who will want to ask questions. I think in that exchange we will get all the information out we want. So let's start with Dr. McGuire.
STATEMENT OF C. KENT McGUIRE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND IMPROVEMENT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. McGuire. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate very much the opportunity to come before the committee again. Mr. Kildee, good to see you, Mr. Ehlers and others. And, Mr. Castle, I appreciate especially your interest and concern about education research.
I probably ought to for the record say that while I do live in New Jersey, I was born and raised in Michigan. Mr. Kildee would be upset, and so would Mr. Ehlers, if I didn't set the record straight. I didn't benefit, thought I was a University of Michigan graduate, from Maris' good teaching, but he has been working on me subsequently, I think it is fair to say.
The invitation that I received asked for my views on how to ensure that Federal investments in education research provide the greatest amount of benefit to States and to local school districts. I think, as I indicated in my written testimony, that this is exactly the right question, and it is the business I see OCRI as being in; that is, to provide or help provide the knowledge that American schools need to help them help students, all of the students, achieve at the highest possible level.
Now, that is a harder thing to do than we might at first imagine, this notion of trying to help every one of the students achieve, and the issue from the vantage point, from my vantage point, is what does it really take to do this? And, as I have stated, in my view it requires a serious ability to focus on the things that people in schools are actually dealing with, what it is they are really trying to do. And it is about doing, from a research and development standpoint, what it actually takes.
It is not easy, but we do know something about what it takes. In my written testimony I point to a couple of examples represented, frankly, by two gentlemen here on the panel who have engaged in what it takes, and I think they will tell you that it takes years of sustained effort; attention to organizing the knowledge base very carefully, attention to rigor and method; worrying explicitly about the kind of evidence you are trying to generate and the kind of research you have to do to give rise to it; attention to identifying the best, the very best research talent in the field; constantly refining the questions; and engaging in the next important stages of research. You don't get there overnight. We know it can be done.
I think we have to enlist the very best people in these endeavors. On my brief watch, I think we have succeeded in doing that, both in our planning efforts for the work that we believe we should do and our current efforts to conduct the best possible peer review with respect to the funding decisions that we make right now.
But we also will need and do need good people inside the government. We will need the people like Reid Lyon inside the government that can help orchestrate all of this, and this is a very good segue to just a very brief observation or two about OERI and reauthorization.
We did develop, almost, not quite a year ago, a clear and specific proposal about reauthorization for OERI. We do suggest a structure. Structure obviously matters. It is necessary. But I would urge you that the most essential elements with respect to fostering the kind of research we all want to see more of is good process, the capacity to attract able staff and talent, more stability in leadership for the agency, stronger peer review.
Nobody wants trustworthiness more than I do. Our work, if we are going to really be helpful to the schools, depends on it. I have got two kids in the first and fifth grades, and if our work isn't reliable and trustworthy, I am not doing them any favors or anybody else's children. And so it is important that we not just focus on questions of structure, but when we have this debate, this important conversation about reauthorization, that we think about those things that will give rise truly to quality.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, and I look forward to the balance of the hearing.
See Appendix C For The Written Statement Of C. Kent Mcguire, Assistant Secretary For Educational Research And Improvement, U.S. Department Of Education, Washington, DC.
Chairman Castle. Thank you very much, Dr. McGuire. We appreciate that. Dr. Vinovskis?
STATEMENT OF MARIS A. VINOVSKIS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN.
Mr. Vinovskis. Thank you. My name is Maris Vinovskis. I am the Bentley Professor of History and a senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. I was also the research advisor to OCRI in 1992 and 1993, and therefore have had the privilege to work with both the Bush and Clinton administrations.
I will submit for the record a copy of the two essays upon which much of my testimony is based, and I will briefly summarize my testimony.
The Federal Government has been collecting, analyzing and disseminating educational statistics for more than 130 years. Unfortunately, the quality of much of that research, development and evaluations could and should be improved. One of the serious limitations of educational research and evaluations has been a lack of adequate funding, and I certainly favor allocating additional monies; only, though, if those dollars will be spent wisely and effectively.
Yet the lack of money by itself cannot account for the problems we face in the field of education research and evaluation today. There are at least 10 shortcomings or limitations in the current educational research and evaluation efforts in the Department of Education, and this is both OERI and PES, and I have detailed those for you in my testimony and will not repeat them here. Instead, I want to just leave you with six thoughts in this preliminary opening.
First of all, we should create a separate and more independent National Center for Educational Research, directed by a Commissioner of Education, and more of the Department's research should be concentrated in that new unit, and more qualified and accomplished researchers should be hired. And a lot of people, I think, are saying something very similar to that, and I know Kent has talked about that in his previous conversations.
Secondly, the 5-year R&D centers should continue to play an important role in educational research, but they should be much larger and their work should be much more focused. So, while I am all in favor of them, I think as they are now constituted we could do some work there.
Third, this new National Center for Research should target some of its field-initiated research competitions on particular education problems by developing more focused initiatives.
Fourth, first-rate, scientifically sound educational program evaluations have been missing all too often in the U.S. Department of Education during the past two decades. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. Similarly, the Department has not undertaken much large-scale, well-tested developmental programs.
Therefore, the Department should develop an independent unit that initiates and oversees a serious evaluation program as well as supports large-scale systematic development. The unit might be call the National Center for Evaluation and Development under a Director or Commissioner of Evaluation and Development. This issue of honest, objective evaluations is something you may want to come back to in the question and answer period, because I think it is extremely important and covers not only OERI but PES and the rest of the Department.
Fifth, the important technical assistance work of the Regional Educational Laboratories and the Comprehensive Regional Assistance Centers should be merged and transferred to a remodeled Office for Reform Assistance and Dissemination, ORAD, under an Assistant Secretary for Planning and Dissemination. Some of the technical assistance money saved by this merger could be given to States and local school districts to purchase their own technical assistance. And, again, we may want to come back to this question of how do you deliver technical assistance and where do you deliver it from, and I think you have some nice opportunities to think about that.
Sixth, the independence and viability of the National Center for Education Statistics, NCES, must be preserved and expanded, and there have been some recent challenges to that. Moreover . . .and my understanding is you are going to have a hearing on this next week . . .the independent National Assessment Governing Board should also be continued and strengthened. And then I think in another hearing you probably want to talk about the National Education Goals and the National Education Goals Panel. These are entities and issues that need protection and careful thought.
In summarizing, as one follows the history of Federal education research and development during the past three decades, one is struck by the often repetitive and thoughtful questions for making improvements. I am going back to '93-'94 when you created this whole situation. You had great ideas. This group is not necessarily going to come with much better ideas.
It isn't a lack of ideas. It isn't a lack of structure, necessarily. It is what happens to them after Congress passes something. What happened in this period of time, and who is responsible? And I say this is not a Democratic or a Republican thing. Our problem is, we set up these great goals, we promise a lot of good things for the next 5 years, and then we have another hearing to say why things didn't go well and why we are going to promise you some new things.
I think you have to ask about that execution issue. I think you have to ask, what is it going to take? And some of the fault quite frankly rests with us as researchers, with us in the research community. We haven't lived up to where we should be. Unless we are willing to admit to our shortcomings, we are not going to make the changes that we need. And if we don't make those changes, then I would be disappointed, but I would understand if Congress were to move some of these things elsewhere. I think it is time for us to deliver.
See Appendix D For The Written Statement Of Maris A. Vinovskis, Professor Of History, The University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Chairman Castle. Thank you very much, Dr. Vinovskis. Dr. Lyon?
STATEMENT OF G. REID LYON, CHIEF, CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND BEHAVIOR BRANCH, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CHILD HEALTH AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, BETHESDA, MARYLAND.
Mr. Lyon. Good morning, Mr. Castle, Mr. Goodling. It is a pleasure to be here . . .
Chairman Castle. Could you pull the microphone a little bit closer to you so that everybody in the room can hear?
Mr. Lyon. Okay. Good morning, Mr. Castle. My name is Reid Lyon. I am the Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the NIH, and I am very pleased to be here.
In my written testimony I have provided a number of details which obviously we can't get to in this 5 minutes, but given what we have just heard, I think it is critical for us to understand that within these broader ideas that my colleagues are talking about, there is a heck of a lot of specifics that have to be taken account of if we are going to help our children in this Nation.
Let me start this way. I started my career as a basic neuroscientist. I was studying whether or not the periventricular gray in the human subcortex had to do with speech, and I was starting that work on primates, monkeys, and they bit me a lot. And I decided that I didn't want to continue to do that, and I switched my research emphasis to humans, particularly to kids. And somebody said, ``Well, if you're going to research kids, you need to go teach some, to see what they live their life like as they grow up.''
So in the middle of a doctoral program I went and taught the third grade, and I taught the third grade for a year, and a couple of things struck me. Number one, I had to take education courses to be able to teach in the third grade, and I didn't learn a lick. I had no idea what I was supposed to do once I got in the third grade.
