NSB and NBES Leadership Meet
February 2015

The National Science Board (NSB) convened February 3–4 with a full agenda that included focused attention to the gains made possible through education research, a summary of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) FY 2016 budget request, and an update on the Science and Engineering Indicators.

Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the NSB’s Committee on Education and Human Resources (CEH) and dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, introduced the topic of the significance of NSF’s investments in education research. She observed the proportional differences in funding for education research and other scientific fields. She also discussed three prongs of the education research funded by NSF: disciplined investigations to develop theory; design of interventions and systematic study of their effects; and focus on pressing problems for the purpose of improving education practice, access, outcomes, and policy.

Loewenberg Ball emphasized that this session would focus on the substance of NSF-funded research where sustained study produced important and surprising findings of note. She then introduced two NSF principal investigators, Sian Beilock, professor at the University of Chicago, and Na’ilah Suad Nasir, associate professor at the University of California—Berkeley, who presented on “Appreciating the Power and Promise of Education Research.” Beilock addressed research on math anxiety and Suad Nasir discussed research on culture, race, and learning in schools.

During the discussion of the Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI), the NSB noted that 600 comments had been submitted in response to the Census Bureau’s proposal to remove Person Question #12, the indicator for undergraduate degree, on the American Community Survey. As stated by the NSB and by AERA, this question is used as the basis for data analysis for the congressionally mandated SEI.

NBES Meeting

The National Board of Education Sciences also met in early February, with three engaging discussions of interest to education researchers. IES Deputy Director Anne Ricciuti spoke about the IES scientific review process. The discussion benefited from the presence of ex-officio members Joan Ferrini-Mundy of the National Science Foundation and Brett Miller of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who explained how the review process at IES compares with the processes at NSF and NIH. Ricciuti noted the challenges of recruiting reviewers, specifically those with methodological expertise and knowledge about English language learners with disabilities.

Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, gave a presentation on Adaptive Designs, a concept first introduced by Robert Groves to improve Census response rates.  IES used its National Postsecondary Student Aid Study to test the effectiveness of cash incentives for improving response rate without creating response bias.

A discussion on improving IES’s research and trainings grant programs was led by Tom Brock, commissioner of the National Center for Education Research, and Joan McLaughlin, commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research. One of the proposed new initiatives, which was met with broad support, was the creation of lower cost, quick-turnaround studies to inform efforts to improve education programs.

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