AERA, in conjunction with the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), hosted a discussion with the new executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), Jim Kohlmoos. The event was held on May 30 at the historic Charles Sumner School in Washington, D.C., as part of the ongoing AERA-IEL Educational Policy Forum series. Kohlmoos focused on the importance of empirical evidence as a framework for policy making in an increasingly fractured political environment.
After providing an overview of the disparate roles and structures of state boards of education, Kohlmoos shared ideas for supporting and promoting evidence-based policy deliberations among the boards. He portrayed high-quality education research as a mediator for the rapidly swinging pendulum of education policy. Helping state board members understand the policy implications of the best available empirical research would be important, he argued, in building a knowledge ecosystem. He advocated a more robust partnership between state board members and education researchers.
Kohlmoos did not skirt points of contention among board members, ranging from creation theory in public schools to the Common Core standards. He saw potential, however, for bringing more evidence-based research to the attention of the boards.
Participants noted that solid research evidence is not always readily available and that policy makers often differ about its interpretation, as happened with the research on climate change. Kohlmoos indicated that in the absence of a stamp of approval for sound research, his goal will be to provide the “best available empirical evidence on an issue” for board deliberations.
The AERA-IEL Educational Policy Forums are held monthly, providing opportunities for policy makers to connect with the research community and engage in informal discussions with key leaders in education research. Recent speakers include Martin Kehe, GED Testing Service; Robert Rothman, Alliance for Excellent Education; and Robert Slavin, Johns Hopkins University.
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