But I was a researcher and a fairly experienced researcher, so I went to the research literature to help me figure out how to address kids who weren't learning to read, and particularly in my classroom at least a third to a half of the kids couldn't read. I went to the research literature, and I was bowled over by the lack of guidance that that research provided me. Not only was the research limited, but the types of research that were done were the wrong types, it was applied at the wrong times, and it used the wrong methodologies.
And something told me that somehow this research has to come through a screen to be able to get into these journals. That is, the people training the researchers have to know this and the journals that publish this stuff have to know this, so why in the world am I, who is a practicing clinician trying to affect the lives of children, looking at things that have absolutely no bearing on what I am trying to do on a daily basis? To be mild, it was fluff. It wasn't good work.
Now, my perceptions then haven't changed over the years. I went back to basic science and then on to more applied science, but as we have moved in the roles we have at the NIH, trying to better understand why kids don't learn to read and what we can do about that, my perceptions are that the research enterprise hasn't improved a great deal at all.
And one of the things that stands out is that we are distracted continuously in the educational research community by debates that have no bearing whatsoever on the kids' lives we are trying to affect. And those debates occur I think within a vacuum of leadership at the Federal level.
And it has been a blessing that Kent McGuire has come into the position at OERI because, if I can say this, I think Kent understands all of this and understands where the soft underbelly is in educational research, and clearly understands that to build an enterprise that will actually save children's lives, you have to front load, you have to find talent, you have to find a mechanism that moves people in an excited way down the road, that says what kinds of research are best for which purposes, how do we conduct that research, and how do we ``travel'' the findings to teachers.
Now, as a young third grade teacher, you know, I went to my colleagues who had been teaching for 20, 30 years in the teachers' room and I said, ``You know, I went to the research and I couldn't find anything to help me teach reading.'' My school had adopted a reading program which was based upon a number of faulty assumptions.
The assumptions were that we really didn't need to teach reading; that the kids would learn to read on their own if we just provided them with a rich exposure to good literature. And those assumptions were predicated not at all on science, as you pointed out, Mr. Castle, this morning. Those assumptions were predicated on philosophical beliefs that were more akin to political issues than scientific issues.
Nonetheless, I didn't help those children. That reading program didn't help those children. And to this date that same cockamamie set of assumptions continues to drive instructional practice without any formal tests until recently.
As you all know, and as the Congress has given us the lead on, Congress asked the National Institutes of Health to look at the educational research that addresses reading and to figure out which of that research domain was actually good, which was bad, and which was indifferent. And those data are presented in the report of the National Reading Panel, Mr. Chairman, which I would like to provide to the record if I could.
Chairman Castle. Without objection. Anything that any of you would like to submit will be provided in the record.
Mr. Lyon. All right. What this report says is that the investments we have made in research for the last 30 years have been investments that have been realized by mediocrity, by limited rigor, and by a misunderstanding on a large part of the research community how in fact to even do the research we drastically need. It is no wonder that teachers have no trust in having research guide their practice, because research that is not done well, that is not of good quality, does not inform and should not be trusted.
And, likewise, we have the problem, even when we have good research, of ``traveling'' those research findings on a scale that helps kids across all settings. And thank goodness Kent McGuire at OERI and the National Science Foundation and NICHD, because of your leadership, are moving forward with the IERI, an initiative which actually begins to talk about when you get good research in your hands, what are the conditions under which that research moves to large-scale classrooms in school systems and becomes implemented.
What teachers are dealing with on a daily basis, as I conclude, and we must understand this specific, is that they are constantly turning to anecdotal reports about what works in Topeka, Kansas 20 years ago, and they try to do those same things. What we have to do is the same thing we have done with children's cancer, with leukemia, with Hemophilus influenza, and with every other thing that affects our children's lives, and that is to put the money where it is going to make a difference, to develop a robust research enterprise which is based in quality, and to develop from the Federal level the leadership that can do that.
Thank you, sir.
See Appendix E For The Written Statement Of G. Reid Lyon, Chief, Child Development And Behavior Branch, National Institute Of Child Health And Human Development, National Institutes Of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dr. Lyon. And Dr. Slavin, our cleanup hitter.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT E. SLAVIN, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR RESEARCH ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN PLACED AT RISK, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY AND CHAIR, SUCCESS FOR ALL FOUNDATION
Mr. Slavin. I am also very pleased to have an opportunity to speak with you today. As you noted, Mr. Castle, in your introduction, I am the co-director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk, which is the largest research center funded by OERI, and I have been doing federally-funded educational research at Johns Hopkins University since 1975, so I want to thank you all very much for the funding. It has been terrific. Not enough, but it has kept me going for a long time.
I am also the co-director or co-developer of the Success for All program, which in some ways I think is, I will immodestly say, kind of a model for what I think many people are talking about for how research can influence practice. This is a program that has been researched and developed over a period of more than 15 years, and studied in about two dozen experiments that compared experimental and control schools in many different places, done by many different researchers, but has actually gone into practice and is now used in 1,500 schools in 48 States, 670 school districts, I think all of your districts, certainly all of your States, and by next fall will be used, will be serving about 1 million children. So this is kind of one of the very few cases in which research actually has gone through the process of careful evaluations, gradual scale-up and dissemination, to really affect a very large number of children, mostly in very high poverty schools.
This is an extremely exciting time in education reform, and I think that there have been some fundamental changes, many of which you have introduced yourselves, and I wonder if you understand how profound the changes are that you are in the process of bringing about, and I think these changes very much inform the discussion about the reauthorization of OERI.
One of the most important things I think that this Congress has done is to introduce the CSRD, the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration program, and the Reading Excellence Act, both of which are the first programs that I am aware of in human history that have tied serious funding to schools to evidence of effectiveness. It is extraordinary that this is new. It is extraordinary that it took until 1997, 1998 for this to be the case.
But already in a very short period of time these initiatives are having changes that are ramifying throughout the education world, and specifically in education research, because it now matters what the evidence is. Previously, it really didn't. Any salesman or saleswoman could make any claim that they wanted to, and it was very hard to know whether that claim was based on evidence or whether it was based on some idiosyncratic anecdotal report.
The CSRD now has put research-based programs into about 1,800 schools. I could criticize the way in which that has gone forward. I think a lot of the programs that are being disseminated now do not have the research base that they should. So I am not saying that this is wonderful, but the concept is exactly right and must influence the way we think about education research.
The other thing that has gone in tandem with this is a new way of thinking about education research, focusing on design competitions, meaning programs of funding in which designers create or compete to get funding to create programs that will solve key problems . . .to reform schools generally, or better reading programs or better math programs or whatever . . .and are held to high standards in terms of evaluation and in terms of outcomes, very much the way other parts of our society generate research and products. They say, ``These are the specifications. Now, develop us something that will meet those specifications, that can then be independently tested by rigorous standards so that we know that it is actually working.''
I think that in reauthorized OERI there is going to need to be a lot more focus on design competitions of this type. Under the leadership of Kent McGuire, this has already begun with programs to develop new comprehensive models for secondary schools, and I know that there are a number of other funding programs along these same lines that will produce meaningful results on a broad scale. They can hardly fail to do so, given the way they are structured, because they are set up from the outset to create programs that can be replicated, that can be rigorously evaluated, that can be disseminated and provide funding and assistance through that entire span of activities.
I think that the purpose of OERI needs to be, broadly, to produce the knowledge, the programs, the materials that will solve the key problems of American education. Design competitions is one way. There also needs to be continuation of the work of the research centers, and technical assistance through labs and so on, that I can talk about in response to questions. But I think that we have an opportunity to rethink the research enterprise, given that there are now, through the work that you all have done, that there is now a demand for research, a demand for quality research, for research that uses experimental designs, that compares experimental and control groups, a demand for that kind of information that will have a very short link to practice on a broad scale.
See Appendix F For The Written Statement Of Robert E. Slavin, Co-Director, Center For Research On The Education Of Children Placed At Risk, Johns Hopkins University And Chair, Success For All Foundation, Baltimore, Maryland.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dr. Slavin. In fact, I thank all of you. Mainly I thank you because none of you preached the status quo, which I appreciate. I think there should be a fundamental change in research, and I think a lot of you agree with that. Whether we can get to an agreement where we can be a consensus on the same exact end game, I am not certain.
We will enter into the questioning phase now, in the usual 5-minute segments. This is the kind of thing where you could go on forever, I suppose, but let me start, Dr. Lyon, maybe with things that you said. My opinion is—unfortunately what I am saying is a little bit anecdotal—that I wish I really had hard scientific knowledge about how these programs work or don't work, but I don't.
But I am somewhat like a moth, I guess. I see the newest light in an article in Time magazine about an education program and I think, "Gee, that's wonderful and we ought to try it," or whatever, and it turns out it has worked in one school. Nobody else has done it. I see a movie about Jaime Escalante and I figure, "Why can't everybody do this?" Maybe he is very unique. I have also read recently about scripted educational programs in which the teacher is told every word they are to use, every drawing they are to put on the board, and everything else. People were claiming that was is working.
