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National Board for Education Sciences: 5-Year Report, 2003 Through 2008


In a 1999 National Research Council report, the committee wrote: One striking fact is that the complex world of education--unlike defense, health care, or industrial production--does not rest on a strong research base. In no other field are personal experience and ideology so frequently relied on to make policy choices, and in no other field is the research base so inadequate and little used.

Others, including members of Congress, shared the view that education research had not provided education policymakers and practitioners with the information and tools they needed to improve education in our country. When the Institute of Education Sciences (Institute) was established in November 2002, many in the education research and policy community cried deja vu. As some observed, why would anyone expect the Institute to accomplish what its predecessors--the National Institute of Education and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement--had not? On the basis of its evaluation, the members of the National Board for Education Sciences (Board) conclude that in a relatively brief period of time, the Institute has made exceptional progress in improving the rigor and relevance of education research in our nation. Under the leadership of its first director, Grover J. Whitehurst, the Institute has accomplished what many believed could not be done.

The framework for the Institute's nonideological, high-quality work was wisely established by Congress in the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA). Because that Act has generated such strong results, the Board is recommending its rapid reauthorization, with a set of modest amendments meant to improve its clarity and make it even stronger. The Board recognizes that transformation of education into an evidence-based field is an enormous task. It will need to involve everyone from federal and state policymakers to local education leaders, administrators, teachers, and parents. Over the past 6 years, a new direction has been set for education research. We now need to stay on course to arrive at this destination.

This report presents the Board's evaluation of the Institute. The Board examined the ways in which and the extent to which the Institute has been successful in advancing the rigor and improving the relevance of education research, and facilitating evidence-based decision making.