Senate Passes Strengthening Education Through Research Act

December 2015

Before going on recess, the Senate passed S. 227, the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), by unanimous consent on December 17. The legislation would reauthorize the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced SETRA in January after committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) reintroduced the bill at the start of the 114th Congress. In 2014, the House of Representatives passed the bill under suspension of the rules, but did not receive a full Senate vote after it was advanced by the Senate HELP Committee.

“We welcome the reauthorization of IES if the House now follows suit and passes SETRA,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “Reauthorization of IES is long overdue. Given the importance of sound education science driving policy development and implementation, it is noteworthy that SETRA may be adopted this term along with passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act last week. SETRA sends a signal from Congress that research, statistics, and data on education and learning are essential to evolving an educational system that works for the students it serves.”

Levine added: “No bill is perfect. AERA, the American Statistical Association, and other scientific societies continue to have concerns about the autonomy of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) as a leading agency within the U.S. Federal statistical system. But for now, SETRA is more than good enough. That in itself is worthy of praise, and, in the end, a strong and independent IES also serves the interests of NCES.”

The legislation would shift the appointment of the NCES commissioner from the president to the IES director. AERA and the American Statistical Association, along with nine other scientific organizations, previously had expressed concerns about the potential effects of this change on the autonomy of NCES.

The next step will be a House vote on the bill. The House had initially scheduled a vote this past February with the expectation that a Senate vote would take place at that time.