And when you read about them, they all sound relatively good, but I cannot tell you if there is any hard evidence. My sense is that most of this is anecdotal. I don't know if there is testing going on where some use a system and some don’t, and then a determination is made of whether or not the education is improving. My belief is a lot of it is subjective, a lot of it is very philosophical, and very political in terms of its base. I believe that runs through all of education research at the State and local levels as well as at the research centers and labs.
My question to you is—because you have done hard-core scientific, medical research—can those same standards—the ones you look to in dealing with the FDA and various other hoops you have to go through to get medical research approved and then into usage—be applied to education, or is that an overreach in terms of what we are doing?
Mr. Lyon. Absolutely, they can be applied. Education and working with children in complex classrooms, with all the attending complexities there, is really no greater than the complexities we deal with in complex disease systems that are not only genetically induced but modified or influenced by the environment. I mean we are working all of the time with extraordinary complexity.
The issue is biting the bullet and deciding how much effort do you want to put into, frankly, the common sense of understanding what works and what doesn't. Actually we are a little bit further ahead than some of the points you just made. That is, the National Reading Panel's work . . .and I think we have talked with your staff about this . . .had a job, on the basis of your charge to that panel, to look at the existing educational research to judge the effectiveness of different approaches to teaching reading, and on the basis of those findings, to then translate that information to you all and to schools and to the public at large.
What the Reading Panel found, after sifting through 100,000 studies over a 2-year period of time was, one, yes, less than a third if that much of the existing research was designed to do what medical research does, that is, to identify very clearly the kind of instruction you want to provide; to provide it to some kids; to have other kids get other kinds of things in control groups or contrast groups and so on; and then to determine, on the basis of those conditions, does the stuff really work?
Well, clearly there is a great deal of evidence, converging evidence, not just one study or two studies but many, many studies indicating that kids who were taught in certain ways about certain things learn how to read much better than kids that aren't. And some of that work is as precise as clinical trials that we may do with pharmaceuticals, with all of, again, the attending complexities there.
The problem is, yes, there is a limited amount of that research. But I think as Bob has pointed out, who does some of that work, and as Maris has pointed out how it takes place, and Kent is supporting a lot of that now, that work is moving along a little bit. Where the gap is, there is this huge gap in terms of what the researchers who are doing this find and what the infrastructure at the universities and colleges of education do.
This is an interesting quandary we are in, because they have grown up and been built on a set of philosophical beliefs that eschewed experimental study. They in the main have come to the task of research from a more qualitative, descriptive perspective; that is, you do anecdotal work and you prescribe on the basis of anecdotal work. And for some reason that has gained a hold, and that research is clearly important and necessary at certain stages of the research enterprise. It helps us test, it gives us ideas to test, and it tells us how those ideas are put in place pretty well, but it can't do what you want.
To answer your question, yes, we can do the same kind of research with the same kind of rigor, keeping in mind that we are dealing with human behavior, keeping in mind that the study designs have to be as complex and robust to handle that complexity, and keeping in mind that, as Kent pointed out, this kind of research requires a sustained effort that is built upon a great deal of intellectual capital, a great deal of administrative capital, and a great deal of energy capital.
Can it be done? Yes. Is it being done where the research comes out for us as consumers? Not in the main. And, again, that is why the task at NIH in many cases is to construct the conditions under which that research is done, because sometimes we have found at NIH if you leave it up to the researchers in the field, they will go down the same road they have always gone down. They have a hard time getting ``out of the box,'' as overused a phrase that is.
And at times myself and my staff and my colleagues at NIH have to work for a year to look at what we know about something, what we don't know about that, where the gaps are, and then we have to design a lot of the work where I work, and then we ask the field to do the work according to that design. And I think that is what Dr. McGuire was talking about, in terms of instilling that kind of culture within OERI.
Chairman Castle. You remind me of Alan Greenspan. I ask him one question and that is the end of my time. I would like to ask one other question of somebody else. But I let you go on because I thought that was a very important answer, how we define all that, and the others may want to comment on it later. And we will certainly try to give them time to. But for now I want to ask a slightly different question that is at the heart of a lot of what we have to do.
I do want to ask Dr. McGuire one question. Maybe people are going to ask you about research centers and labs and some of the inefficiencies there—I think that frankly, there are some. I am not sure if the existing structure is the right structure. I am not saying it isn't; I am just saying I am not sure.
But the question I really have for you is this, and again, we may not have time for the others to comment now but I wouldn't mind getting some comments later. My question relates to the reporting of the research that you receive and the replication of it.
In other words, what evidence is there, if there is evidence, of improved educational results, test scores, or whatever it may be, and has it been demonstrated at several different places? If so, in what setting was it demonstrated, in local school districts or something done in a research arm? What are your methodologies for getting that information out to others in terms of recommendations? Is it buried in some report, or is this highlighted in some way so that educators know about it? Did somebody really study how it works?
I mean—again I worry about the Escalante effect: where you have a particular unique teacher as opposed to a program that really works—how is all that separated out? And then how will a school in Delaware, for example, know that this is something that might really work? How do you handle that part of it, and what could be improved in that part?
Mr. McGuire. There is a lot that could be improved in that part of it, Mr. Castle. I mean we handle it in lots of ways, some rather traditional ways that are a function of the system that we have. The information finds its way into the ERIC clearinghouse system. The information finds its way into the regional educational laboratories. The information finds its way into other parts of the Department of Education. The information finds its way through professional meetings of various types, into their discussions.
Chairman Castle. But would you say it is all fungible, or if a program seems to really work, does it get a higher mark and so that people know?
Mr. McGuire. I think the challenge, the challenge is to apply increasingly stronger judgments about what we know. A big part of that challenge has to do with organizing that knowledge in ways that a school in Wilmington or Dover could take efficient advantage of it.
My own sense is that we have attended less to how hard it is to do that well, but how important it is to do that well. We have just had very interesting discussions with Reid and Dwayne Alexander and others about the dissemination, the thoughtful dissemination of that Reading Panel Report, and the difference between simply making sure that people know it exists and what it will take to help people take thoughtful advantage of it.
So there are lots of things that we are doing about that. There is a whole lot more that we will need to do if we really want to see stuff used. It is a much bigger problem than simply getting it out there. It is working explicitly on testing what it means and looks like to actually try it. That has implications for the scale and scope and reach of the studies that you would conduct. It has implications for the methods you would use to evaluate those things.
I am very optimistic, as is Reid, about this new IERI in that regard. I am just as optimistic about our own research efforts around comprehensive school reform. We could be doing a whole lot more, Mr. Castle, of that kind of thing, and I expect we would find in time we would be a whole lot more helpful to the field.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dr. McGuire. I may have more questions later, but let me turn now to Mr. Kildee.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize to you for being late, and I want to apologize to the panel, too. It is out of character for me to be late.
But I would like to ask this question: Research really does little or no good if it takes a Ph.D. to be in the classroom applying it. What ways . . .maybe I ought to address this to Dr. Lyon, specifically, and Dr. Vinovskis, you might want to answer too, because you are at a university that has all the schools there . . .what are some good ways to disseminate that so it really does reach the classroom, and how well are we disseminating that to the schools of education around the country? Start with you, Dr. Lyon.
Mr. Lyon. As Dr. McGuire pointed out, this is really a complexity in and of itself, but the conditions under which teachers can use the stuff that is good are the following.
Number one, they have got to be provided good instruction where they are trained in terms of what constitutes quality. At the present time our teachers, from our studies of teachers, really don't understand what to look at and research to judge what is fluff, what is real or what is Memorex. They really don't know what to look for, and that is how they get stuck in these continuing fads that come down the pike, most of which don't have any research or any good research. So, number one, our teachers have to be able to understand at a rudimentary level, not at a Ph.D. level, what it means to be a good study.
Number two, good studies produce information if you have a systematic research program that is implemented at different stages of complexity. For example, at NIH, and I don't mean to medically analogize this, but as you know we do clinical trials at three to four different levels. We do the basic clinical trials, and then they are bumped up to a higher level of complexity, then to a higher level of complexity, to deal with issues of whether or not the people actually use the stuff; to deal with whether or not the physicians actually understand it well enough to prescribe it; and so forth.
We have to do that same kind of thoughtful ``traveling'' of information in education. That is, when for example over the years we found that teaching kids about the sound structure of the language works well as an initial component of their reading, that didn't get out. We had to then develop programs that could be fit into teachers' teaching repertoires.
That started to work, but it still didn't get out because it didn't override their previous training. It was only until we went into whole school systems and worked with teachers within the world in which they live, as Dr. Slavin does, that we began to get those effects.
And the reason we have to do that, the reason we have to go into Washington, D.C. totally to do the work we want, or in Houston, Texas or 11 other sites, is because the teachers haven't been prepared well at the colleges of education. They can't judge the quality of research. They tend to be method driven. They are taught one approach, whether it is good or bad, and they tend to use that continuously, not to their fault. Teachers want to help everybody they can, but they are constrained by the information they get.
