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Ruth Neild Tapped to Lead Institute of Education Sciences

After nearly a year's search, the Institute of Education Sciences has found a new chief researcher close to home: Ruth Curran Neild, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Technical Assistance, will become the federal Education Department's director of policy and research, including directing IES, as of Monday, July 13.

Neild is an IES veteran, having been there since 2011, when she came in as the associate commissioner of knowledge utilization and then moving up the ranks during a time of major transitions in ED's research agency. In the last four years, she has been instrumental in helping to reorient the federal regional educational laboratories network and to make the What Works Clearinghouse more user-friendly as districts increasingly turned to the site for evidence on school reform models.

"She has demonstrated her commitment to high-quality research and data collection, her collaborative spirit, and her leadership in improving how researchers engage and communicate with their practitioner and policymakers," said Emma Vadehra, ED chief of staff, in a letter to staff on the change. "The parent of a middle school-aged child, she is reminded on a daily basis of the importance to children's development of caring teachers and high-quality instruction."

Before joining IES, Neild was a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools, where among other things she studied the importance of postsecondary education for students' long-term success. She also was part of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.

You can see an early video here of Neild discussing the importance of data and research in education:

Michele McLaughlin, the president of the Knowledge Alliance, which represents the regional labs and other research organizations, said in a statement: "Ruth has proven herself to be a national leader in efforts to better connect research, policy, and practice in education. Now, more than ever, policymakers and educators need and demand reliable and relevant evidence to help improve education systems at the local, state, and national levels." (A hat-tip to Michele for letting us know.)

The American Educational Research Association's executive director, Felice Levine, also praised the choice. "Neild's commitment to excellence in research, evaluation, and dissemination is evident in her leadership role over the past three years as commissioner of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance," she said in a statement.

Former director John Q. Easton left IES for the Spencer Foundation last fall. In an outgoing interview with Education Week, he praised Neild's work on helping the regional labs to communicate research findings better. Neild will take over from acting IES director Sue Betka, and Joy Lesnick, NCEE associate commissioner, will step up to act as NCEE commissioner.

So far there's still "nothing on the horizon" on a potential replacement for the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which has also been vacant since Sean P. "Jack" Buckley left the position for the College Board at the end of 2013.


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