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New Members, Leader for National Board for Education Sciences

There may at last be some stability in sight for the advisory board for the Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Education Department's research agency.

President Obama announced late Thursday that he would nominate three new members to fill holes on the roster of the National Board for Education Sciences:

David J. Chard is dean of Southern Methodist University's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, and a national expert on special education issues and evaluation. He also serves as a member of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities and the American Mathematical Association.

Larry V. Hedges is a statistics professor and faculty fellow of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, where he focuses on developing quantitative methods for educational and social research and large-scale assessments. He also serves as president of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness and is a member of the National Academy of Education.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, an education professor and academic dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, studies early childhood development among young children from immigrant and ethnically diverse backgrounds, and served on the federal advisory committee for Head Start research and evaluation.

If the Senate approves these and the two members nominated on Oct. 4—Harvard university education professor Judith D. Singer and current NBES member Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research—the board would round out its numbers after meeting without five of its 15 members since last November.

"I am grateful these accomplished men and women have agreed to join this administration, and I'm confident they will serve ably in these important roles," President Obama said in a statement. "I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years."

The new members would also come in under new leadership. After less than a year as NBES chairman, Jon Baron, president of the Washington-based Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and one of the few founding members still left on the board, ended his term on NBES. Replacing him is former vice-chairman Bridget T. Long, an education and economics professor at Harvard. Kris D. Gutierrez, an education professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, would step in as vice chair.

Long has been a member of the board less than a year, but has earned acclaim for her in-depth randomized controlled trial studies of an effective H&R Block program to help disadvantaged students attend college.

"I think Bridget is excellent," Baron told me. "She's someone who understands not only the value of what constitutes valid research and evidence, but also what's of policy importance and that study she's done, [the college enrollment study] was a blockbuster when it came out. That's the kind of study where you have a valid rigorous study in real world settings about an important impact. We need more of those, and I think she's focused on the need to grow the number of these proven effective programs."

Long told me, "It is my hope to continue to have the board use our collective expertise to grapple with issues of substance, provide advisory support, and develop recommendations for the continued improvement of IES. It is also important for us to push for the application of research in current debates and policy formulation."

"With the growing ESEA reauthorization debate, it will be essential to have decisions made using the best possible evidence. I'm pleased that the first draft uses language like 'evidence based' and 'scientifically valid research,'" she said, "and I'm encouraged that it authorizes and encourages IES to evaluate a number of named activities. I believe that this is in recognition of the important role of IES. As the debate continues, the NBES will persist in pushing for the use of evidence as well as making information and data available to researchers as we try to identify the best practices and policies to help children and adults."

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