But, as Dr. McGuire pointed out, to move information in a thoughtful way from the point of its discovery to the point of its application requires that we figure out the conditions under which that information gets out there. So you have to change incentives for the teachers. They don't want to do a lot if they are not going to have some incentives. You have got to change the administrative structures in the schools so that they reinforce that kind of thing. You have got to change all kind of cultural issues, which is complex but it can be studied, again, experimentally.
But to short-sight that kind of thing will doom us to failure. And that is why, as you are asking these very good questions, the responses are going to be complex whether we like it or not, but we can do that complexity if you give us the chance.
Mr. Kildee. Dr. Vinovskis?
Mr. Vinovskis. Mr. Kildee, that is an excellent question. Let me give you four very quick responses to it, and I won't go into detail because of the time.
First of all, we don't do serious development anymore. We need to do the development to take the scientific materials into how they translate in different classrooms. We did a better job thinking about it and working on it in the 1970s than we do today. And it is ironic because we call them R&D centers. The word is ``development,'' R and development centers, but we don't do it, with one or two major exceptions.
So that is one issue, and we can talk more about that. Secondly, you are absolutely right about schools of education. At places like University of Michigan we are not doing a good enough job with our teachers in preparing them to look at the research and understand it. One of the things that I think University of Michigan and others are doing, we are trying to be more interdisciplinary, to have the teachers work with people in sociology and other disciplines, not just within the School of Education.
Third, we have our dissemination system pretty badly organized in the Department of Education, and we have had it that way for 30, 40 years. Maybe it is time to move the dissemination activities more into the Department, do it with the current PES program, Planning and Evaluation Service; have ORAD, the dissemination people, move there to work directly with the programs that we have; and have them bring more research-based ideas to what we are doing. It isn't as though we are not spending money at the Federal level. We are just not spending it well.
And, finally, and this is because we are short of time, we ought to pretend that some teachers belong to teachers' unions. Why aren't we working more closely with the teachers' unions? We are all happy to say how wonderful they are when some people need contributions, or how horrible they are when some people are running against them. But why don't we realize that a lot of people work with teachers' unions? The NEA and AFT have potential for us. Ron Henderson, for example, at NEA does research, and they are the ones who have access to teachers to help.
So one of the things I think is, we have to develop the right product. We have to get the schools of education to do something right. We have to rethink what we are doing at the Federal level, and look for new and creative ways of reaching teachers as partners and not as objects.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you. I liked both your answers, and it has been helpful.
You know, in the field of medicine generally, not perfectly but generally, the latest research gets into the medical schools quite quickly. Not only that, the practitioners out there generally will change their treatment quite quickly, also. Can we do anything to parallel that in education? Dr. McGuire?
Mr. McGuire. That is a great question. I think there is a key difference between today, this moment, and maybe the context 10, 15, 20 years ago, and that is that teachers really want to help. They are under enormous and growing pressure to help kids, for instance, learn to read.
And so I think this demand that Dr. Slavin spoke about is a very important thing to take note of and for us to take serious advantage of, and I think the opportunity to build a culture of respect for research is strong. The more aggressive we are about doing the kind of work we have been talking about to meet that demand, I think will help to accelerate that cycle time.
I am married to a physician. We get stacks of those journals. That is why we have to use two mailboxes at our house, one for the little bit of stuff I get, you know, and then all this rich information base that comes weekly into my house.
People want help. I think the real challenge is organizing in such ways that they can get it. I would be very interested, if time permits, in hearing Bob talk about . . .because he has studied this matter, I think, from the perspective of trying to help lots of teachers and schools . . .how he would respond to that same question.
Mr. Slavin. Thank you. Yes, I think that this is very, very important. We do not have here a failure to communicate. There is all kinds of summaries of research and things that translate complex research findings into simple language that people can understand. What we have is a failure to translate the ideas of research into practical things that people can use.
One of the ways in which medicine is able to make that translation is that, you know, we are not talking about general principles of medicine, we are talking about this drug versus that drug, this procedure versus that procedure, this way of treating a disease versus something else, and there are standards of evidence that are consistently applied, ultimately by the FDA or by the journals themselves, in terms of, if you are proposing this procedure versus some other, has that procedure actually been compared in a controlled experiment to the alternative?
So what we are lacking in education research is both sides of that, both the methods that get down to the level of the textbooks, the professional development programs, the ways in which teachers can be more effective in their jobs, and then the standards of evidence in terms of knowing that the things that we are asking teachers to do have been tested rigorously, repeatedly, and found to be more effective than what they are doing now.
Mr. Kildee. On that, if you would go to a doctor's office and the doctor was using a medical procedure that was common in 1950 but is no longer, you would wonder about that doctor a great deal. And I do worry about getting more immediacy between research into these schools of education and then into the classroom. Because your wife has to read this material regularly, right? And I think that there seems sometimes to be a disconnect between research and even the schools of education, and research and the classroom. If we could somehow avoid that disconnect, that would be very helpful.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Mr. Kildee. Those are provocative questions. I am not sure I can get into the whole subject of the precision of scientific and medical research versus the imprecision of dealing with children and education. It is very complex to understand how well any of this could work..
But let me turn now to Mr. Ehlers, who himself is a scientist, probably a researcher at some point, and is also from the great State of Michigan, to make sure that Dr. Vinovskis feels welcome here today. Mr. Ehlers?
Mr. Ehlers. Well, thank you Mr. Chairman, and also thank you to the panel. It is always exciting to hear from you, and I have heard most of you testify at least once and some of you several times. It is always exciting but also extremely depressing.
As Mr. Castle just said, I am a researcher myself. I spent many years doing physics research, and I have tried to understand the problem. I have written three bills that I recently submitted to try to improve math and science education in the K-12 system, and I really wanted to include a research component. I did not, for two reasons:
First was that Congressman Nick Smith on the Science Committee is working on that issue and has a bill in preparation, so I deferred to him. But a bigger reason was, I simply didn't know what to do. Why didn’t I know what to do? There are a number of reasons.
I have a background not just in nuclear physics research but also in working and teaching for many years a special course for future elementary school teachers. That meant in order to teach myself I did what you did, Dr. Lyon: I went into the schools. I did not teach for a full year, but I have taught in various elementary school classrooms at various grade levels.
I find it very dismaying, in viewing the situation over the past 20 or 30 years, at how fads often reign supreme in the classroom. I remember the "open classroom" fad. This was going to solve all our problems. And I visited some of those open classrooms; just total chaos.
We now, on this committee, have been talking about "fuzzy math" and what that means, and so I have gotten into some of that. It is not as bad as some people think, but I am not at all sure it is a good thing. People latch onto fads, I think, for lack of knowing what to do.
But the real question I have is, I think part of the problem I have trouble understanding is, I am used to dealing with a few variables. When you are doing research here, you are dealing with a lot of variables. What I found especially distressing, though—I gather from conversations I have had with you as well as testimony—is that you assume that something like 20 percent of the research done today is really quite good, and that 80 percent is probably a waste of time and, in fact, may be harmful.
Now, we have a horrendous problem if that is true, because as you know most research is peer reviewed. In many cases it is a bootstrap operation. How do you change if the predominant number of researchers are doing what you consider poor research? How do you make a change in that?
I would appreciate some guidance from you on that, but also, let me also ask you a very direct question. I think most of you are interested in the more quantitative aspects of science. Is part of your bad view of what is going on, the fact that you are quantitative in nature and so little of the research going on today is quantitative? Or are you convinced it really is not in any way useful research and therefore should be dismissed?
So I have wandered about a bit. I have given you a lot of leeway to give some response, and I would appreciate if each of you would respond to that. Yes? Kent, go ahead.
Mr. McGuire. Thank you. Well, first of all, I want to get back to you about the research in mathematics. It is not a simple matter but I am not sure it is impossible, and I would want you to reevaluate whether or not there might be something you could do.
In terms of this 80/20 issue that you raise, I don't know what the percentages are, and I am less sure whether thinking about the problem in those terms exactly helps you attack it, to the extent that it is one.
Mr. Ehlers. No, but if you are going to have peer-reviewed evaluations in your office or NSF or in Reid's office, and the peers are not good researchers, you have got a major problem.
Mr. McGuire. Yes. I think we do have some issues. One issue has absolutely to do with the talent and capacity in the field, both to do good work and to make proper judgments about what good work is. One form, necessary form of Federal leadership is to be interested in building that capacity in the field. You just have to worry about those kinds of things.
At the same time, I think it helps a lot if you focus on what it is you are trying to do. I have been a very strong advocate of thinking in programmatic terms about our research work. I think Reid thinks similarly over at NIH. Because it helps you to organize that good talent, which is what I have been saying, and to engage in the kind of planning where you can wrestle to the floor exactly what it is you are trying to produce in the way of evidence, the methods that you need to employ to get that evidence with confidence, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It is the kind of thing which you just don't get purely from field-initiated studies, as important as that research tradition might be for helping build capacity in the field.
