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A Look at Studies on the Runway in Obama's Budget Request

The upside to the record-breaking snowfalls that paralyzed the Washington area this week was that I got a chance to catch up on some reading. So, instead of digging into snow, I dug into President Obama's budget request for the 2011 fiscal year. (Don't laugh. It beat shoveling!)

I focused on the section of the proposal that deals with the U.S. Department of Education's $738.8 million request for the Institute of Education Sciences. The institute, as most of you know, is the main research arm for the department. A couple of new projects on the runway caught my eye:


  • A $2 million national study on minority male achievement. Mandated by Congress as part of the recent reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, this study would focus on high school completion and preparation for college, success on the SAT and ACT, and minority male access to college, including the financing of college, and college persistence and graduation.

  • A new grant program, scheduled to begin in 2011, to develop and validate measures of kindergarten readiness.

  • A quasi-experimental evaluation of the four different models that states and districts are using, with Race to the Top funds and Title I school improvement grants, to turn around low-performing schools. This goes hand in hand with the study that the IES is spearheading to evaluate what happens with the $100 billion in economic-stimulus funds the department is handing out to states and districts. It will also include in-depth case studies of 50 such schools.

  • A rigorous study, conducted in partnership with the National Science Foundation, to look at professional development for math teachers that focuses on the teaching of fractions, percentages, and decimals in grade 4, a long-recognized weak spot for many students.

  • At the National Center for Education Statistics, which comes under the IES umbrella, a study aimed at equating scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, with those on The International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS. The idea here is to allow states to compare their students' 8th grade math achievement with that of students in other countries.

  • Also under the NCES, adding fall testing to the data-collection schedule for the 2010 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, better known as ECLS. This would allow researchers to get a better handle on "summer learning loss," the achievement dip that occurs when students are out of school over the summer and which affects different population groups differently.


If Congress goes along with the funding request for the Education Department, these projects would come on top of the research centers and training projects that went out for bid earlier this month. More requests for proposals are due to come out in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

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