Congressman George Miller is proposing the creation of an advanced research program within the U.S. Department of Education designed to cultivate breakthroughs in learning sciences and technology that could benefit schools—an idea modeled in part on a highly-touted effort in the defense sector.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education would seek to identify and nurture advances in learning and applied sciences that can be used to create new technologies, develop and test new technologies, and speed up "transformational" technological advances in education, according to Miller's legislation.
The idea for the education program comes in large part from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known in federal, scientific, and military circles as DARPA, said Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The congressman, in a statement, said the education program would function like a "venture-like capital program." The ARPA-ED would be led by a director who would be appointed by the secretary of education. The secretary would appoint members of an advisory panel made up of experts from science, engineering, and other fields, according to the legislation.
The secretary, in consultation with the panel, would have the power to award grants and enter into other transactions with public and private entities seeking to test or put in motion breakthrough projects that could benefit schools.
"We must close the gap between cutting-edge research and technology and their real-world impact on classrooms and students," Miller said in a statement. "This legislation will provide an opportunity for us to dream big ideas, experiment and test our most radical hypotheses, and immediately implement those solutions that prove effective.
Ed Week readers will remember that Miller last week introduced separate legislation meant to improve federal funding and support for educational technology, a measure that has the backing of a number of school and ed-tech organizations.
DARPA was created in 1958 with the goal of improving U.S. national security by producing breakthroughs in technology, weapons, and other areas. Many of its projects have been, by the standards of government, unorthodox and high risk. It is often created with having spawned the development of the Internet, as well as on advances in satellite technologies, high-speed circuits, high-speed computers, radio systems, weapons systems, and many other areas.
Daren Briscoe, a spokesman for the Department of Education, told Education Week that the agency supported the concept, noting that the department called for funding ARPA-ED through its fiscal 2013 budget.