So, true, I think we clearly have some quality issues. We need to organize to go after them, but it sure helps a lot to know what it is you are trying to do. Yes, I am an economist by training. I like equations and all that kind of stuff. I don't know how to do good case studies. But I also bet that some of our best experiments come, have been designed as a consequence of having taken advantage of many of those other methods in sharpening our understanding of what the problem is, in choosing variables to test.
It doesn't make a lot of sense to run really big, expensive experiments around relatively small and unimportant ideas. We want those investments to be targeted on really important things. So it is a planning and management issue, and there is plenty of Federal leadership, it seems to me, to be exercised in that regard.
Mr. Ehlers. Maris?
Mr. Vinovskis. Let me answer your second question very quickly and then really go to one I want to spend a little more time on. I don't think it is a quantitative-qualitative issue. It often seems that way. Educational research, ironically, with Thorndike in the 1920s and '30s was extremely quantitative, but not social science. It wasn't very well organized.
And many of us would like qualitative studies if they are done rigorously like anthropology does, but not this qualitative single case approach that has no generalizability, which tends to be one of OERI's specialties. So it isn't qualitative or quantitative, but I will come back to that later if you like.
The problem is much worse. Let's assume it is 20/80, and that would be an optimistic day for me, that 20 percent of educational research is good, so I feel good about that. But will OERI, will my colleagues in the AERA, American Education Research Association, of which I am a member, tell you about which is the good 20 and which is the bad 80? No.
We can talk all we want, but for 35 years we have had labs and centers, and who dares speak up when there is the 80 percent that isn't good? And they should speak up. What happens to those people? What happens to those suggestions? Nothing. And so we can tell you all these wonderful things, that we are all wonderful people, but when we testify 5 years from now I am not sure it will be any different.
Now, let me give you some concrete examples. When I was first brought in under the Bush administration to be the research advisor, I looked a 7 of the 23 R&D centers and 5 of the 10 labs and asked, ``Is the work any good?'' And I completed that report under the Clinton administration in early 1993, and the answer is, some of it is good. This blanket attack on education is incorrect. But some of it was bad, and I am dumb enough that I named people by name, I named institutions by name, and it was like a 200-page report.
So finally we are raising these things, so what do we do about it? OERI looked into the situation, because I was scheduled to go back to the University of Michigan, can they suppressed the report? It turns out they couldn't. When you were reauthorizing things, Mr. Kildee, in '93-'94, you never saw my report. The Department didn't release it. You never, most of you haven't seen it because they never published it. Since then it has been distributed. So when you come up with specific criticisms and people are saying it is wrong, they make sure that doesn't get out there.
AERA, my organization, we just came back from New Orleans. Fifteen thousand people showed up. We had a wonderful time. But when we have tried to organize sessions on quality of the centers which are under AERA, you can't find a space. This is an organization that suppresses these kinds of things. It is not personal, it is not Republican, it is not Democrat, but it is going on.
When we try to defund some of those places, including, for example, which is a terrific State university, Berkeley just happens to have a second-rate education unit, you can't defund anything. So the question I have for you is, I don't think we are going to have trouble coming up with what is good and what is bad. I don't think we are going to have trouble agreeing that we need these things. Are you going to have the structure and the people who are going to stand up?
One of the difficulties in OERI now, I have been trying
. . .there was a third year review of the centers and the labs, which we will talk about probably at some other point. I wanted to review that to see how well they did it and what was the quality of the work. It was impossible to get copies of that. This was done in 1998 and '99, and except, Mr. Castle, for your staff who were exemplary in this, if it hadn't been for them I would have never seen it.
I have finally now received copies of the center evaluations a couple of weeks ago, and on Tuesday I received the labs. Well, this is great. It will look good in my next book, when there is a book. But the hearings are almost over. How are you going to make these decisions?
So the question I have to my colleagues here as they answer is not about whether we should be doing these things, how we should be doing them. The question is, who is going to stand up and say when things are in that 80 percent?
Mr. Lyon. Mr. Ehlers, I am not sure if we have talked about this before, but the issue that you have brought up about how does the system change when in fact the system is populated by possibly some of the issues that make it less than optimal is a tough one.
I think Kent's point about qualitative and quantitative issues is very well taken, and I just want to add to that in one respect. We get distracted by these issues . . . qualitative, quantitative, whole language, phonics . . .and the issue doesn't have anything to do with that. Those are concrete poles that apparently excite people but never solve the problem.
The issue, in terms of the type of research, is one of quality and one of application. Some research methods, as you know, are more applicable to certain questions, and you apply them when those questions arise. Other methods are more pertinent to others, and those are applied hopefully in a good, common sense way.
The issue is quality. On both the quantitative side and the qualitative side in education, not all but a substantial amount is not of good quality. And what we are faced with at the university and college levels, both in the training of teachers but also, importantly, the training of researchers, is that the academic programs are drive philosophically rather than scientifically. Some of these programs hold onto the post-modern view that knowledge is relative; that science is in the eye of the beholder; that education is so complex, you will never be able to study it.
And I do want to continue to come back to, and we do have many examples of this, where you can study human beings in all of their complexity as they grow up, and do that scientifically and do that well and inform the field, that can be done. And what we know in our medical research at Child Health is that focusing too much on the organism, on the cells at the molecular level, and not focusing enough on how the environment and the world changes all of that, has been a mistake. We have got to couple all of that together. So that can be done.
The issue isn't this or that. It is quality. But your issue about how in fact do you change a system, when in fact it is driven by individuals who have a less than ideal respect for research, is going to be tough. And I think, as Maris and Kent have said, that is going to take some courage. It is going to take leadership. It is going to take us working together here at the Federal level, which for the first time that is in my career I have seen Federal agencies genuinely collaborate around these complex issues. And again, Kent is not paying me to say this, but the reason I think is Kent McGuire, at least from the OERI side, because I do believe he has a clear understanding of these things.
So somebody is going to have to . . .let me tell you this, practically. When Kent's group and our group at NICHD are talking about how you take the findings of this panel and travel it out to the field, you know one of the things we are thinking about, and I will probably let some things out of the bag, is who do you ask to help to do that?
Do you ask the deans of colleges of education? Not really. They are not going to help you out. Do you ask the professors of colleges of education? No. You have to ask the business community. You have to ask the university presidents. You have to ask people who have a bigger picture and leverage, and a concern for the children that a lot of the line people don't. And so to do this we are going to have to, I think, be very clear and honest about the conditions under which this is going to take place.
As an aside, the chairman of this panel, Mr. Ehlers, was Donald Langenberg, an eminent physicist who heads up the University of Maryland. And Dr. Langenberg can tell you clearly that what he sees in this report will clearly benefit children, but how we can in fact move that into every level you have discussed in this question will require the leadership but the courage to do this, to do it well.
Mr. Ehlers. Just a little historical note: Don Langenberg did his Ph.D. research in the lab right next to mine at Berkeley.
Mr. Slavin. I think the issue is not only an issue off good research and bad research, or of quantitative and qualitative research. I would pose it a somewhat different way. We have had an imbalance, up until very recently, where we have had very little high quality research that has focused on solving problems. We have had a lot of research describing problems or doing, you know, small scale observation or small scale experimentation or what have you.
But very, very seldom do we set up research to go out and solve a problem, you know, to say ``Let's design more effective strategies to ensure that all children can read. Let's design strategies to ensure that middle school children are going to succeed in mathematics. Let's design programs to reduce dropouts among high school students and evaluate those carefully.'' That has been the missing element in the portfolio of research until very recently.
And it would be a little bit like having NASA, you know, having all the research that goes on in NASA and then having them not launch anything. You know, then you could say, ``Well, there's good research and bad research going on,'' but it doesn't matter because, unless you put something in the air, you know, into space, then you're not doing research in NASA.
And I think we have had that kind of situation because, just as in NASA, the launching research is the expensive part. And in education research, to do the large-scale development, evaluation, dissemination, is expensive and takes a skill set that is not that widespread in education, but is widespread enough to accomplish a great deal more than is going on right now.
Until you have demonstrations where you can solve problems, where you can demonstrate over and over again that kids can do math better because they have been in this program versus that program, or that the dropout rate has dropped because of this program versus that program, then all of the education research, whether it is good or bad, does not amount to anything that matters at the policy level.
Mr. Ehlers. Thank you very much, and I thank the chairman for his generous allowance of extra time for each of you to respond.
Just one last quick comment: the greatest variables that I have observed are the differences between the various students and the differences between teachers. I have seen two identical classrooms, an excellent teacher in one, a poor teacher in the other, a world of difference, even though the students came from exactly the same distribution. There are great variabilities in both students and teachers.
Thank you very much.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Mr. Ehlers.
