House Passes IES Reauthorization Bill: AERA Prepares for Potential Senate Action

May 2014

The House of Representatives approved a bill to reauthorize the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) on May 8. The Strengthening Education through Research Act (SETRA) passed by a voice vote.

SETRA builds upon the current IES structure while increasing flexibility for the National Center for Education Research by eliminating specific research topics mandated for study under current law. The bill also fully incorporates the National Center for Special Education Research into IES.

However, the legislation also furthers the downward layering of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) by designating authority for appointing the NCES Commissioner to the IES Director and requiring the NCES Commissioner to submit a plan for activities to the IES Director for approval. Both of these actions would conflict with the principles and practices for a federal statistical agency developed by the National Research Council’s Committee on National Statistics.

“AERA remains steadfast in its support for a strong and vital federal statistical agency within the U.S. Department of Education,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “The Department should be guided and advised on matters of statistics and data by an agency widely known as trustworthy and independent. The diminished stature of NCES in SETRA is simply not in the Department’s best interest.”

The Senate has not yet introduced an IES reauthorization bill. In preparing for the possibility that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will take up SETRA, AERA has initiated meetings with Senate staff to discuss changes to the legislation. In these meetings, AERA will provide several specific recommendations toward preventing further diminishing of autonomy for NCES:

  • Restore Senate confirmation, and keep presidential appointment and six-year fixed term, for the NCES Commissioner. 
  • Require the NCES Commissioner to serve as an ex officio member of the National Assessment Governing Board.
  • Strengthen the authority of the NCES Commissioner to implement activities independent of the approval of the IES Director.
  • Maintain current data access provisions in the Education Sciences Reform Act.
  • Maintain a five-year renewal for NCES contracts, as opposed to two years proposed in SETRA.