We are going to have a second round of questions here. I don't know when we are going to start getting bells for votes, but hopefully we can avoid that for a little bit and see if we can get this round in now. And I want to start by asking Dr. McGuire a couple of specific questions that are pertinent to what we are trying to do here, in terms of procedural things that you are doing or could be doing over in your shop.
And the first is, will you be renewing any research and development center contracts this year? And I think the answer to that is probably going to be yes. But if that is the answer, for how long? And since this is a reauthorization year, we are concerned the contracts are only extended long enough to get them through the reauthorization. Can you shed any light on that, based on what you know now?
Mr. McGuire. Let me answer that question.
Chairman Castle. Contracts are typically good for 5 years, is my understanding, the reason for asking that.
Mr. McGuire. Yes. The first thing I need to say is, just for the record, you know, that nobody in my office is withholding any information from anyone. There is a thing you have to do to ask for it, and a procedure I have to do to get it to you, but we have had people over to come look at it.
And there aren't any sort of formal evaluations of centers that are scheduled to be released or published. There are interim reviews called for by our regulations, and that is . . .our real problem is, not enough people ask for that stuff, you want to know the truth. But we would be more than happy for people to see it.
To your question, where—
Chairman Castle. You have raised some questions, too, but we will get back to that.
Mr. McGuire. Okay. With respect to the research and development centers, yes, we will be extending the cooperative agreements of a number of those centers, the ones for which we must make some decision about that in a timely manner.
Now, let me say something about the logic that we are using in making those decisions. We approach them, in the first instance, it is very consistent with this conversation that we have been having here for the last hour. We have just been talking about the fact that all too often the work doesn't add up. It does not accumulate. Too little attention to how to organize it and manage that portfolio and to attend to the important questions occurs, and then we stop and start things.
So we have decided that we should look carefully at the quality of the work underway. We certainly did look at those interim reviews and other things to reach some judgments about all of that. We tried to make some assumptions or look carefully at what we know about what is going on in the field. And we are in the process of negotiating continuations for various periods of time.
In a few instances, as for instance in the case of Bob Slavin's center, we felt comfortable, on the basis of peer review and other things, to extend that work for an additional 5 years. In any number of other instances, we have decided to do that for a lesser period of time. That judgment is a function of several things: one, the work that is being proposed to do, how long it would take to do it; two, the judgments of very strong peer review panels on whether the work is worth doing or not; three, how long it would take for this agency, trying desperately to engage in much more rigorous and strategic research planning to come up with new ideas, defensible ideas about what next to compete.
So I would argue that what we have done is try to make a sensible . . .we are in the process, better stated, of making a set of defensible decisions about what work is worth extending, to what end, and for how long. Now, what that means in terms of reauthorization simply is that whenever--this is important, I'm sorry . . .whenever the Congress does get around to this, it would be great if it got around to it this year, I would applaud that, but we don't know. That is really uncertain, and we have a fundamental responsibility with respect to the centers and the labs to go about our business as professionally and forthrightly as we can. There are many ways to adapt those decisions.
Chairman Castle. Wait a minute. Let me interrupt you. Isn't your responsibility, I mean, this contractual responsibility to labs and centers doesn't impress me that much. I am not even sure the labs and centers, you know, totally work as a methodology of doing research. I am not saying they don't; I don't know that.
Mr. McGuire. Nor am I.
Chairman Castle. But, I mean, but our goal is good research.
Mr. McGuire. Yes.
Chairman Castle. It is not necessarily extending contracts on relatively unlimited basis, or entering into them, if there is some chance we are going to undermine the whole supposition that they work. And it worries me that this is happening, particularly at a time when there seems to be almost unanimity that we really need to look intently at all of this.
Mr. McGuire. You and I are saying the same thing. These decisions are being made with supporting the best possible research in mind. That is exactly what I am saying. All I am saying, in addition to that, is that at any point that the authority changes, that new ideas emerge about what we ought to be doing, two things are true: We will have to engage in some planned and thoughtful transition to the implementation of those ideas; and we have lots of options and flexibility about how to close out of our current commitments.
Chairman Castle. Let me follow up on this. The report on the reviews of the research and development centers mentions two centers that are resistant to making changes recommended by their peer reviewers. In discussing one center, your staff is quoted as saying that there were a significant number of places and issues where the center is unwisely not accepting the signals that this work is not amounting to much. Are the contracts of the two centers resistant to change being renewed?
I mean, I worry about the statement that Dr. Vinovskis made earlier, which is that nobody is willing to say that research is good or not good out there. I mean, I want to find 10 of the toughest sons-of-guns we can find out there who are willing to come in there and say this is just not working, it is not good, and this is good. And my concern is, are we just going to sort of brush this under the rug and say, "Well, you're being resistant to change, but if you're being good boys and girls, we'll give you another 5 years or 3 years," or whatever?
Mr. McGuire. I would have to know the particulars in order to respond in a specific way to that, Mr. Castle. What I would say is that those reviews have been acted on very vigorously by the staff, in terms of getting the centers to deal with them. And one of the best things I think we have done for the health of our agency and the health of the research enterprise is to actually enter into this process of negotiation with the centers and use very strong people from the field in those conversations. Nothing has been better for getting their attention and attending to these kinds of issues than doing, I think, what we are up to.
Chairman Castle. Well, I mean, I worry about all this. I mean, I worry about people not doing a particularly good job, and then if talking to them they will do better. Can you tell us specifically which contracts, what will be extended now, or if not now, can you do that in writing? And for how long?
Mr. McGuire. I can certainly send you something in writing. We are in the middle of negotiations, and I wouldn't want to get out in front of our own peer review activities with respect to those decisions. I can tell you which centers we are negotiating with, but we are right in the middle of it.
Chairman Castle. We would like to get as much information as we can about that, because obviously it affects what we are doing, too.
Mr. McGuire. True.
Chairman Castle. And we don't want to have our hands tied in terms of future changes that we may wish to make.
Mr. McGuire. Right.
Chairman Castle. Dr. Vinovskis looks like he is very antsy about saying something here, but I am going to ask another question. He can tie his answer into that, because I want to ask of the three of you—perhaps not Dr. McGuire—is about the sense of independence here that has been talked about. If we reorganize OERI, how independent of the Department of Education should it be?
It is a good time to ask the question, obviously. There is an election coming up, and it is a pretty close election apparently, so hopefully this is not a political equation of which political party will be in charge of the Department of Education, but the broader question of should it be independent. I served on the National Assessment Governing Board for a while, and while I am not always sure we did the exactly right thing or even knew what we were doing at times, at least it was relatively independent.
Should OERI be more independent? If it was more independent, would we have some of the hard decisions in terms of how research is being done or how good it is and how to evaluate it and that kind of thing, or does it seem to work relatively well as it is? And you have already touched on that before in your opening statement, Dr. Vinovskis, but we will start with you and we will go to Dr. Lyon and Dr. Slavin on that.
Mr. Vinovskis. Thank you. Let me respond very quickly on several issues.
First of all, again, it is not a Democratic or a Republican thing. The difficulty is, in fact, that it is not an open process in general. A lot of these evaluations aren’t tough critics aren't put on these boards.
For example, having done all of this work on the centers and the labs and knowing a lot about these, and knowing how hard it is to recruit anybody who wants to take the time to do an honest evaluation, what is interesting is that I have not been asked by OERI or by PES, that was doing the labs, to even be one of the potential reviewers. One of the best ways to avoid work in the government or with the government that you don't want to do, like evaluations, is be critical. You won't be asked.
We can come back and we should come back. I don't think those evaluations, the centers and the labs, are as straightforward as they should have been. Center directors are asked about who should be on those things. The labs were given a veto over people who were to be consulted. I think this is something that you guys want to look into.
And, again, I haven't gone through all the material because I received it . . .I asked for this material, by the way, of both the contractors and the PES thing on the labs, in September of 1999 when I first heard about it. Now, I don't mind waiting 8 months, but this is the last hearing, I bet.
So we have some differences. It isn't Kent. It is the system. It needs to be more independent for that reason. It needs an evaluation system, not just OERI, a separate research group. It needs a separate evaluation unit, separate from the research component, that can look at this honestly, will speak up honestly, and will report on a timely basis and an accurate basis, and that goes for a lot of these other studies. It is not just this issue.
You need that independence for all our sakes. Whether it is going to be President Bush or President Gore, I think we have to have the assurance that the kind of evaluations and the kind of studies that are going to be done, are going to be even-handed and open to all of us. This has not been characteristic for the last decades. It is not a Republican or a Democratic thing.
So I think you have hit on a very important issue. It is not really just should OERI be independent. I think you need an independent research unit and especially an independent evaluation unit that we are all going to have confidence in, because otherwise I think there are good reasons, and I can give you a lot more details and examples that I will pass up because of our time, but we have lots of instances where things have not been open.
Chairman Castle. Thank you.
Mr. Lyon. With respect to the independence, I am not sure if I am in a position by way of experience to answer it, but I can address it by analogy to some degree.
The NIH, as you know, is not independent. We are in fact a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, and my institute, Child Health, is part of a campus made up of many other institutes. What I think makes my job much easier than Dr. McGuire's is that my boss at his lateral level is not a political appointee; he is a scientific person who has brought in the necessary skills and abilities to manage a large research enterprise, and the science could be economics or it could be pediatrics or whatever, but the individual is recruited on the basis of those things that bear significantly and directly on the job to be done. It is not a political appointment.
I think what Dr. Vinovskis just said is critical as well, and that is, at the NIH where frankly I am extremely proud to work . . .it is one of the . . .after spending years in academe and so on, I work at a place that makes me proud. And it makes me proud because of its integrity, with all the kinds of foibles you get in any organization, and its integrity is based upon what Maris had mentioned, that we keep things separate and we try to control as much as possible the human factor getting in the way of getting our own agendas done.
At the NIH, review, evaluation is completely separate from my scientific program, and no matter generally how much I want to do something, if that doesn't meet the best of science, I can't do it. And the people who judge if that is good science, it is an interesting thing because people in NIH types of sciences, including the educational work we do, very much want to serve on these review committees. They are there for 4 years. They contribute their time completely to come in three times a year to review research that is being proposed for funding, and these individuals have had to have an extraordinary degree of success in their own right.
Separate review from scientific program, the leadership not having a schedule of appointment that coincides with an administration, and that in fact is driven more scientifically than politically, and so on.
Chairman Castle. Thank you.
Dr. Slavin will finish up this answer, and then we are going to go to Mr. Kildee. I think we may have a vote at 11:30, so we want to get his questions in as well.
Mr. Slavin. Well, I will be very brief, because I have been watching over 25 years or so. We have had every structure you can possibly imagine, and whatever structure it is always, you know, doesn't seem to make an enormous difference. What matters much more is the charge that the structure has in terms of how, what kind of research it is going to fund, what kind of evaluations are going to be for that research. It is much more in the details.
I think that, on balance, I think an independent agency might be a good thing. OERI right now has a terrible reputation, and low morale in many ways, and it might be useful to have a new structure, to wipe the slate clean and start with something different. But frankly, unless you have significantly increased funding, unless you have significantly greater focus on research that actually solves problems, unless you have much more of a focus on research that uses experimental comparisons and then helps schools go through the process of adopting programs that are based on good evidence, then it doesn't matter what structure you have. And I would hope that you would focus more on those kinds of details than just on the question of independent/not independent structure.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you. I think I will change tack a bit, but I am going to try to get back to Dr. McGuire too, so he can respond on the structure, but let me ask this question first.
You know, education, we have been teaching people for thousands of years, and Aristotle and Aquinas believed the mind was like a tabula rasa, and the educator's job was to imprint information on that tabula. And in the last few years, even the last 5 or 10 years or less, we have learned so much about the physical human brain and the development of the physical human brain, and particularly in language development. My concern is that we are not applying that knowledge of the development of the human brain, not applying it in the schools of education, in the classroom.
In applied research, what techniques might best utilize our knowledge of language development? I really, going back to my original statement, there just seems to be that real disconnect between what the researchers are doing, and we are almost moving more in geometric progression now in our knowledge of the physical human brain, and yet I don't see much of that being taken into the schools of education, or in the classroom how we can use that knowledge in helping the child to develop language. Dr. Lyon?
Mr. Lyon. Mr. Kildee, we do probably the biggest bulk of that kind of work, looking at developing brain in kids and how it interacts with how they do in school and elsewhere. What has informed us . . .obviously that is a very complex arena to be working in . . .what we know is that what schools do with kids has as much to do about their brain development, as their brain development has to do with their learning.
That is, we are conducting a number of studies now, just to give you the example, where we can identify at 5 years of age kids who are not going to be able to learn to read, and we can do that pretty well. We can look at how their brain is functioning at that time. We can enter them into the kinds of trials that Bob is talking about, where they get different teaching kinds of things. We can continue to watch brain, and then look at brain at the end of a year.
And indeed kids who have difficulties, some kids who have difficulties learning to read show us a different brain, there is no doubt about it, a different brain, not a hole in the brain. But what is wonderful is that if you bring to bear with that child good instruction, that brain changes and mirrors the good reader brain by the end of the year.
So the issue that we need to be addressing here is, what are the fundamental instructional features that teachers can actually do, that is based upon good language research, that is based upon good classroom research, that we know changes the brain? What I am saying is, that is an extremely complex kind of thing, and I would rather, as a third grade teacher in my past life, if someone had said, ``You need to use right brain strategies,'' that is much too general for me. I need to know, in teaching reading, that I have to teach the kid about the sound structure, about phonics, about reading quickly, about reading comprehension and so forth, and I need to know as a teacher what has been found to be effective in teaching those things. And what is wonderful is, when we teach well, the nervous system responds quite nicely.
Mr. Kildee. External stimuli really play a major role in development of the brain.
Mr. Lyon. It is amazing. It is amazing. And that is why the White House Conference which we were part of a couple of years ago frankly was premature, and I think some of the work was overstated. We are finding now that brain, thank goodness, continues to be fairly malleable at my age.
Mr. Kildee. My age, too.
Mr. Lyon. I mean, we don't have any new cells coming in . . .
Mr. Vinovskis. We are all hopeful about that.
Mr. Kildee. Well, in my own household right now we have two males, one myself, 70 years of age, and one 2 years of age, my grandson. It is incredible, I mean, what I have learned myself, as a result of research by people like yourself, about human brain, how I can play a role even in the development of my grandson's brain.
Mr. Lyon. But it is good instruction that does it, Mr. Kildee. It is well-informed, powerful, research-based instruction, based upon the kinds of things Bob is talking about.
Mr. McGuire. We have got to do a whole lot more of that kind of work. Again, I think Bob is absolutely right, there is this big middle that we just haven't attended to, and it takes time and costs money.
Mr. Kildee. Let me ask you, Dr. McGuire, what the role of this . . .we are talking about the structure of where OERI should be, and maybe whether . . .I think there is two separate issues here . . .whether there be separate evaluation or separate structure, I don't think only one. Would you want to comment on that?
Mr. McGuire. I sure would. You know, if I have learned nothing in my 20 months, I have learned the limits of structure for solving this problem that we seem to, in a recurring way, come back to. It is not, at the end of the day, whether Maris gets his report or whether we choose him to serve on some of our peer review panels, though I have no objection to any of that. I care about structure. It is necessary, but not sufficient, and depending on how you do it, structure could even be a problem. And so that is . . .I just want to be clear about that.
Whether or not the agency is in or outside of the Department is a very interesting question. Reid said it himself, we have lots of examples of Federal research agencies that are inside their departments and seem to do just fine. If we were to be outside, we should worry a lot about how much support there is. The good example that comes to mind is NSF. There is several billion dollars there.
Immunity is not assured by separating us from the Department, and we should worry about whether or not . . .I think Reid's partnership with us in disseminating that report depends fundamentally on a connection to the Department. And there are lots of very practical if uninteresting things that we would have to worry about in terms of creating new agencies and the overhead and administrative stuff that you would have to set up.
I would like to get on with trying to figure out how to do this important work right now, which goes to why I am not waiting to make important decisions about centers where I think we have a credible basis for doing so. But, again, nothing we are doing ties the Congress's hands in terms of its options in terms of how to organize R&D in the future. If anything, I believe what I am up to is creating much more flexibility for us to figure out what it really does make sense to do, because I would love to be associated with having contributed to that.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Mr. Kildee. I will turn to Mr. Ehlers in a moment. I am not asking a question, but one of the things that I have had occasion to see—much more obviously in the last few years than ever before—is the use of technology in the classroom, particularly the use of computers.
And I am not convinced that anyone really understands, I mean, everyone seems to believe that computers work in terms of helping kids, but I am not sure anyone understands the connection of all that, or how it really works, or how to outline those programs, and huge amounts of money are being thrown at that. Corporations, for a change, have really gotten involved in that area, and it is certainly something that those of us who are interested in education and the combination of education and technology and research, need to take a look at.
But let me turn to Mr. Ehlers, to see if he has any further questions.
Mr. Ehlers. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a few, actually comments and perhaps questions.
I think this is a really important issue that we have to get a handle on. We spend, in this nation, something like $300 billion a year on education and .01 percent on research. The money dispensed by the Congress on education, in other words, the federal share of education funding, is at this point based largely on politics rather than on research, and I think that is a good share of the problem.
It may well be that of the several billions the federal government spends on research, our major contribution—pardon me—on education, K-12 education, may well be that the better part of wisdom would be to spend most of that money on research, as a useful federal contribution to the educational enterprise. I don't expect we will do as high tech industries do, and spend a very substantial part of our overall budget on research, but let's say we set the goal that the amount of money spent on research in the United States should be at least 1 percent of the amount spent on education. Well, that is $3 billion. That would fund a lot of research, and that would make our decisions on how to spend federal money less political and more based on research.
The problem is, I think that the Congress does not have any confidence that if we allocated $3 billion a year for research, that it would be spent any better than if we did the distribution politically, as we do now. Again, it is part of the bootstrap problem. Until you can establish a good research base and prove that you are doing good research, the Congress is going to be very reluctant to give you any money for it.
And perhaps, Mr. Chairman, what we have to do is set, as a long-term goal of this committee, to substantially increase the research funding but hold that out as a carrot, saying the researchers have to prove themselves, and once we have clarified this issue and established a good research base, then we will fund it more generously.
The other comment I would make is, I continue to be impressed, as I commented earlier, about the difficulty of the research in this area, and it is not just the difficulty of understanding educational psychology, understanding intellectual development, and so forth. It is immensely complicated by the incredible variety in the students and the incredible variety of the problems that have to be dealt with.
And I am not confident that we are going to find a method of teaching reading that is universally applicable for every student and every teacher. In fact, I am quite convinced you aren't. But certainly I believe we can do better than we are doing if we apply an intelligent approach to research, all the way from brain studies using MRIs and PET scanners down to the mundane level of field tests in classrooms.
So these are my thoughts on it at this point, Mr. Chairman. This hearing has been a great help to me in clarifying my thinking, even though it sounds pretty muddled to you yet at this point, but at least it is better than it was before. I would, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, be willing to give each of the members a short time to respond to my thoughts, particularly about increasing research funding but also requiring very stringent standards from the research community if we are to do that.
Chairman Castle. Yes, if we can elicit brief answers from each of you, that would be helpful.
Mr. McGuire. Very briefly, you know, we are at $275 million. We are exactly that, you know, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of what gets spent over at the National Science Foundation. And I think at some point we need to realistically grapple with the level of investment up against that complexity that I think you very correctly describe. It is a bargain I would take you up on.
I mean, I think there is an important discussion to have about quality and standards. It is made more complicated by the fact that education is not a discipline in the sense that physics is, but it doesn't mean you can't tackle the quality problem. I think our problem has been, we haven't been a big enough deal, and so I am very encouraged to hear you and Mr. Castle and others when you say we should be a much bigger deal. And it may only be when we are asked, when that kind of pressure is put on this system, that it responds in the way that it should.
But I am certainly trying to get us focused on a relatively limited number of important problems. I have asked consistently, every year since I have been here, for more money. I don't think you can get there overnight. Leadership in building capacity in the field is important. I would direct you once again to the examples of what doing it right looks like in my written testimony. And what we need is an authority that increases, accelerates the likelihood that these kinds of things we will be able to do more of.
Chairman Castle. Just for the record, when I said bigger deal, I was not talking about necessarily a more expensive deal. Bigger deal in that it would be a better deal, and therefore bigger; we will look at the expense later.
Mr. McGuire. Exactly, exactly.
Mr. Vinovskis. Let me respond to Mr. Ehlers. I think you have my sentiments exactly. I desperately want more money for research, but if I am really honest, I am scared what they would do with it if they got it. I think we need to do the money, but we have to have the accountability and something new to make sure it happens right.
The quandary you face as an individual is one that even all of us here face. I don't think there is that much disagreement among us, what needs to be done, on the specifics and that, but we need to do something.
Let me raise one more issue, and that is, Kent McGuire's job is almost impossible. And one of the reasons is, what we haven't talked about, is staff. The irony . . .and I don't know how to say this because I have the utmost respect for Secretary Riley. I think he is one of the great Secretaries of Education. Mike Smith is one of my heroes. Mike Smith, who was a former Under Secretary, Acting Deputy Secretary, is a researcher. It is where we all want researchers to go, to play a role in government.
But since 1992, and it is not because of Kent, it has got to be someone up higher, OERI has lost 25 percent of its staff. Now, if the Republicans had done that in the early '80s people would say, ``Oh, yeah, it's just those Reagan types.'' I might understand that. But this is under an administration that is supposed to be supportive of research, of high-quality research. How do you lose 25 percent of your staff?
Mr. McGuire. I thought half of it did happen during the Republican administration.
Mr. Vinovskis. That is what I am trying to get the record straight for. And the irony is, you might say, ``Well, you know, Sharon Robinson couldn't persuade people,'' but at one time Mike Smith, for example, was the Under Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and Acting Secretary of OERI. Could the Mike Smith of OERI have spoken to Mike Smith, the Deputy, and said ``We're understaffed''? Something is wrong. If we can't do well with our friends, what is happening to us.
Mr. Lyon. I just want to . . .you know, everybody always tells me that our NICHD program in reading research is because we have a lot of money. That program is built on $24 million a year. That is it. It is the largest reading research program in the world. It has the most convergence in terms of the evidence that comes in from the 42 sites nationally and the 8 sites around the country.
The largest center budget is $1.2 million per year, and within those center programs are members of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the top scholars in the world. Money is going to be important, but it is going to be the energy and the leadership that is infused from the top down, that this is a noble cause to take and we can do it well.
I think some of the demoralization in OERI is a function of anything that causes that human emotion, and that is, people don't feel like they have control over their destiny. Really, I think I see people working in Kent's shop, where they are working their best, they are talented people, but they don't know if what they are going to do will actually have an impact further down the line, because it is somewhat of a capricious, unpredictable existence over there.
In contrast, my shop is extremely stable. We know, not from anything I do but just in terms of the way we are supported and the way you guys look at us. NIH does appreciate a reputation that is well-earned, but it also helps us to feel confident that if we continue to do the work, we will be supported by you guys.
But, you know, to be honest, when you are talking about what you are going to do if you give all of this money to the research community in education, I don't know if you have the horses out there that have taken the time to really know what they need to know. What is somewhat frustrating, and Mr. Ehlers, you get on me all the time about my level of frustration, but a lot of people don't know what they don't know.
And I think constantly, how do you fix that, how do you engender within the senior academic community in education a trust for scientific principle, not philosophy; a trust for excellence and not getting by? And that is going to be a tough one, but it still comes back I think to what this panel has talked about this morning, and that is putting in place a mechanism where or a set of mechanisms where the leadership can set the conditions under which excellence comes up and is reviewed and reinforced. And I can give more specifics, but not to take your time with that, but I think we have to think about those kinds of things.
Mr. Ehlers. Dr. Slavin, do you have anything to add?
Mr. Slavin. Yes, again very briefly, I subscribe very much to the sentiment I think that you are expressing. I would, you know, as a beneficiary of Federal education research, I would ask you not to increase funding for Federal education research unless you hold us more accountable, unless you focus the additional dollars on solving the key problems of American education.
But under that condition, I think absolutely that the education research enterprise is capable of using quite substantially greater funding to solve those key problems, not overnight, because the capacity has been worn down by years of underfunding and years of uncertainty and years of lack of investment and capacity building. But, nevertheless, that which exists now and that which could be readily brought into the profession could absolutely use way more money than there is right now.
But it should only be done if the problems that they are solving are the key problems that every educator, that every parent, that every politician, that every person in America could understand to be key problems, and that we then apply the most rigorous process of evaluation, of third-party evaluation, of development, use of research findings, you know, that we show what money really can do to solve the problems that we all face in education.
Mr. Ehlers. Thank you all, and just two brief comments.
First of all, the $275 million that you spoke about, Dr. McGuire, sounds like a lot of money and it is a lot of money, but at the same time it is $1 per person in the United States, and I don't think very many people in the United States would object to spending $1 a year to improve the teaching in the schools.
Second comment is, don't be too discouraged. As I mentioned earlier, it could be depressing listening to you. Don't be too discouraged. Next January it will be a different world. I have already communicated to George W. Bush that probably the most important appointment he would make would be his Secretary of Education, and if he follows through on that, everything will be wonderful. Thank you very much.
Chairman Castle. Thank you.
Mr. Ehlers. Now I suppose we have to give Mr. Kildee equal time.
Chairman Castle. He is going to defend Mr. Buchanan or whoever runs on that ticket.
I believe we have come to the end. Mr. Hilleary joined us momentarily but had to leave. I believe we have come to the end of the formal part of the questions, unless either of the two who have participated so fully wishes to ask anything further.
Mr. Kildee. I just want to thank the panel. This has been very, very helpful. We haven't come to any firm conclusions in this whole area, but you have given us really some insights that are extremely helpful, all of you, and I appreciate it very much.
Chairman Castle. Well, I would also like to join Dale in thanking all of you. You have been properly provocative, which I enjoy. I think you have said some interesting and constructive things. As Vern said, I am a little muddled, too, in how do we approach all this and what are the right answers, but perhaps I am a little less muddled than I was going into it. This is not easy, and it is frankly not easy for us to draft the right kind of legislation, but this has been a very thorough airing of differences.
Mr. McGuire. I am willing to help. I don't want you to think this is so hard that it can't be done.
Chairman Castle. We appreciate your help, and believe me, we will be consulting with you and with your people. So if there is nothing further, we again thank you, and we stand adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:45 a.m., the subcommittee adjourned.]